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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Paying for Tuition Tea

What constitutes a deceit? If you bought a tea that tasted good and paid a reasonable price for it, is it a deceit if the description surrounding the tea has been fudged a little bit? I stopped by a shop after I found a replacement lid for a pot, and was drawn in by the different maocha the shop had to offer. They source maocha directly from Yunnan, but haven't bought any in the last two years because the market is too hot. They also had (supposedly) aged maocha. Curious about how aged maocha tastes compared to a cake I tried some of their 1990 loose leaf tea. The first infusion was okay, but things picked up by the 2nd steeping. There was smoothness one would not find in most cakes this age, and there wasn't any funky super wet storage flavor yet there was slight sharpness. The tea also had powerful qi, and I was really feeling it by the third infusion. After a dozen or so infusions (pretty good durability) I asked to see the wet leaves. He grabbed some from the pot using some tongs, and they looked good. He gave a good discount and I bought a small amount of this tea.

I went home and brewed the tea for my grandparents. It performed just as well as it did in the tea shop, though the qi's effect was slighter this time (there is the concept of qi loading where an older tea with lots of qi may have less of an effect if drunk constantly). I pulled out the wet leaves to take a more comprehensive look.

Notice anything strange about these leaves? Because I did...

Wait, why are these leaves so leathery and wrinkly! Based on my shaky memory of pu-erh tea, this either indicates really wet storage or that part of these leaves are cooked. The leaves overall didn't disintegrate with rubbing, so readers please chime in with opinions. I watched the guy take tea from the same box he grabbed a sample to brew for me, so there isn't any funny vendor business going on here.

But assuming the worst, that there is some shu it it (about 15-20% I think), was I ripped off? I certainly enjoy the tea, and a part of me wish I didn't know this (ignorance is bliss). Also, compared to prices for aged pu-erh this was a pretty good deal, but I'm not familiar with Asian prices (it sold for 4000 NTD/135 USD for 600 grams). I honestly don't mind that there's a bit of shu it in. It probably explains why there was excessive smoothness in those initial brews. I think I'm more annoyed that the vendor didn't mention this to me. I really thought he was a nice guy.

Oh well, I've definitely had worse-tasting tuition tea.


tieguanyin said...

What did you grandparents think of the tea?

Maitre_Tea said...

They liked it, more so than the old shu that my grandmother was brewing before...as more time passes I am more inclined to believe that the tea is just really wet-stored, and that's why some of the leaves are carbonized.