Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 09:24

Bo lei, aka pu erh, is always something we used to wash down dim sum. I never gave it much thought and never knew what was involved in its manufacture: it was just one of the 'Chinese teas.'

I now realize I'm in one of the best places to be for someone who takes their tea seriously. While I'm still very much a newbie, I am absolutely loving the pu erh I'm drinking right now. It's just the best traditionally stored house blend the wholesaler about a block away had to offer, and I only went to her store because it was on my walk from work. While she was a bit apprehensive about the enormous Indian guy in a fedora and kung fu shoes walking up to her and telling her he wanted to buy some tea (in Cantonese even) at 9 am, when she'd just opened up for business and was still sweeping the steps, she ended up being very friendly and helpful. I really had no idea what I was buying, and just wanted some pu erh to drink at work. I think I can go back a little better informed thanks to Marshal's blog and the great posts I've read here.

I was surprised at how the pu leaves smelled like a basement (a Hong Kong basement, no less) but I am amazed at how cool and sweet it brews, and how it makes me voraciously hungry like no other tea in my simple collection can! The pu makes me eat twice as much!

I think the fact it was stored here makes it better for my health than tea that was stored elsewhere due to the native microbes, the ratio of which would be partially determined by the environment: a completely unsubstantiated theory at this point, but I can't deny I feel like a million bucks.

Also I think this new tea hobby is going to work out cheaper than connoisseur-grade, professionally roasted coffee and drinking beer: This $120 HKD bag (around $16 US), 150g bag is going to last me a long time, and I drink a little every day. That money would get me less than two weeks worth of coffee, let alone beer! I've only had one beer in the last week, and I've been drinking tea all day!

Now, if I get into connoisseur grade cakes and Yixings from master craftsmen, that money saving stuff is all out the window, but I think I'll stick to the loose offerings and cheap Jingde porcelain for now. :)
Last edited by jayinhk on Sep 3rd, '12, 23:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby shah82 » Sep 3rd, '12, 09:54

Well, just don't try the better stuff, and you'll be safe!
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 11:01

:D For now, I won't try anything that doesn't come loose. Fortunately, we can get some pretty good, and expensive, loose pu here (even 50g bags!), so I won't be wanting!

I think I'll buy small bags from a variety of vendors and keep notes on each to see what I like best. There are probably over a hundred tea dealers within a twenty-minute-walk from here. This is like the Amsterdam of tea :P
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby apache » Sep 3rd, '12, 11:28

IMHO, as long as you don't mind wet storage or shu, I do find those loose leaves stuffs very good value for money. Much better than any half baked (semi-aged), or untamed raw cakes, unless of couse you are willing to pay $$$$ for a really nice raw new cake.
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 11:39

I'm sure my tastes will develop over time, but as I was telling Marshal, I have quite a few hobbies and interests (and not enough money)! :lol: I have to go out of town for much of next month (the Philippines), so I'll hold off on any big purchases until I return. A gaiwan and a small cup (and a few baggies of assorted tea) should tide me over while there.

It's definitely a bit early in the game for me to be spending big money on cakes as I really don't know what to buy, nor can I even visually determine the difference between shu and sheng (!), so I'll stick to small amounts of the vendors' best for now. This definitely has potential to be a very involving hobby: I had no idea there was so much to tea!
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby apache » Sep 3rd, '12, 11:58

I got a very simple advice for you to play this puerh games, as you are in HK, you can do all three without any problem, not like some of us in the west:

1. 飲熟: drink shu tea
2. 藏生: keep sheng for aging
3. (痴)舊: drink someone else nice and expensive aged tea at tea gathering, or in a tea shop or anywhere when there is opportunity

I'm doing the first two, but the last item is much harder to do where I'm now
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 12:07

apache wrote:I got a very simple advice for you to play this puerh games, as you are in HK, you can do all three without any problem, not like some of us in the west:

1. 飲熟: drink shu tea
2. 藏生: keep sheng for aging
3. (痴)舊: drink someone else nice and expensive aged tea at tea gathering, or in a tea shop or anywhere when there is opportunity

I'm doing the first two, but the last item is much harder to do where I'm now


Thanks--I'll stick to the best traditionally stored stuff (shu or sheng) that I can find.

As for storing sheng...not just yet, but I will!

As for #3...we often receive tea as gifts, and one of my clients gave me a grandpa'd cup of her very special pu last week. No idea what it was, but it had a lot less of the storage taste this batch does, although less sweetness too! I'll bring up Chinese tea the next time I see her and maybe I can take a better look (and taste)!

