Getting What You Pay For - A Rant Against Bargain Hunting


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

Re: Agreed

Postby GeoffK » May 24th, '08, 01:27

puerhshop wrote:I am myself disappointed with Xiaguan Tuocha, even I thought it's enjoyable. If you paid attention, I had it removed from the site.

I stand by for our mini bricks, which I think it's great to compete aganist any shu available.

You guys are always right, because you are the customers!


Again I'm really not trying to be mean, just honest...

If you were disapointed with the Xianguan then why include it in the Taste of Mellowness Sampler? Which was described as:

Try a tasting kit for the best Puerh Shop has to offer at a deep discount!


To me a tasting kit like this is a pure endorsement that something represents THE BEST of what you have to offer. Or am I reading something into it?

Also those tea bricks don't compete against the other Shu's out there. The 2006 Golden Melon Tribute Tuocha you used to sell at $2.98 is legions beyond the mini bricks which have been described as "gross, muddy, disgusting and unpalatable'.

Again I commend you on your strong commitment to your customers, but I have a really tough time commending you on your view on what is good tea.

I really wasn't trying to single any shop out in my initial rant, more present a reality check about what i feel is an easy trap to fall into as a relatively new to pu-erh teahead. I think I've managed to cut off my misdirected path before blowing too much in search of the diamond in the rough. I think the tragedy will be the people who put out a fair amount of money on cakes which may become colossal wastes of time, effort and even money.
User avatar
GeoffK
 
Posts: 108
Joined: Feb 18th, '
Location: Portland OR

Morning thoughts

Postby Jim Liu » May 24th, '08, 07:12

I am sipping the Xiaguan Tuocha while writing this ... after two quick rinsing and a short steeping in a Yixing pot.

Frankly speaking, I still like the tea. I am sure I would hate the tea if I had it two years ago when I was a newbie in ripe teas.

Jeff, you would agree with me $ 12 won't buy the best for whatever it is. Here the best means the overall value a kit represents. I felt good we did the community a service by assembling 5 teas to taste without breaking into a bank and everyone learnt something.
User avatar
Jim Liu
 
Posts: 67
Joined: Oct 1st, '0
Location: Indianapolis

Re: Morning thoughts

Postby PolyhymnianMuse » May 24th, '08, 12:08

puerhshop wrote:Jeff, you would agree with me $ 12 won't buy the best for whatever it is. Here the best means the overall value a kit represents. I felt good we did the community a service by assembling 5 teas to taste without breaking into a bank and everyone learnt something.


I think the tasting kits are a great idea. For those who are only looking for specifically more expensive, possibly higher quality pu-erh your probably going to be going to a physical place to buy tea rather than online... and even a step further if you are buying online I don't see much sense in buying a tasting kit, after all thats what they are, just a variety of teas to taste and sample. There of course isn't going to be anything too expensive in a $12 dollar sampler, but if you find something you like, regardless of something that a website says is good or bad, is quite a cheap way to find something you like. Of course everyone has different likes, but it only matters what you like. :P

The bottom line really is I would take the opinion of any tea site, blog, etc. with a grain of salt, some a few more grains than others because it inevitably has to be enjoyable to drink to you.
User avatar
PolyhymnianMuse
 
Posts: 696
Joined: Dec 30th, '
Location: Sandy Run Road, Pennsylvania, USA

Re: Agreed

Postby MarshalN » May 24th, '08, 14:59

GeoffK wrote:To me a tasting kit like this is a pure endorsement that something represents THE BEST of what you have to offer. Or am I reading something into it?

Also those tea bricks don't compete against the other Shu's out there. The 2006 Golden Melon Tribute Tuocha you used to sell at $2.98 is legions beyond the mini bricks which have been described as "gross, muddy, disgusting and unpalatable'.

Again I commend you on your strong commitment to your customers, but I have a really tough time commending you on your view on what is good tea.

