tea questions

What am I Doing Wrong with my Tea?

Am I strange?

My inbox is a vault full of tea questions. The more common questions inevitably evolve into blog posts. I’ve even toyed with the idea of starting some sort of “Ask Twodog” column where I give tea and relationship advice. I’m only half joking. E-mail me with the subject “Dear Twodog” and I’ll try to fix your relationship probs – all anonymous – let the dog jump start your love life. But until the advice column gains steam, I’ll be sticking with tea and using oft asked tea questions for blog fuel.

The question that sparked this post was a question type i’ve seen frequently lately:

I was trying a fair amount of the shu and found a few that were OK, but it felt like something was missing. I started adding about 2g of the Gaoshan Qingbing to 6g of shu to get some high notes and like it a lot. The funny thing is that just by itself, the GaoShan is not my favorite. So my question is if you know of other people that do this or am I just strange.

The answer to this question, “am I just strange?” is almost inevitably yes. Yes, you are strange, but strange is normal. This is something that I’ve learned from years of reading Dan Savage. The subjective nature of taste results in broad variations. You’re not normal and neither is anybody else.

For tea folk, the whole subject of tea can become a bit dear – I am as guilty of this as anybody. The questions of good and bad, right and wrong, they loom heavy. They are such an ominous cloud that people sometimes forget to just have fun.

You’re pouring water on leaves. Imbibing a beverage that has thousands of years of human history. Enjoy yourself for fuck’s sake. note to self

With that being said, here are a few question formulas that have hit my inbox lately, with some generic advice for each.

tea questions
Is it strange to drink tea this way?

Can I Mix Ripe and Raw Puer?

The question above; is mixing ripe Puer and raw Puer some sort of sacrilege punishable by flagellation? Not at all, people do this. You are OK. Some bricks and cakes are even pressed this way. (Spoiler alert: I have pressed some, but not released them yet) Though, if you do want to mix your ripes and raws, here are some helpful tips:

  • It helps to mix a slightly aged raw. Young raw profiles are usually far too disparate to successfully meld with ripe Puer
  • I’ve had more success bolstering a ripe with a middle aged raw than vice versa, though that is a broad rule made to be broken
  • Don’t be afraid to blend your raws with other raws, too. Crimson Lotus Tea Cats and white2tea Dogs are a collaborative pair of blended tea with just that kind of mad tea science in mind

Is it weird if I like X better than Y?

I get this question a lot. It boils down to people not being confident in their own preferences, which can admittedly take a bit of time. Typically this happens with teas that are from differing price ranges. For example, you might like a $50 tea more than a $150 tea. There are a myriad of reasons why different teas cost different prices, including but not limited to: vendor mark up, fame of the village, fame of the producer, where the supplier purchased it from, who their typical customers are, whether it is Bingdao from 70,000 year old trees and the farmer cut them a “deal”, etc. All of that is to say that price does not always have a direct correlation to quality with tea.

This boils down to trusting your own gut, not the price tag. If it’s right for you, it’s right.

tea pour
It’s important to trick people into thinking you drink whisky in the daylight

What if I dislike this tea everyone else likes? Am I missing something?

Maybe you are, maybe not. In my life of beverage consumption, there are things that were over my head at various times in my journey. That being said, you should always default to drinking whatever raises your happiness levels at the current time. From a financial standpoint, if you hate old arbor Yiwu, that’s probably great news for your wallet.

Rather than keeping up with the Joneses and second-guessing your own experience, do what feels right. And for the love of tea, if you stumble on a good blending recipe, share it. (#madteascience?) There are a lot of interesting possibilities out there. Blend your favorite teas together and take notes. And don’t be too serious about it.

  • Keith

    Another great blog post 2Dog; I want a motivational poster with ‘Enjoy yourself for fuck’s sake’ written on it – useful advice for so many situations.

    I regularly blend ripe and young raw and find that a 90/10 “rule” helps insure success. That is to say, either brew mostly raw with just a touch of ripe, or vise-versa. The general point if you’re brewing mostly raw is to smooth out a tea that is a bit too much on the young and brash side; and if your brewing mostly ripe the general point is to add a bit of “spice” to the tea, so to speak. Blending 50/50 raw/ripe can work, but is a lot more of a crapshoot in my experience.

    And here’s the real secret method; listen closely :). Take a super compressed ripe and place a chunk of it at the bottom of your pot/gaiwan, without loosening in any way. Then top generously with loose (or loosened) young (or youngish) raw puer. In early steeps, you’ll get something around 90/10 raw/ripe, and as the raw starts to loose steam, the ripe starts to loosen up, and you end with around 90/10 ripe raw. Best of both worlds, and a great way to brew up a raw that would normally rough up your stomach, as you’re pretty much immediately drinking the ripe to calm things down. This can also give you a good idea of how to blend in the future. Did you like the first steeps best? The last steeps? Maybe something in the middle?

    • TwoDog2

      Thank you for sharing your method, sounds like a great approach for blending in the gaiwan

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