beginning pu'er on $100

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John_B
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Mon Jun 20, 2022 11:33 pm

Cwyn mentioned an interesting starting point in her last Death by Tea blog post, about someone losing a sheng collection in a flood, and how one might re-start owning sheng spending only $100. Then her suggestions really shifted to how a beginner might go about exploration, which isn't exactly the same, but it's an easier question to answer:

https://deathbytea.blogspot.com/2022/06 ... h-100.html

She mentioned about $300 in tea someone might buy, and $200 in gear, including some kind of random suggestions, like buying an $80 gaiwan, or an extra draining hose for a tea tray, and trying white tea instead. Her suggestions weren't too bad anyway, all but one related to trying Xiaguan and Dayi teas. Broad sampling gets recommended more, spending $100 on random samples at Yunnan Sourcing, maybe just with one tuo thrown in.

This kind of thing comes up a lot in discussion, if you are active in places like Reddit subs. I've just mentioned the two main answers, and then from there it gets pretty random, with people just citing what they like. The $100 limit makes it rough, but that is still a valid way to consider it all.

A guy just visited where I live, in Bangkok, and I was explaining local options in a way that overlapped. It's different though, because mentioning shops folds in on-site tasting options. Chinatown shops are great for this entry level exploration, just more hit and miss in comparison with the best quality and value in online options.

For the other concern, re-starting owning sheng (a brutal thought, narrowing it down to $100), I might recommend buying two cakes from Tea Mania, something really cheap and then still moderate, one with a few years of age and one new. Two of anything from Yunnan Sourcing doesn't get you beyond their factory teas or cheapest Impression series versions now, and the two lowest priced listings from Farmerleaf might still be under $100. I bought cheaper teas from Chawang Shop this year but the dry storage trade-off is also rough. King Tea Mall, which Cwyn mentioned, is probably promising related to this theme.
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mbanu
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Tue Jun 21, 2022 5:44 am

The answer depends on asking the meta-question first, "Why am I doing this?"

If the answer is related to chasing a Taiwanese tea-art aesthetic, then a person will want tea in that style. If it's related to memories of Hong Kong dimsum, then a person will want tea in that style. If it's related to upvotes, then a person will want tea in that style. :D There are a lot of different overlapping pu'er cultures, but they are sufficiently distinct that there isn't really a universal pu'er that everyone will be happy with.

Price is connected to this because of who your tea-peers are. If they are Taiwanese engineers, then your price is going to be higher than if they are Tibetan shepherds.

Probably the best way for someone who knows nothing about pu'er to spend $100 is at teahouses, as that will allow a person to learn about the tea and the drinkers together cup by cup.
DailyTX
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Tue Jun 21, 2022 11:00 am

mbanu wrote:
Tue Jun 21, 2022 5:44 am
Price is connected to this because of who your tea-peers are. If they are Taiwanese engineers, then your price is going to be higher than if they are Tibetan shepherds.
@mbanu I agree with this analogy but Tibetan is an exception when it comes to puerh :lol: . Tibetan have been importing puerh (tuo cha) for a long long time, and I have heard stories where Chinese tea merchants would go to Tibet to look for vintage Xiaguan tuocha. There is a pretty good chance that a Tibetan shepherd may have a stash of tuo cha bought by grampa back in the 1990s while a Taiwanese engineer maybe drinking a puerh that's claimed to be from the 1990s.

Back to the topic, $100 is a stretch for puerh. Tea houses may be a good place to sample puerh but my experience has been that tea houses will try to sell you products unless you know what you want. I would start with shu, good storage, maybe a xiaguan, tulin factory, or a gongting/palace puerh.
John_B
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Tue Jun 21, 2022 11:03 pm

DailyTX wrote:
Tue Jun 21, 2022 11:00 am

...Back to the topic, $100 is a stretch for puerh. Tea houses may be a good place to sample puerh but my experience has been that tea houses will try to sell you products unless you know what you want. I would start with shu, good storage, maybe a xiaguan, tulin factory, or a gongting/palace puerh.
It is funny how starting with factory teas seems like good advice, per this input, or Cwynn's take, or my own, but people probably wouldn't like young / new Dayi or Xiaguan early on, or maybe later too. Buying older, well stored versions is possible, or medium aged versions (which Cwynn cited an example of for a Xiaguan tuo), but then sourcing can get tricky, and judgement related to selection. I drink tea versions like that from a local Chinatown shop, but there are trade-offs related to storage and aging time not being optimum. Someone randomly picking out good aged sheng versions from Chinatown shops is a stretch. Sampling gets you a feel for the range, and I suppose cafe / teahouse exposure also could, I just never did much with that myself. I just saw a post about someone asking if an LBZ labelled sheng version sold in a Chinatown shop (for $20-some) is probably good / legit; that's one way to learn, trying out what isn't great or promising, or even as-labelled, which pushes you a step further in exposure.

It's a general problem with liking things that require a learning curve. Which Scotch, craft beers, or cigars would someone love best early on? None, really. A comparison with wine works differently because sweet, non-tannic, heavily oaked box wines can be great for someone who has never tasted wine, then moving on to appreciate different aspect sets can work out from there. I also see shu as a possible entry point, but not everyone likes shu early on, and then preference for it may or may not drop out later.
Andrew S
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Wed Jun 22, 2022 2:25 am

For someone who's starting out with puer, I'd probably suggest spending $33 on something new, $33 on something that's been dry-stored for 10 years or longer, and $34 on something nice and humid, perhaps an old loose leaf, perhaps a bit of a wet cake. Adjust prices to taste. This assumes they want raw tea; if not, the third category can be replaced with a humidly-stored cooked tea, or else just any cooked tea.

That, of course, would come with my biased warning that the first category of tea may turn into the second with years of home storage, but neither the first nor the second is likely to turn into the third with any amount of home storage during our lifetimes.

For someone replacing their ruined collection, however, I'd probably suggest that they spend the whole amount on just one or two nice cakes, or even pieces of cakes, that they could enjoy right now.

Bad tea won't turn into good tea with age, puer takes a long time to age, and life is short. Even those who believe in an afterlife are unlikely, I think, to believe that their puer is coming along with them.

Andrew
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