What would you tell your novice self about tea

GaoShan
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Fri May 06, 2022 2:19 am

@Balthazar, I agree that 25 to 50 g is a good sample size, though those 50 g packs tend to linger in my stash if I'm not particularly fond of the tea. :P However, if the tea is upward of $1 per gram, I will get a smaller sample.

@GreenTandTree, at your mention of brands, bagged teas from large Western companies came to mind. It makes sense that China has good and bad branded teas. I often wonder how those "small family farms" can sell so many teas on their websites while also offering them wholesale to other companies. I guess it doesn't matter if the teas are good and fairly priced.

Finally, I also overbought a lot when I first got into tea. I could probably survive for a couple years on my current stash, though much of that tea wouldn't be very inspiring. I'm slowly drinking it down while trying to moderate how much new tea I purchase. It's a struggle!
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aet
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Wed May 11, 2022 4:17 am

Cheap tea not worth expensive shipping fee ;-)
RayClem
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Wed May 11, 2022 7:08 am

aet wrote:
Wed May 11, 2022 4:17 am
Cheap tea not worth expensive shipping fee ;-)
Superb advice that applies to many areas, not just tea.
John_B
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Thu May 12, 2022 5:40 am

I think keeping a beginner's mind perspective is important, which contradicts the question form just a little. I'm still my novice self, even though I've been at it awhile, and have covered some ground.

The journey is the thing, so trying to make that exploration as efficient as possible won't really work. People saying don't buy sheng or shu could hardly really mean that, since trying it informed them of not liking it, unless the point was to not keep retrying it, which also came up. Often sheng maocha is somehow different; people thinking they hate new sheng might try a little of that and see.

I must have some regrets, right? A sourcing approach that took awhile to figure out, general guidance I wasn't aware of, purchasing mistakes... The things that went wrong were often the most interesting. Storing tea in a ziplock bag and having it go dead was informative, about how some materials breathe. I've bought some bad sheng, but at least it was usually cheap bad sheng, so the right range for that experience. Getting burned on a tea trade helped sort out some idealism about how everyone into tea is probably a good person.

I'll switch this to approaches that worked, or advice instead, as others tend to drift into.

Organic exploration is nice, trying whatever seems to come next, instead of worrying about climbing a quality level experience ladder, or ticking off a list of types. It helps setting aside some range, eg. dropping out focus on green tea as a least favorite range, or deciding to get to Japanese teas more later in life.

Ego and tea experience don't pair well, and this is something to keep an eye on over time. In discussing experiences, related to making connections or sharing ideas, it's easy to slide into reinforcing how special you are because you've experienced this or that. Ordinary language use can push you towards coming across as seeming to mean that, even when you think you don't.

It's easy to overdo it with absolutes early on, eg. green tea is bad because it's grassy, silver needle is too subtle to be pleasant, Thai oolong is low quality. Preference evolves over time, and often trying a better version of a tea can make it click, so then the whole range makes more sense.

Plenty for one comment.
Ethan Kurland
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Thu May 12, 2022 6:03 pm

John_B wrote:
Thu May 12, 2022 5:40 am
I think keeping a beginner's mind perspective is important,

The journey is the thing, so trying to make that exploration as efficient as possible won't really work.

I must have some regrets, right? ... The things that went wrong were often the most interesting.

I'll switch this to approaches that worked, or advice instead, as others tend to drift into.

Organic exploration is nice, trying whatever seems to come next, instead of worrying about climbing a quality level experience ladder, or ticking off a list of types. It helps setting aside some range, eg. dropping out focus on green tea as a least favorite range, or deciding to get to Japanese teas more later in life.

....In discussing experiences, related to making connections or sharing ideas, it's easy to slide into reinforcing how special you are because you've experienced this or that. Ordinary language use can push you towards coming across as seeming to mean that, even when you think you don't.

It's easy to overdo it with absolutes early on, (my insertions, John, assuming your meaning) "Wrongly concluding that".... "All" green tea is bad because it's grassy, "All" silver needle is too subtle to be pleasant, "All" Thai oolong is low quality. Preference evolves over time, and often trying a better version of a tea can make it click, so then the whole range makes more sense.
+1 mostly; however,
Whether it is a matter of ego or comfort, one may want to stop thinking of themselves a novice tea afficionado. Nonetheless, I admire how you keep the experience fresh.

