Wednesday, November 16, 2005

10,000 visits and the case for best quality tea

Merci. Thanks. Danke. Xie xie. Toda raba.
To celebrate, here is a picture of the winter 2005 Da Yu Ling Oolong I drank last night:

At this milestone, it may be a good time to share some of my thoughts about this blog. You may remember that end of June, after one year of pure blogging, I let you know that I was willing to sell to interested readers the teas I drink and teapots I use. This is my way of going one step further in sharing not just information and knowledge about tea, but giving you the same access I have to what I consider the best tea sources in Taiwan (and probably the whole world, no kidding!).

I am very proud that the people who are ordering are generally western tea store managers, tea store employees, tea bloggers or real tea fans. And I am even happier to see that despite the the short time I have been doing this, several of you have already ordered twice or three times. This is the ultimate proof that you appretiate my teas.

I guess the reason for this success is that I am willing to share my tea passion and not just providing a list of teas with prices. In this, I apply Teaparker's advice: buy only from those who truly understand and love tea.

My readers are equally divided between French and American (despite the size difference of both countries), and this is the reason why I try to keep the same balance in my articles. I also like juggling between the languages and keeping an international audience. What puzzles me is the fact that there are relatively more French speakers ordering from me than Americans. Why?

Maybe the fact that I'm French-German and not American plays a role. My family roots are European, and I am creating my own branch in Taiwan now, but I also have close American relatives in California! (To one of whom I say 'Hi!' as I know she is a frequent reader and tea drinker!) Also, my English is not as fluent as my French...

Another more important reason I see is that Americans are more cost conscious. Europeans, on the other hand, sometimes do have a 'snobbish' thing with luxury and branded items. So, while it is true that I focus on more expensive teas, I think there is a strong case for it. But I think that even cost conscious buyers should feel they are making a bargain with fine teas in general and my selection in particular. Here is why:

- Like for many other products produced in China, the difference between a 1.99 USD T-shirt and a 19.9 USD T-Shirt may just be the brand, the packaging or the store you purchase it. (This may also happen with tea: cheap wholesale leaves in Chinatown become 10 times more expensive when sold in nice small boxes with a big brand.) But teas, like wines, do come in vastly different qualities that justify both the low and high prices.

- As for wine the supply of quality products is like a triangle: lots of low quality and very few high quality ones. Buying tea from ordinary businesses or at the lowest price will make sure that you get a mass produced, low quality tea.

- I have shown that even the extremely expensive teas are not that expensive by the glass. (But since I don't buy such hugely expensive teas, I'm also not selling them!)

- IF you know how to practice a good gongfu cha, then you'll be able to make several brews with the same leaves. Let's say that 2 ounces of cheap oolong can last 6 tastings and brew well 4 times. 2 ounces of winter Da Yu Ling, on the other hand, can produce 20 tastings of 6-7 brews each. That's 5 times more AND it comes with nicer fragrances and a better taste! More concentration also means transportation costs are down.

- Pu Erh is one of the most powerful and least understood teas around. There are some bargains to be made with this tea, for sure. But it is also a tea where imitations and low quality are flooding the market. In my tasting of 8 puers provided by a connoisseur in Singapore, I only drank one with real pleasure. I can't even calculate the loss of time, the loss of pleasure and the financial loss it is to drink 7 (or more) bad puers before finding a good one.

I also do drink cheap, lower quality tea from time to time. The above is not a case against it altogether. When I don't have much time and concentration to perform numerous gongfu cha brews, then I choose such teas. (And it's an even bigger challenge to brew good tea with average leaves! That's where the gongfu cha principles can make the difference.) Also, it makes no sense to buy the best teas if all you do is prepare them in a big pot once or twice. THAT would be snobbish. You achieve real harmony when you give the tea the level of attention and respect fitting its quality.

So, if you want to go further in your exploration of the Cha Dao (Tea Road) and enjoy the finest pleasure of Chinese tea, there is no alternative but to choose excellent leaves at good prices (just send me an e-mail: stephane_erler@yahoo.com to get my price list).

2 comments:

Trajan said...

Je dirais même plus 谢谢 !

ps En espérant ne pas avoir fait d'erreur.

Puercaravan said...

你没错了 trajan !

j'ai été un peu pris ces derniers temps et je remarque que l'activité reprend ici aussi.

Congratulation Stéphane for your high quality posts, you made so much for all Gongfu tea drinkers on this planet.
BIG UP !