I must say people here are finding my interest in Chinese tea culture surprising and entertaining since I'm not ethnically Chinese. I'm quite enjoying their reactions. :lol:
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby BioHorn » Sep 3rd, '12, 12:18

I love this post. Thanks for sharing. So many of us would like to be in your shoes.
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 13:30

Thanks BioHorn! I'm definitely having fun, and it's really eye opening to see how pervasive tea culture really is here. Even though I've spent most of my life here, I had no idea! I noticed the security guard at my apartment building has a grandpa'd cup on his desk every morning. When I see him next, I'll ask him what he drinks. If he likes the bo lei I might ask him for a trade!
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby apache » Sep 3rd, '12, 13:43

jayinhk wrote:....
I must say people here are finding my interest in Chinese tea culture surprising and entertaining since I'm not ethnically Chinese. I'm quite enjoying their reactions. :lol:


I can imagine this.
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 13:58

One thing I've noticed recently is I get treated much better speaking English since the ball is in my court. This is a general rule (not just for tea stores). People are a little on edge if I immediately start speaking Cantonese to them here. I have a number of theories as to why that is, but regardless, speaking English first just seems to work better for me unless the other person doesn't speak any at all.

Other times people love it and start laughing, and occasionally people just expect me to speak it. HK's a place I still haven't figured out yet. :lol:
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby gasninja » Sep 3rd, '12, 15:56

welcome aboard. Im more than a little jealous of anyone that lives in Hong Kong. If I lived there I would probably end up having to eat traditional stored cakes for breakfast because I'd have no money left for food after buying tea.
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby apache » Sep 3rd, '12, 17:10

jayinhk wrote:One thing I've noticed recently is I get treated much better speaking English since the ball is in my court. This is a general rule (not just for tea stores). People are a little on edge if I immediately start speaking Cantonese to them here. I have a number of theories as to why that is, but regardless, speaking English first just seems to work better for me unless the other person doesn't speak any at all.

Other times people love it and start laughing, and occasionally people just expect me to speak it. HK's a place I still haven't figured out yet. :lol:


You might have seen this, but if not, then you should, start it at 4:20:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAkLWkQRyAk
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby jayinhk » Sep 3rd, '12, 21:46

gasninja wrote:welcome aboard. Im more than a little jealous of anyone that lives in Hong Kong. If I lived there I would probably end up having to eat traditional stored cakes for breakfast because I'd have no money left for food after buying tea.


I know how that goes. I wish I was in NYC for the pizza, Indonesia for the handicrafts and Jamaica for the reggae and rum. For once, I'm interested in something that is readily accessible in my own back yard (not that many of us have back yards here in Hong Kong)! I may start studying one of the many kung fu systems available to me here (probably wing chun and hung kuen, aka hung gar) and just throw in the towel and go local. :lol:

Apache, yes, I've seen it, and Vivek has really helped me see HK through different eyes. While I don't know him personally, I do see him and his mother around quite often. We have quite a few mutual friends, and I have discussed the race thing with him on Facebook.

Although ethnically we're from the same region of what is now Sindh in Pakistan, we grew up very differently. I grew up around American and British culture and went to a British school with the expat brats. I went to college in New York and moved back in 'Dec 04. Vivek bucked the trend completely, and went to the best local school of all, which completely surprised his relatives. He spoke no Cantonese before starting up in the 7th grade, and had to learn it from scratch. He's done a remarkable job of learning how to both speak and write it, and some of my local friends swear he speaks better Cantonese than they do!

One issue with being brown and speaking Cantonese here is that most brown people who speak the language grew up very poor, so I get painted with the same brush, even though my upbringing was completely different. Speaking English usually gets me treated like I'm a wealthy foreigner.

While I tend to get pissed off and offended when I catch people talking about me in public (very much a part of the culture here), Vivek is much more lighthearted about it. I've been trying to see things from his perspective.

It's a good morning. I'm waking up to takeout dim sum and a lotus seed filled bun. Washing it down with a gaiwan-brewed commercial Taiwanese TiGuanYin, which is a little more roasted than I'm used to, but enjoyable nonetheless. :)
Last edited by jayinhk on Sep 3rd, '12, 22:01, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts from a new Hong Kong bo lei drinker

Postby MarshalN » Sep 3rd, '12, 21:55

apache wrote:
You might have seen this, but if not, then you should, start it at 4:20:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAkLWkQRyAk


Indeed, ah cha should not be mixed up with gweilo. Is that girl even local?
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