I am not sure that efficiency is such a danger. Opportunities for quick ways to obtain very good tea (or to learn about tea) squandered can lead one to believe such opportunities do not exist or to avoid learning how to take advantage of such an opportunity. For example, as a newbie I got a huge amount of samples from Origin Tea, but how I had one session after another of one particular type (Dong Ding) by myself was stupid. I was trying many samples that were only very marginally different from one another probably, looking to find one that was the very ultimate.... I was not learning how to prepare tea well nor how to appreciate tea. Having 8-gram samples of a dozen DDs was inefficient & helped me go astray. Efficiency would have been getting advice, heeding it, & working wisely w/ a few DDs .... perhaps even just 1 of 50 grams.

Many of the most successful & prosperous people in opera did not tackle Wagner & other most challenging composers. Most said they were waiting for the later stages of their careers. I believe they were happy w/ the music they performed & what their work gave them, fame & fortune. Likewise, we may avoid some teas that are quite a bother and/or quite expensive. Perhaps lottery winnings etc. may lead us to tackle them at some point, but if we never take them on, I think that is okay. Tea can be quite an adventure even if we are not using most types.
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aet
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Fri May 13, 2022 6:02 am

John_B wrote:
Thu May 12, 2022 5:40 am
Ego and tea experience don't pair well,
very well said!
John_B
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Fri May 13, 2022 9:29 am

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Thu May 12, 2022 6:03 pm

+1 mostly; however,
Whether it is a matter of ego or comfort, one may want to stop thinking of themselves a novice tea afficionado. Nonetheless, I admire how you keep the experience fresh.
This point is especially interesting; how or when would it help to think that you are towards the middle of the experience curve, or to admit that you are closing in on the further side of the spectrum? There must be angles I'm not considering.

I've reviewed three books on tea, as a proofreader, and I could critique most of the ideas in the last two, comparing them to what I already knew. One was basic but really solid, so there wasn't much to consider changing, but lots of possible additions or re-arrangements came to mind. Maybe too many; it ruined the text a bit for me because I'd have written it differently. The third was so broad and so detailed that plenty I wasn't that familiar with, but I suggested countless minor edits in the more familiar range. So what does it mean; should I reframe myself as far through a learning curve? How would that help?

I'm clear on parts of what I don't know too, or haven't experienced, maybe just not most of it, and that scope is broad and deep. It's that more than chosen functional humility that I'm referring to.

All this brings a story to mind, of a friend who helped me arrive at this endless beginner position. She makes tea, from a tea producer family (someone could know who I mean already, I mention her so often), but she won't accept that she is a tea expert. To her the older generation has experienced so much more that she can't put herself on that level, even though she has been through decades of a crazy level of exposure. If she is not a tea expert then I never will be one, no matter what exposure I encounter, which kind of seems to work well.
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Fri May 13, 2022 9:58 am

John_B wrote:
Fri May 13, 2022 9:29 am
Ethan Kurland wrote:
Thu May 12, 2022 6:03 pm

+1 mostly; however,
Whether it is a matter of ego or comfort, one may want to stop thinking of himself as a novice tea afficionado...
.... It's that more than chosen functional humility that I'm referring to.
"chosen functional humility"
I love the phrase & the concept.
When I "choose" to believe that I have some expertise or knowledge, it is w/ humility. It is not mainly a matter of personally being humble. I believe there are many limits to expertise & knowledge. This belief takes away the chance of me being greatly humiliated or embarassed by getting something wrong or changing my mind about something.

On this forum I have claimed insights or discoveries about preparing tea. Months later I realize that I had merely found a change of teaware or parameters refreshing for a while. I can laugh at myself because so called experts & analysts are getting much wrong about far more serious matters all of the time; moreover, stupid people are ... oh, I almost wrote something political :roll: .
John_B
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Sat May 14, 2022 4:55 am

It's interesting having kids at this time and addressing the "people are idiots" subject. It comes up on its own; like that four years that Trump was the president, or pandemic denial.

It doesn't really link back to tea so much though. They don't care about the subject and I don't force it on them. We'll do a chrysanthemum tea party once in awhile and that's about it.
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aet
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Sat May 14, 2022 6:41 pm

Focus on the journey ( enjoy the actual tea session ) and not the destination ( desire to grasp an understanding of all elements which determinate value of tea ) .
Teachronicles
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Mon May 16, 2022 9:38 pm

Go very slowly, buy slowly, drink slowly. I have a lot of bad tea I bought early on that will basically just sit and waste cause I am not cruel enough that I would give it as a free gift. If I could change anything it'd be buying less tea early on.
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