Dec 6, 2010

What's your puerh collection style?

In China there is a common saying that there are a few types of puerh collectors, named by their collecting styles. One type is called "philatelists", who collect a few cakes/tuos of each product. Their collections cover a wide range of puerh brands and products but with only one or a few representatives of each product.

A second type is "ti collectors". A ti (or tong) typically has 7x357g puerh cakes, or 4x250g tuos or 5x100g tuos. The number may vary depending on the specific product. Traditionally a ti is wrapped by bamboo shoot shells which provides the most favorable environment for puerh aging.

A third type is "box collectors" who collect whole boxes (jian) of puerh. For example, for Dayi and most other 357g cakes, each box/jian has typically 6 ti, which are 42 cakes. It's not uncommon that some fans (obviously, those with larger houses!) would collect one or more boxes of some popular Dayi or Xia Guan products each year.

The last type is called "sample collectors" who collect as many samples as they can, not to keep them but for tasting purposes. Here in US, there are not as many free tea samples, but still many vendors offer sample options for puerh. After all, it's always important to sample a puerh before buying a big cake.

For my personal collection, I am pretty much a "ti collector". I love to have replicates of my favorite products, but feel I can't handle too much. Even if I have enough storage space, mentally, I won't be able to handle many whole boxes of puerh.

Besides, I love samples. For good or for bad, I've probably collected more samples than I can really consume in foreseeable future. One of the most interesting character of puerh is its unpredictability. Tasting is believing.

As an inexperienced puerh drinker, I think sampling is always important. What makes tea appreciation easy is, everybody can taste a tea and tell if she likes it or not. Sampling endless varieties of tea products and finding out what you like is always fun! On the other hand, puerh tasting has its limitation. One can tell if she likes a tea or not at current moment. But it's highly unpredictable how likable a puerh will be in future years. That's why after tasting countless puerh samples, I feel I haven't known better. Anyhow, I still enjoy sampling. It's a journey, not a race. That's my excuse :-p


Rich said...

Hey Gingko, I think I'm more of the "philatelist" type for pu'er; oolongs is a different story! Your sample box is pretty cool.

BTW, I tried the wild oolong this past week. The leaves, tastes, smell, texture...all quite "different." Thanks a lot for sharing the unique experience.

Ruqyo Highsong said...

I don't think I really fit into any of these types. The closest one would be 'sampler', but I usually buy at least two ounces of any tea that I order, and that is more than a sample to me. Also, I'm slowly getting into buying cakes, but not for 'collecting' purposes, just regular drinking.

Tom said...

I like the question! I think I'm between philatelist and sample collectors.

Posted on the topic on my blog, here:

Gingko said...

It's very interesting comparing people's collecting/purchase style!