Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Tea for a Billion but a Hundred Teas for One

I recently breached the psychologically significant ceiling of 100 different pu-erhs in my private collection not counting samples.  I also have various dianhong, white, green, oolong, and herbal teas tucked away in canisters all about the house.  So when I ask my husband quite innocently, "What tea do you want to drink tonight?",  he just lets me to choose. (Sometimes rather grumpily I might add. )

I have an ipad app to keep track of the pu-erh.  Luckily when it's evening we can limit ourselves to 40 shu selections.  But I try to air out shu at least a day before I drink it so we have to go with what's loaded in my immediate shu queue - four small porcelain containers crowding my dining room table.

I break out the 2010 Hengfu Lao Hei Cha- a smooth and roasty, slightly woody undemanding tea with the barest hint of licorice and mint.  It's an uncomplicated tea suited for evening relaxation after a complicated day.   Most of my shus fall in that category.

Shus definitely provide a broader range of flavors than coffee, but shus hold only a pinky's worth of depth compared to sheng.    When I try to enumerate the shu flavors I've encountered below,  it should seem that shus can more than amply provide a respectable diverse range of flavors:
  • wood/bark  - Mengku, XG Baoyan, Fuhai brick
  • cola - the Gong Ting cakes
  • coffee - MGH Chocolate Bar, YS lao cha tou
  • rootbeer/sarsparilla(when it has more licorice flavor) - Menghai Caravan to Tibet
  • malty/roast grain
  • creamy
  • brown sugar/burnt sugar
  • plum/prunes/dried dates
  • licorice/hyssop - Menghai GNWL
  • herbal/medicinal/minty/camphor
  • dried mushroom
  • compost, dirt, forest floor
  • wet blanket/dish rag
  • pond
  • dried fish/dried squid (only in scent)
  • mold/mustiness
The reality is that shu often can taste just like shu and one most often mumbles, "Oh, it's not so bad...".   When I drink shu, I normally seek comfort of the rich and smooth variety.  Comfort my friends is the most common reason why billions of people drink the exact same teas day after day.  It used to blow my mind that a billion people in India drink a similar over-sweetened milky concoction called chai despite India being the biggest producer of leaf tea in the world.  If you think about how complex and diverse Indian culture is with a crowded pantheon of Hindu gods,  is it not amazing that everyone enjoys the "one" tea?

I know very well my 100 teas are excessive when at least a billion people get by with just one.  I wish I could see the peak but there is a deep tea restlessness in me.


  1. Wow your collection of shu puerh is much larger than my collection. Have you considered doing a blog post on how you manage your large tea collection and keep track of it? I think it is an issue for a lot of people are open to talking about but nobody wants to start it out of fear of being accused of being a tea hoarder.

    1. Really John? I was racking my brains to see what I could trade with you. I was afraid I didn't have anything new to offer you and it would be a most asymmetric trade. But I'll see if I can extract out a pdf and see if there is something you haven't had yet.


    2. I drink tea a big differently in the sense that I break up entire cakes at once and then drink through them within a few weeks to a month or so with a maximum of 2 to 3 open shu bricks/cakes at once in my canisters. Although I think it is safe to say that my puerh scrapbook where I save the wrappers from the bricks and cakes that I drink likely has more pages from shu puerh than you have in pieces of shu puerh in your collection. Don't be too concerned about finding unique things for me as the bulk of them are cheap no name brands from Puerhshop as it is only more recently that I'm starting to focus upon the better known brands from the more respectable factories. A pdf file if you could find it would be great if you can work it out or just a simple list of some of what you consider are the better or more unique ones would work too. My email is jogrebe {a} gmail [period] com, which I hopefully spelled well enough to avoid any spambots reading it.