; Cwyn's Death By Tea: July 2022 ;

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Puerh Personalities

Recently I found myself reading along in the social blogger-sphere and somebody has the idea to consider the puerh hobby as a personality type. This is probably accurate and I am only glad to be part of such a club, even if I am the last to be picked for dodgeball. Only problem is, the concept as a whole needs some fleshing out in subtypes. I am happy to do that today, now that I am at least nine cups in, I may have lost count. Anyway, here goes:


These puerh people only buy special editions and socially desirable long-sold-out teas. Their tea is all about the wrapper. They own shrink wrap machines to preserve a beeng all costs. Aging is mostly a secondary concern and not as important as visual integrity. 

Pretty on the shelf is as pretty does in my book. But hey, a market for everyone, right? Somebody has to buy the limited-edition teas, even when the tea is exactly the same as every other production the factory puts out. 

I also include the wrapper buyers in the western vendor scene. In this latter case price-and-pretty wins all day long, no matter the tea. Very likely the person doesn't know much about the actual tea. Like I said, something for everyone. We cannot be too harsh knowing that their tea is bug-bite-free, mint condition; the pets get nowhere near the goods. They care....and it, well, shows. In fact, this person is the best type to buy tea from secondhand, and maybe the most willing to entertain a sale.

Brick Bitch 

Pry my 7581 out of my cold, dead hands. The most straightforward group, and you gotta respect the simplicity of nothing more to say. 

Water Sportsters 

Get a whiff of this one.

These folks drink wet-stored on purpose. 

(On behalf of this group I reject the term Hong Kong storage, under the reasoning that we have puerh people in Hong Kong storing in situations ranging from the basement to the penthouse and every floor in between.) 

Here is the extreme where if it isn’t wet enough, just add more, maybe with an installed humidity system. Close to compost is how these guys like it. Wrappers are immaterial and unrecognizable, the more bug bites, tea-and-water stains the better. They store their tongs in a box. Never rotated. Critters welcomed. On the plus side, you don’t need a puerh knife but a dust pan is very handy.

Tong Johns 

These are people who think a beeng is only a sample and complain about the Stamp Collectors. Their theory is you don’t know the tea until you drink the whole tong. Don’t ask them what they think about this year’s puerh. They have no idea because they are still drinking 2006, and 2007 is up next. I was gonna say still drinking the last century but I really doubt this group owns any last century. If they did they wouldn’t be drinking it, because at this point they only have one left. Mid-age drinkers all the way, purchased in bulk tong, factory-direct or bargain shopping. On the plus side, they are not tea snobs if you hate that sort of person. Happy drinking!

Stamp Collectors

Contrary to popular belief, these are not the people who buy one of everything. Let’s be real, no puerh personality is truly tong-less. These are the nerd collector people who buy puerh books and catalogs to obsess over. They pore over the catalog details with a magnifying glass to convince themselves that anything in their collection older than, say, the 2011 Dayi Gold they probably own is the Real Deal, and not a fake. It’s like the crypto folks who say "hold forever!" but they check the market obsessively anyway and chain-email auction catalog links. Although they are not selling, you could probably befriend one and weasel a sample, if you can garner their curiosity over your own ambiguous tea.

Boo-teeks (boutiques)

The perfect puerh club member willing to buy sight unseen whatever their vendor of choice manages to acquire. Ultimate puerh snob unwilling to drink whatever the riff-raff are quaffing. They won’t be bringing a factory drinker to a tea gathering unless they plan to foist it off in trade, and probably not in tea. If you want a taste of what they got, bring along a stinky cheese or a bottle of maple syrup, wine is just insulting although a single-malt peaty barrel-aged whiskey might be acceptable. 

The Crazies

The true hoarders. These are people who own tea instead of guns. They cosplay at tea gatherings, and spend hours perfecting their rituals. They buy tea when under stress and comment incoherently on social media after having a few, and maybe write tea blogs. They probably have an ex living in China. The house is a fire trap. I think they own cats although they probably resent the expense that could be more comfortably spent on teapot #175. Expect to move the tea before sitting down, assuming you get let in at all. The relatives gave up long ago and it's now down to fire code inspections to determine how long they keep going. 

Happily, I am likely in this group and I prefer my vendors are too. Assuming a vendor in this group can actually bring themselves to sell. 


These are the folks in happy thermos-ing mode, drop in some tea and add hot water. No need to rinse, just add more water as needed. Grandpas are not up for gongfu, might be too much for the stomach and anyway, who are you to tell them how to brew their tea? They have unwashed tea-stained cups to prove their longevity. Also, they have no interest in discussing puerh, or trying new editions. Any talk of the puerh scene yields a befuddled look that is not from the tea they are drinking. It's just that they have no knowledge of any puerh past maybe 2007. Ask them what they are drinking and they are not sure. At this point they no longer know what they have, nor what they paid, nor how long they have owned it. 

The Students

Original woodcut by Leland Struebig
defaced in a safe, non-binary manner
by the author.

We always make room for our scholastic friends trying to get a degree done, and who have puerh on the brain with not much money to support their obsession. Every year I get a few emails from broke students looking for leftover samples. You gotta adore the youthful idealism, "where can I get a tea from my birthday year?" And "how can I get some 1960s puerh?" It’s so endearing how they get offended when you suggest a sensible shou.


Hopefully this post covers almost everyone. In fact, I venture to add that if you are not in any of these personality types, you really are not a puerh person. You, my friend, are a taster, a wanna-be, and do run along back to your assam tea bags. Come back someday when you fit in more.