I really wasn't trying to single any shop out in my initial rant, more present a reality check about what i feel is an easy trap to fall into as a relatively new to pu-erh teahead. I think I've managed to cut off my misdirected path before blowing too much in search of the diamond in the rough. I think the tragedy will be the people who put out a fair amount of money on cakes which may become colossal wastes of time, effort and even money.


Geoff, I think we should remember that tastes differ -- and for puerh, there's a very wide range of tastes that are available to us. I personally would never touch any of the silver tips stuff out there, because none of them that I've encountered have ever aged gracefully, but there are obviously many people who like that stuff and will buy it. For me, it's utter crap, but for others, it's great. So, more power to them, and let them like that tea.

A vendor's sample pack is almost definitely going to include at least one or two things you don't like. Just because you don't like it, or you think it's crap, doesn't mean everybody else is going to think the same.

I've been to stores or had tea with people who absolutely loved what they were making -- while I thought it to be at best subpar teas. I've had the same experience, but on the receiving end of the "what's so great about this tea?" comment. And we weren't even selling teas to each other -- we were just tea friends hanging out sharing a drink. This happens not just with young puerh, but any kind of tea. The bottom line is, if it's a tea that you've never had before, even if it were praised to high heaven by a vendor, an "expert", or your next door neighbour, there's going to be a chance that you will hate it and think it's disgusting.
User avatar
MarshalN
 
Posts: 2040
Joined: Mar 15th, '

Re: Agreed

Postby PolyhymnianMuse » May 24th, '08, 15:35

MarshalN wrote: The bottom line is, if it's a tea that you've never had before, even if it were praised to high heaven by a vendor, an "expert", or your next door neighbour, there's going to be a chance that you will hate it and think it's disgusting.


QFT :D
User avatar
PolyhymnianMuse
 
Posts: 696
Joined: Dec 30th, '
Location: Sandy Run Road, Pennsylvania, USA

Re: Agreed

Postby GeoffK » May 24th, '08, 15:43

MarshalN wrote:
A vendor's sample pack is almost definitely going to include at least one or two things you don't like. Just because you don't like it, or you think it's crap, doesn't mean everybody else is going to think the same.


There have been many teas I've sampled that aren't to my taste
here's a great example. There's a huge difference between a tea that I may dislike and a crappy tea. When there's a toucha that's being sold in 'best of' sampler pack and lauded on the site as medal winning and is quickly hated by several people as being extremely poorly made tea I think there's a disconnect.

Again I point to the mini tea bricks and that Xianguan, both I think are textbook examples of bad tea. Not just tea that isn't to my taste, but bad tea.
User avatar
GeoffK
 
Posts: 108
Joined: Feb 18th, '
Location: Portland OR

Postby PolyhymnianMuse » May 24th, '08, 17:11

TomVerlain wrote:I saw you tried the 2003 Keyixing Yiwu Pu-erh Tea Cake (in the linked review above)

This gives us some common ground. I tried it, in fact I double checked it, as I found it completely unremarkable. It was so unremarkable...


Here is a prime example, I enjoyed that keyixing quite a bit. I agree that there of course is inevitably some factor of tea just plain being bad rather than not to someones tastes, but the fact is its all based on opinion. There could be a large agreement a specific tea is not very good, but there will always be people out there that like the tea most others normally wouldnt... and even in some cases people will enjoy "bad" tea.
User avatar
PolyhymnianMuse
 
Posts: 696
Joined: Dec 30th, '
Location: Sandy Run Road, Pennsylvania, USA

Postby MarshalN » May 24th, '08, 19:49

PolyhymnianMuse wrote:
TomVerlain wrote:I saw you tried the 2003 Keyixing Yiwu Pu-erh Tea Cake (in the linked review above)

This gives us some common ground. I tried it, in fact I double checked it, as I found it completely unremarkable. It was so unremarkable...


