Friday, September 07, 2012

Tea Inventory

Sooner or later, you'll have amassed enough tea that you can't reliably remember what you have-  let alone the provenance and production details of each tea.  When you collect pu-erh, you're in it for the long haul. Without written records, will you really remember with accuracy all the various Bulangs you bought twenty five years ago?  Your aging wetware compounded with an ever expanding tea collection can be aided by something as simple as an excel spreadsheet. (Warning- wetware does not refer to porous teaware like yixing.)

I use a general inventory program on my tablet constantly and it's relieved me of a significant burden.  My memory banks are rather full with non-tea matters so I try not to commit to memory anything which can be easily referenced.

I've tried various on-line inventory methods over the years but finally have settled on an inadequate iPad program called Itemizer. I use a more fully featured program called MyStuff2 which I love for book and media inventory.  Sadly it suffers from performance problems handling too many image files and hence is not yet ready to be used for tea.

I wouldn't recommend Itemizer but even with all it's shortcomings, I refer to it constantly due to the simple fact that it's so readily available on my  tablet. What does one do with a pu-erh inventory on a daily basis?
  1. House Tea Menu.  Figure out what tea's to drink that day.  I have over 50 shu's alone and so picking out a selection takes some browsing.  Normally I'll sort by tea type, region or year.
  2. Tea Purchase Reference. Before I buy tea I make sure I don't have something too similar and will do a price comparison analysis.
  3. Figure out gaps in my collection for regions, vintages and factories.
  4. For tea trade, figure out which teas to send out as samples.
  5. Figure out how much money I've spent on certain tea categories. Since I have an exact figure, I can't fool myself.  
  6. Stare at it to make sure I understand I have too much tea and should not be buying anymore...
  7. But then feel good that I bought most of the tea for cheap by today's standards and hence should be buying more tea with the "investment earnings"
The screenshot above show shu's which I procured in 2006-2007.  You can see that I spent $146 on seven 2006 shu beengs. I paid dearly for most of them during the 2007 bubble with sheer bad timing. In 2006,  Menghai shus were ten dollars or less and I couldn't be bothered with drinking them at all. I bought the Menghai Caravan To Tibet for $14.89 for the hype- $15 was expensive for a shu in 2006. 

At one time in 2006, bearsbearsbears decided he wasn't a shu kind of guy and he sold off his entire shu collection on livejournal. I think he had been grossed out first-hand in Yunnan by the insanitary conditions under which fermentation is conducted.  I similarly thought shu was disgusting back then and didn't jump at that once-in-a-life golden opportunity.  Of course I have forever regretted not relieving Jason of his goodies. 

All the categories and fields are customizable and so I have entry fields like "Husband Rating" to  denote teas he particularly liked.  Even with my efforts, I still find tea hiding in various corners of the house that I vow to register before the new year.  I can see some reader's shuddering at the obsessiveness of this kind of record-keeping.  The data entry is tedious but it's fun swiping your finger through the collection contemplating which teas to drink on the subway ride home from a long day's work.   


  1. How portable is this format? What I mean is, should, say, iPads be discontinued, what can you do to export this database?

    1. This particular app works on any iOS device and exports to CSV which you can import to any spreadsheet or to most other inventory programs. I use cloud backup to Dropbox but there is no convinient multi-device sync.

      The biggest shortcoming not only of this app but most tablet inventory programs are their insular nature. Sharing on the web is not great. Sharing in this one is via PDF. My other inventory app allows publishing to static HTML but still not great either. However I've become embarrassed enough about the immoderate amounts of tea that I don't want to put it's contents on the public web.

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