My own goals related to tea tend to stay the same year to year, if a bit general:  To experience something new.  Not so much related to new types (since I’ve mostly set aside broad exploration and try whatever I happen to try), pushing on to higher quality, or more distinct examples of already-familiar types – but just new to me in some sense.

Large chunks of pressed pu-erh tea on a white dish

Sheng “pu’er” from India (from Ketlee), a novel tea I tried last year

For the past two years, that has been related to a long exploration of online video meeting contact, originating with a few random sessions in early 2020.  That was based around a core group of friends meeting, then moved on to more involved sessions with subject experts in 2021.  It wasn’t far off from a podcast, just not recorded or broadcast.  Prior to that, in 2019, I was messing around with tasting themes instead, and some time around then I put focus on starting a Quora Space (Specialty Tea).  It’s a decent reference now, and I keep writing there.

This will be about how other types of resolutions might work out, based mostly on talking to a lot of people newer to the subject in lots of online groups, then returning to what I might do that’s different.

Drink Better Tea

The obvious direction, which could be taken lots of ways.  Anyone drinking tea bag tea might move on to loose leaf, and people still on Harney and Sons blends range—which is fine—could explore better single-input teas.  It’s easy to sort out how to try better versions of what you already like, but it can take time and effort to get input for leads on better sources.  One approach towards that is to explore social media outlets related to tea, to hear about what’s out there, and sourcing suggestions and so on.  This general intro post might help.

Connect With Others With Similar Interests

For many this would seem a stretch – why go there?  To experience in-person tasting sessions, to learn about types and teaware, or to exchange teas.  Or it could just be that identifying with a subject seems odd when you don’t know anyone else who does, and it sounds interesting to resolve that through online contact. 

Screen capture of a Zoom chat with the author and four other people

The starting point for this is the level of tea interest.  It is actually possible to discuss tea themes with people who are still on flavored tea bag or grocery store tin versions (which to many tea enthusiasts is only an early starting point), naturally leading to more in-depth exploration.  The Facebook Tea Drinkers group or main Reddit r/tea sub-forum focus on that level.  The Gong Fu Cha group is an example at the other extreme.  Discord servers are interesting for using a form similar to old chat boards, and for being populated by really young people (for the most part) and they tend to fall in the middle related to prior exposure.

Drink More Diverse Tea, at Limited Cost (Improve Value)

It’s funny how tea enthusiasts tend to split into two sets, with one seemingly not concerned with cost much at all: Seeing spending $20 on 50 grams of tea as no big deal, since that would brew quite a bit of tea (a couple of dozen cups, maybe).  For the other set and perspective, parting with $20 seems like a significant expense, regardless of volume being considered, so moving beyond what is in grocery store shelves is problematic.  

I can relate to wanting to find a balance in the middle – working with a very limited tea budget but still wanting to try a range of teas.  That tends to involve ordering some tea in batches, with expenses between $50 and $100 per set kind of normal, or more later as quality expectations change.

In the past, ordering through a general vendor that sells medium-quality tea like Adagio would be a good intro point.  Unfortunately, their marketing theme has shifted, enabling them to move on to selling a broader range of blends and to ramp up pricing, so for the same cost you could actually buy better tea from other types of vendors.  Chinatown shops are a good way to get to a middle ground, providing access to tins or loose versions of modest quality teas at low cost, examples that are still much more diverse and better than specialty grocery stores would tend to carry.  

Now ordering through a foreign-based vendor works best for this general goal, one like Hatvala (for Vietnamese teas), or Chawang Shop (for Yunnan origin Chinese versions).  Yunnan Sourcing is not so far off that theme—a kind of broad outlet selling a large range—but any vendor carrying 1000 versions of tea puts the workload on the customer to try and sort it all out.  You don’t need to understand what those 1000 teas are, but you do need to somehow put a dozen or less in an online cart.

Improve Brewing Skill and Range

This one is easy, since buying a gaiwan is half the resolution and practicing to use it most of the other half.  Gongfu brewing, the approach of using a higher proportion of tea to water and many short infusions, really only works better for some tea types:  Sheng pu’er, high-quality whole leaf black tea, twisted-style oolongs, and to a lesser extent rolled oolongs.  For broken-leaf black tea or green tea, a Western approach is more or less the same, and shu pu’er gives pretty good results when made in lots of ways.  Results related to white tea vary by type and preference.  

It’s too much to go into what Gongfu brewing is, but a recent Quora answer about how to brew oolongs covers the basics, with lots of guides out there covering a more step by step explanation (just search Gong Fu tea in Youtube to watch a few).

Get Family and Friends Into Tea

Good luck!  Don’t expect this to work in most cases, but it is cool when it clicks a little for the right person trying the right tea.  There really is something special about a tea party, regardless of what you choose to do with it, or how much the guests love the drink.  

There’s no need to cut that off related to what you like most, or tend to drink.  If you can’t give children “real tea” due to a concern over caffeine, the same theme can work using chrysanthemum, and the kids will love it.  If you don’t have children (or nieces and nephews) that’s probably a stretch, but hopefully there are people in your life who can still tap into that exploration range to get the most out of a related form.  A lot of people’s moms would love it.  

Try including different snacks, or set it up outdoors, or maybe just do it all on your own; and treat yourself to the same theme without needing others to share it.  If you think that you really should have a ceramic teapot or some range of interesting cups, that’s a great prompt to check out a local thrift shop and give new life to tea equipment that someone else needed to pass on.  The “matching set” theme isn’t a necessary part of it, as I see it, but individual judgment and style would factor in related to that.

More formal types of tasting are something else; for someone on that page the options really span a lot of range.  I’ve held tastings in a park and a zoo before, and the results were pretty nice.  In one other context tasting, a guest tried a Chinese black tea and commented that they never knew that they liked black tea until that moment; that can be really special for a guest and the host.

My 2022 New Direction

Not identified yet.  If anyone has ideas or leads on directions to chase, feel free to comment wherever you see this or look me up to talk, maybe easiest through my blog’s Facebook page.  I’ve long since thought that broad tea awareness and cultural development won’t take a next step until it finds its way into mainstream media communication, but I explored that direction years ago and didn’t get far.

A podcast theme would probably work but I don’t feel motivated to do that – it’s already being done.  Last year that meetup discussion theme included 20 or so interesting and influential tea producers and vendors, from a dozen or so different countries; it might work to extend those introductions and background theme coverage to a networking scope.  The last talk we held covered tea processing details based on input from producers who are exploring new directions from the US, India, Laos, Georgia (the country), and Nepal.  It frees up potential direction in that I don’t really need to focus on my own personal gain; that discussion was about them sharing ideas for their own interest and benefit.

Screen capture of a Zoom chat with the author and seven other people

A simple resolution might be better than all that: To relax and enjoy the quiet more frequently while having tea. Just putting the phone down and being in that moment.  I’ll try that.

Images provided and copyright held by author