Here is a prime example, I enjoyed that keyixing quite a bit. I agree that there of course is inevitably some factor of tea just plain being bad rather than not to someones tastes, but the fact is its all based on opinion. There could be a large agreement a specific tea is not very good, but there will always be people out there that like the tea most others normally wouldnt... and even in some cases people will enjoy "bad" tea.


Yes, and that's why I think it's not necessarily a vendor's fault if a "best of" sample pack includes something that many others don't like. To name another example -- a wet stored puerh, no matter how good or old, will receive almost universally bad reviews if you brew it for people in, say, Beijing. Trust me, because I've done it before. It's a tea that almost everybody in Hong Kong will think is, at the very least, ok, if not decent or even very nice. However, in the Beijing crowd, everybody's reaction ranged from "hmmm, this is weird" or "this is really bad" or "this is not healthy for me", or even "you got cheated big time man". I know what I got, and while I won't say it's the best thing ever, it's certainly not bad. Most Beijingers I know will disagree and say it's absolutely, positively bad. Who's right? I think in this case, everybody's right.

So.... does that mean the vendor who sold the tea to me is bad? No, it just means the Beijingers will think the vendor's selling crap, utter crap. That's why his store isn't located in Beijing.

Anybody can say a tea's utter crap and not worth the soil it was grown on. However, it's not quite fair to say a vendor is being dishonest when they say it's a great tea, because it is possible it does taste great to the vendor. We all know we should take vendors' claims with a grain of salt, but unless there's an absolutely consistent problem (i.e. every single tea a vendor sells is crap, all the time, and every single tea is praised as the greatest thing ever on the website) then it's hard to fault anybody selling the tea.

This is, by the way, entirely different from the case where, say, a vendor sells a tea as "Yiwu" when it's actually from Mengku, just to give a random example. In that case, you CAN call the guy on the problem.
User avatar
MarshalN
 
Posts: 2040
Joined: Mar 15th, '

Postby tenuki » May 24th, '08, 21:14

I bet everyone money I can easily find a 'universally bad puerh'. Same is true for 'universally good puerh'. You can have your tastes and I can have mine, but there is better tea regardless of taste and it is possible for everyone to detect it. I tasted an alishan the other day that was definitely not my idea of pleasant, but was a very good example of excellent alishan. I would recommend it to someone who like alishan without reservation, but if I had to drink it I would brew it in a yixing to get rid of the overweening fragrance and pull out more body. The tea factories grade tea leaves, you can see and taste the difference. The market recognizes this with price differences.

So I think this discussion has recognized that there are differences in taste yes. But that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about finding quality at a reasonable price.

I think GeoffK's original rant was pointed at trying to find quality in a sea of mediocrity via wildly sampling just the cheap stuff trying to find a gem.

I agree with him that is the wrong approach. I think finding a couple of people who have already made the journey or are hooked into the market better than you and can guide you honestly through the maze is crucial. Unfortunately blogging has flooded the internet with every joe blo's half assed opinion and it gets really difficult to find an experienced voice in all the ruckus. I'm sorry, but someone who has been studying puerh casually 2 years in the west cannot tell how a cake is gonna age, I'm sorry but I'm calling bullshit on that. Experts express doubt on their assesments, people who have been doing it long enough to actually have tasted the same cake for 20 years as it ages. Add in unreliable vendor info at all levels and a dirth of good local puerh sources most places and you have a problem.

I just don't think the problem can be solved by spending all your time drinking the cheapest puerh samples you can find and posting your reviews on the internet and encouraging other people to do the same. I think that makes the problem worse. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that everyone try a couple samples of really good aged puerh before they start drinking 2007 shen and reviewing it publicly. You are cloggin my Google! ;P

(ps I'm guilty of this, so I'm pointing the finger at myself along with all of you)

I'm interested in other's thoughts, this is a extremely interesting discussion. Really enjoying listening to everyone's viewpoints.

One thing is clear, we all love us some puerh... :D
User avatar
tenuki
 
Posts: 2339
Joined: Oct 23rd, '
Location: Seattle Area

Postby MarshalN » May 24th, '08, 23:20

Tenuki: I largely agree with you on all points.

