Monday, May 1, 2017

How Did It All Go So So Wrong? & Learning From Past Mistakes

It is said that mistakes are always good because we can learn from them- it creates a learning opportunity that will maybe benefit us in the long term... So, please join me in this life lesson... maybe it can also benefit you in the long term...

So after I realized that my puerh stash will pretty much be gone in a year or so.  I began to reflect on why I could let this happen in the first place.  Well of course, it is a matter of simple addition and subtraction.  Simply put just purchase more tongs, tous, brinks, and cakes than one will consume.  But in reality, if you are a drinker of aged puerh, it is a lot more complicated than that. You have to either buy puerh with more age on it but usually at a higher price or buy now and store and age the tea yourself.  So this really complicates the simple math equation because you might be buying tea now that you will only consume 10 years down the road.

For me there were some very real issues that had to be solved before I just purchased a tong every year.  The issues were as follows:

1- Dragging my puerh stash around the world.

I had to stop shipping my puerh stash around the globe with me. I have lived in 11 different places,  in 2 different counties, and 2 different Canadian Provinces in 10 years.  Do you know how expensive it is to ship, unpack, repack, reship, store, repeat?  I understood that after all that shipping my puerh was all of a sudden a lot more pricier per cake.  On top of that there are inherent risks to the puerh from shipping and storing it.  Also it is really quite annoying and a hassle to do this.

This was a big reason why I tried not to stock up on too much puerh because if you include the time & money spent on this it makes the puerh rather expensive.

My solution was to settle down and purchase a home first then restock my puerh later.

For a variety of different reasons this took a lot longer than I initially thought.  It wasn't until Dec 2015 that I accepted the inevitability that Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada is my home and bought.

2- Money and the increasing price of puerh.

Especially between 2009-2015 my funds were not as robust as they once were and are now.  Also the prices really started to go through the roof at this time as well.  So the combination really turned me off from buying.

My solution was to wait for a time when I would have more expendable cash to spend on puerh.

I think this just finally happened over the last year really!

3- Everyone pressing their own cakes.

I was also turned off and confused buy all the vendors pressing their own cakes in 2008/2009.  It required someone spending a lot more time and money ordering samples trying the tea to see what you were actually buying instead of just throwing your money at a factory you could trust.  Also there was all of a sudden a surge of information coming out of Yunnan as far as puerh from all these little small villages and less popular mountains that puerh drinkers have never heard of before.

My solution was to wait until some of these other issues were solved and when I was more serious about buying before getting really indepth with these new pressing, villages, mountains, vendors.

Overall the process was very time consuming but now I am glad I have this experience under my belt.  To me it was kind of like drinking puerh in mid 2000s when you had to try the tea to see what was behind those CNNP wrappers that pretty much covered every cake.  I am so grateful to all those who sent samples and especially all the group blogger puerh tastings mainly set up by Hobbes of the Half-Dipper.  I participated in all of them dispite of everything and it really added to my tea knowledge.  Thank you those involved with that.

4- Not being able to buy in real life and being turned off from digging around online.

I guess some of you really love sleuthing around online for the right puerh? Or maybe you just have never had the opportunity to sit in a variety of different tea shops within a close proximity of your home to contrast the online experience?  I am fortunate to have first learned about drinking puerh by going to many puerh tea shops and drinking lots of puerh tea next to other people who really love puerh.  This experience seems so far removed from learning and buying online.

My solution is a general life theme and probably what got me into this trouble in the first place- PROCRASTINATE until you finally really feel like doing that stuff online or maybe you will move back or visit Asia in the near future.

I think sometime last year a vague thought passed my mind that I kinda need to restock some of this puerh.  I didn't look online thoujgh, instead I visited my buddy Pedro's epic O5Tea in Vancouver, BC in Spring of 2016.  In conversation I told him that I was looking to restock my puerh.  He is selling some very fancy designer puerh called DC there at O5Tea- I bought 2 xiao bings.   They were very different than puerh I was used to drinking, not too harsh at all for young Shang puerh.  I consumed them quickly within a month or so.  Xiao bings are pretty much just samples in my mind- not worth storing.

