02 March 2009

Remembering your first GOOD tea

What is the first "good" tea that you can remember drinking?

IMG_4065  preparing for tea in Hong Kong

Mine was Longjing. Sure, I started off drinking oolong teas, but the first one I considered to be really special and good was a Dragon's Well tea. It was, and still is, a famous green tea of China and that status probably played the tea up a bit in my mind.

But thinking back, the tea that I had probably wasn't that good, but it was good to me then. So what is good tea? A lot of people spend a lot of time and money searching for what they consider to be good tea. If you can remember the first tea that you deemed to be extra tasty, chances are that it may longer be as good to you if you had it again today.


They glanced at each other and The Younger chuckled as he quickly poured out the 3rd infusion of the pricey Tieguanyin sample that I had brought him.

"Let me ask you, how do you know if what you're drinking tastes good and is good tea?"

The Younger is straightforward and not as "gentle" in his wording as The Elder, but I appreciate his humor and his articulation when talking about tea. They've been trading teas for decades, and that day, he had just returned from roasting nearly 10,000 jin of tea; about 14,000 pounds.

"Good tea to me must be roasted and have a strong base that has been well oxidized. It must be complex and have multiple layers of flavor, but pleasant and smooth to the tongue and throat. It need not have a recurring sweetness, but it should be bold enough to withstand multiple infusions in my pot. It should be a forgiving tea also."

The Elder switches spots with The Younger, pours me another cup and asks me, without looking, "So by your standards, even my best puerh teas would not be to your liking."

It was my turn to chuckle. "You have good teas for good prices, and by the standard that they are judged your best puerhs are excellent. But they're not for me."

"Perhaps we should brew you a good puerh. Maybe you've never had a good one, that's why you don't like it." The Younger scans the shelves behind him looking for a suitable cake of some sort.  He finds a small bag of what looks like an old sample of something quite tasty and puts it into a gaiwan.

"No need. I have had many very old and expensive puerhs. They are good teas with roundness and smoothness, but I still prefer a good oolong above all others." I looked at The Younger and asked him, "If you were to choose between a beautiful young maiden and a beautiful older maiden, which would you choose?

We all laughed and he put his gaiwan full of old puerh on the table behind him and continued to brew the Tieguanyin that I had brought.


Good tea is subjective and it will change. And even with no change, I've written before that it's fleeting. One of the best teas I've had recently is a 1983 Dong Ding produced by the legendary Mr. Kang.  It brought tears to my eyes as I drank it alone at a quiet teahouse in Asia, dually appreciating the teas complete beauty, but also lamenting that such a tea can never be produced again.

Savor each glimpse, each drop of life's treasures, as every worthy moment has its own sublime beauty.



  1. Dear Rich,
    No one ever comments,
    But these are some Great Posts.
    Please Keep writing!
    Thank you so much for your knowledge!

  2. Thanks Jason! Readers oftentimes send me private emails rather than comment, but I welcome both. Thanks for reading!


  3. Just came across your blog. I am always on the look out for good blogs on tea. You most definitely qualify. I will keep an eye out for new posts. Thanks for the interesting stories.

  4. Thanks so much for reading, Cecil. I'm really glad to hear that you enjoy my stories.


  5. Your post is very interesting and I enjoyed reading it. I guess everyone views the word 'good' diffferently. In America, I believe the pricier the tea the more Americans think the tea is good.

    I have enjoyed and drunk tea all my life, being British I add a splash of milk to whatever black tea I happen to be drinking that day.

    I enjoy my tea that way, although others may
    shudder at the thought of milk in tea. Well thats their opinion.

    I know the feeling about comments on ones blogs.

    Mary Elizabeth, Tea Break Magazine

  6. Thanks Mary! I enjoy a splash of milk and a bit of honey with some black teas on occasion as well. I've had high tea several times and find them to be a more social experience where the focus isn't just on the tea or the product one is consuming. Those are fun experiences to share.

    I agree with your view of good. I think that high pricing correlates strongly with people's views on what better and best are, whether or not it's an objective take.