Having sampled my way through Maliandao and Taiwan for almost two years, drinking all sorts of things from dirt cheap ($2 a cake?) to super expensive ($300 for a new cake, or many times that for a really old one) I can say that the amount of gems out there is really quite low, and that applies not only to cheap stuff, but to things of ALL price levels. Something good is not too likely to be very cheap, but something expensive does not have to be good at all.

I do think a LIMITED amount of sampling wildly is a good thing, especially if you're starting out -- note the emphasis on limited. There's nothing that will replace the experience you get from drinking stuff -- crap or not. I do not advocate an endless array of sampling, but I do think that everybody has to go through some crap before they truly recognize what crap is. Also, this is the time when you practice your brewing skills with young puerh. It takes some getting used to, and there's nothing better to hone your skills with than crap. Good stuff will taste good no matter how you make it. Crap only tastes good if you happen to make it just right -- if it's not absolutely horrible crap.

Also, there's another factor here that makes everything rather complicated -- the fact that puerh production has changed so much in the last ten years. My friends who have been at it for 15 or 20 years don't necessarily have a good handle on young cakes produced today, because they, like us, have never seen a lot of these things before. Back then, the only thing that existed was big factory blended cakes. Now you have all kinds of stuff out there, from blends to single mountains to moon wilted to purple buds to you-name-it. They are, unfortunately, just as confused as we are.

The one consistent message I've gotten over time that keeps getting repeated is that a young cake must have strength -- a strength that can, sometimes, make it very nasty right now for you to drink the tea. Almost everybody I've met who's truly been doing this for 10+ years will say that.

I think you are right to say that everybody should start out with a few really good samples of aged puerh, but I do NOT think that those samples should be purchased online and brewed by the puerh-newbie, because, honestly, a puerh-newbie wouldn't know what to do with it, and is likely to waste $150 or whatever it cost to get those 10g samples.

So what do you do given that problematic situation?
User avatar
MarshalN
 
Posts: 2040
Joined: Mar 15th, '

Postby tenuki » May 24th, '08, 23:29

MarshalN wrote:I do NOT think that those samples should be purchased online and brewed by the puerh-newbie, because, honestly, a puerh-newbie wouldn't know what to do with it, and is likely to waste $150 or whatever it cost to get those 10g samples.

So what do you do given that problematic situation?


Agree. I have access to reasonably knowledgeable friends with reasonably good puerh so I do what anyone would do in that situation - listen very carefully, watch what they are doing with intense concentration, and thank them profusely if they share their puerh with me. lol. I have no idea what I would do if stuck back in the middle of a Michigan corn field. Probably drink way too much beer instead. :(
User avatar
tenuki
 
Posts: 2339
Joined: Oct 23rd, '
Location: Seattle Area

Postby MarshalN » May 24th, '08, 23:36

Yeah, and you're a lucky guy given that you live in this country. Most people don't have access to such friends -- and they're stuck finding their way through the dark, unguided, so to speak. Just like it's not very useful for me to say I can find a nice cake in China for $30 because, well, you can, but only if you have friends on the ground who can do all that for you (or if you can go yourself).
User avatar
MarshalN
 
Posts: 2040
Joined: Mar 15th, '