Since 2014 I have not had a puerh drinking buddy that I can sit down in person with and talk and drink puerh.  I hope the online community and this blog will fill this gap a bit- please sit down with me, join in the conversation, and lets have some puerh together over the coming months and years.

5- Finding increasingly less time for tea.

The intensity of my life slowly increased dramatically until the last year.  In fact there was one year when I moved homes 3 times, took over another Dr.'s practice on top of my own family practice, moved clinics 3 times, had a child, bought a house and there was 1 death in the family all in one year!  2015 was a very interesting year.  Life can be rather intense sometimes.  This ultimately lead to the long absence in blogging.  But honestly it happened slowly over many years of having more and more constraints on my time and shifting priorities.

My solution was to come back to everything when things settled down but really I just stopped thinking about this stuff.  Thinking about puerh dropped off much quicker than Korean tea.  It wasn't really a conscious choice it was more like survival.

I would guess that since 2011 I have not really paid any attention to what was going on in the puerh world other than reading Hobbes' Half-Dipper off and on since 2013.  I had a wonderful puerh drinking buddy in Victoria named Antoine who convinced me begrudgingly to go in on some tongs with him.  He was a follower of Hobbes' beloved Half-Dipper and got some nods from his tasting notes.  God bless him because if it weren't for him I would be out of tea in 2015.

It is important to note that although I had little time, my tea drinking was still sacred time- true peace amongst the chaos and quick changing life.  In the end, you always come back to what you love... so I am here now.

6- My tea tastes were changing

As I waited for most of my puerh to age to a certain level of maturity, I was stuck with drinking mainly fresh samples and a thin variety of good older, everyday drinkers. I was also drinking lots of Korea teas.  But I think the game changer was the introduction of Darjeeling teas.  My wife and I visited there in March of 2009 and the teas that year made an impression on us.  Darjeeling had a few excellent years with extraordinary tea (2015 and 2013 seem to stick out).  That coupled with the familiarity with the different gardens, producers, and the feel of each of these places made sampling and ordering very easy.  The price of Darjeeling was also very affordable (but has risen dramatically too over the last 6 years- this years first flush was pricey due to drought).  So I ended up ordering a few kilograms of Darjeeling every year for a very reasonable price and regular drinking of this tea slowly put a squeeze on my puerh drinking because really you can only consume a certain amount of tea in a year.  I really wondered if I still would drink that much puerh every year.

My solution or thought was that there is no need to buy more puerh when you are not drinking too much of it anyways.

I was, in fact, drinking more puerh than I gave myself credit for.  Over the last year or so I have realized that aged puerh really is the healthiest for me to drink.  After this realization I drink almost exclusively puerh especially as my old stash of puerh seems to be quite ready to drink.

*7- Can puerh tea even survive or taste good stored in ultra cool and dry conditions?*

This one is the kicker.  It is a really really important issue that I could only tell with time.  The Canadian prairies are extraordinarily cold and dry.  They are so cold that all houses are now pretty much heated with forced air furnaces that run constantly and burn off all the humidity in the house.  To give you an idea of how dry it gets here- A wood end table I purchased in Victoria warped from the humidity change.  Everything that I knew about puerh storage told me that puerh will not aged well here.  Maybe it would be like fresh green puerh frozen in time? OR maybe it would mutate into something quite undrinkable?  Maybe I would just have to buy expensive aged puerh and just drink it right away?

There was no one I could find in the province of Saskatchewan (or Alberta) that had any experience with such issues so the only way to test this out was to actually age the tea here myself and see how it does.  It would just be a colossal waste of money, time, effort, and space if tea couldn't age here.

My solution was a 10 year long aging experiment in these harsh conditions (probably similar to the extreme environments NASA tests in... Hahaha).

Don't listen to the fear mongers.  Don't obsess about the storage.  Don't risk molding up all of your tea.

It turns out just fine (I will definitely post lots about the details of this one in the future).

So there you go, those are the reasons why I was left with my stash dwindling.  I think putting it in writing and reflecting on it will ensure that it never happens again.  Maybe it will help some of you guys not get to this point as well?


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