One year ago I wrote about intermediate-level themes in tea; about people exploring brewing options and diverse types, or higher quality versions of one category.

Lately something related keeps coming up about the experience curve itself: The order in which people explore tea, once they move past tea-bag and flavored blend introductions.  Of course everyone has their own path.  One new online contact / friend is completely jumping in, moving past initial Constant Comment / English Breakfast tea by exploring basic green, black, white, shu, hei cha, and even sheng in one large Yunnan Sourcing sample order.  That’s a great way to do it.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend even trying sheng pu’er before sorting out some other range but in her case, I did suggest trying an inexpensive tuocha to see what it’s about.

The Middle of the Tea Experience Curve - Part 1 - Screenshot of Yunnan sourcing purchase summary

a smaller-scale venture into trying some hei cha and shu

Eight-ish years ago, before I started a blog, I tried a set of 20 or so types from a Chinese vendor – an individual selling tea.  I don’t remember much about those, but it was definitely a launching point for diverse exploration.  By chance, a vendor sent a first sample set of Darjeeling versions around the same time – when I first started a blog (thanks much to the Lochans, who produce and sell novel versions of Doke teas).  You next learn that one step in any given direction isn’t really the generality you might’ve imagined—that one sample never captures a type character—but still, your tea journey is off and running.

Groups tend to see people bunching up according to preference, where they are on an exposure curve, or even by pattern.  Gong Fu Cha and Puerh Tea Club are at one end, Tea Drinkers at the other (where Harney and Sons is a main staple); with the one I moderate, International Tea Talk, settling on an outlier diverse-member-location theme.

It’s interesting seeing people make their journey / exploration public, as bloggers do.  It’s a funny thing, how there is no real threshold to arrive at before starting to write and share ideas and experiences.  Even now, some years later, I tend to point out that I’m nothing like a tea expert.

Liquid Proust comes to mind as an interesting case.  That vendor, Andrew, explored novel forms of blends then jumped straight into aged sheng – one of the main natural end points (maybe only drifting through aged oolong along the way).  He was selling both of those – exploration rarely works out like that.  For being different from what most experienced tea enthusiasts drink, the blends sounded good; teas like rum-infused pu’er, and “French toast” Dian Hong.  His sheng pu’er taster sets help people take a similar step as he did, onto some complicated and diverse range.

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