Postby hop_goblin » May 25th, '08, 11:58

I think what it all boils down to is that drinking and buying pu-erh is a subjective process. The reality of the matter is, if someone enjoys a beeng that cost $10 - more power to them. Who are we, and for experts to say what is good and what is not. I know people who think that Old Milwaukee beer is the nectar of the gods and poopoo most micro beer. The history of pu-erh is quite nebulous due to the fact that adequate records were never kept. Heck, they really don’t even know what leaves, from what regions went into making the infamous Song Pins, Keyxing, and Tongqing . Tea vendors 60 - 100 years ago had no idea that pu-erh would become the extravagant beverage and past time that it is today, so record keeping was not at the top of their "to do list". Furthermore, which IMHO is possibly the most important; understanding that storage is 50% of the game, the flavors of aged pu-erh will vary. As a consequence, there are really no stable reference points. This of course leads people to use words like "fresh, fragrant, soothing" etc which are intended to be subjective as they have to remain subjective or tea tasting will collapse under its own rigidity. So, it would be ludicrous for someone to say that a "1959 XiaGuan tuocha will ‘always’ and always being the operative word taste like "dried plum, sandal wood, barley" etc. If you examine the tea masters, they refrain from using descriptive words that are found in wine lingo - (or course the exceptions are in young sheng), and thus resort gauging the quality of aged sheng according to its chaqi, sensations, and comfort. The biggest paradox found in all of this of course is that no one truly knows what will or what will not age. Of course there are some great prospects, but the question remains if they will live up to the famous examples. Marshaln is totally right however that all pu-erh producers and tea masters will suggests that at minimum, young puerh must have strength. I never worry if something is smoky or too bitter or what have you. I buy puerh to be aged and really don’t care if it tastes good right now. Well, good is again subjective - it must be palatable. If I can brew a young sheng for 6 infusions, and contains a powerful zing and the color doesn’t fade much from infusion to infusion then it would be reasonable to suggest that it has a better chance of aging than some. I have found from researching pu-erh is that all taste will vary - even that of the tea masters and experts. Just read the Art of Tea mag. It amazes me the variance found in their likes and dislikes and taste when doing blind reviews. What even strikes me even more is that at times most of these gents give low appraisals to examples which will represent the next classic examples according to the sacred cows of the pu-erh community.
User avatar
hop_goblin
 
Posts: 1937
Joined: May 22nd, '
Location: Trapped inside a bamboo tong!

Postby GeoffK » May 25th, '08, 13:51

Great stuff guys. Trying to find your path to good pu is a tough one. But I think the stores can do a lot to help.

First off they can prepare sample packs that give people a good cross section of Pu Erh. Samplers give people a taste of something that perhaps they couldn't afford to buy an entire cake of or at least get a sense of what a good pu tastes like.

Secondly, they can be diligent about the quality of their product. If a tea that they order comes in and is not what they had expected then rather than shipping it out the door to their customers they can take the issue up with their suppler. Or as Pu shop did take it off their site...

Third, they can provide forums for customer reviews, discussions and feedback (Yeah! Adagio!!). Tea stores should welcome with open arms both good and bad reviews of their products.

Then I think the responsibility is up to us the consumers to support the stores which consistently deliver a great tea experience. The more we demand cheap low end tea the more these stores will buy cheap low end teas and thus we help create the market for crap.

Also we need to be as critical about tea blogs as we are about stores. Rather than threads listing ALL the tea blogs out there and accept anyone and everyone as an authority on tea, we need to champion the tea blogs which are doing it right. And by that I mean the bloggers who have experience with tea, are giving well rounded reviews and provide the reader with enough information to help decode if a tea might be a good fit to sample.

OK I'm ranting again. As I said in the first post I'm not trying to be 'right', I just feel passionate that this is an issue worth discussing.

Also with respects to Pu-erh shop, my intent is not to single out one retailer over another with these issues. Jim I think your heart is absolutely in the right place, so I'm sorry if you felt attacked in this thread, it wasn't my intent. You've shown yourself to be a stand up business man who respects and listens to his customers, I don't want my take on 2 of the teas you sell to discolor that. See my comments as constructive criticism and not 'bashing' you. I've ordered several times from your store and because of the way in which you truly care about your customers I plan on ordering from you again.
User avatar
GeoffK
 
Posts: 108
Joined: Feb 18th, '
Location: Portland OR

PreviousNext

Instant Messenger

Permissions
You cannot post new topics
You cannot reply to topics
You cannot edit your posts
You cannot delete your posts
You cannot post attachments
Navigation