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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Musings on Pu-erh

Haven't been drinking anyway terribly exciting these past few days, but I've been slowing down my consumption of young sheng. Not because my stomach is reacting negatively to it (thank goodness), but the simple fact that I'm tired of disappointment from all my samples. Luckily, I have only out-right hated one (the Mengyang Guoyan "Queen of Yiwu"), but most of them have failed to "wow" me. I'm slowly beginning to know what I like, and what I should be looking for.

The other thing I've been doing these past few days is brewing my teas competition style. It's quite difficult to detect subtle nuances when you've been steeping young sheng for five minutes, and the excessive bitterness in most of them just punch you in the face. I can only imagine how bitter my Guan Zi Zai Lao Man'E cake will taste brewed competition style...and thus I have left that aside for now.

What I have been doing over is thinking about is pu-erh collecting, and just how much of it is speculative. I have yet to see anyone give advice as if they were an "expert," and most people have differeng opinions on what ages well and what doesn't. There is a thread on Teachat discussing different criteria for selection, which should be interesting as the interplay between those who buy great quantities of modern stuff vs. those who are more selective, buying stuff pre-2004. I think the purchasing criteria may have something to do with the purchaser's age. If one were to buy nascent sheng, it would be 20 years (give or take depending on storage) before it becomes "aged." What would happen if your entire collection turned out to be crap? How much money is going down the drain? Sure, people say that tried and true old recipies have shown the capability to age well, but maybe quality was better back than? And is it really worth it to blow your entire budget on only a few stellar-quality cake?

Returning to the original point, if I were older (say 40s) would I be buying as much nascent sheng? Probably not ... since by the time it becomes aged who knows how old I'd be. But if I were young (20s-30s), maybe I could afford to buy some nascent sheng. Also, as one gets older perhaps tolerance to younger sheng also declines too.

So what is my own strategy so far? I think it's important to hedge, and not rely too heavily on all nascent stuff, but at the same time not invest entirely in older sheng (unless you have money/access it cheapily, i.e. in Asia). Personally, I have to deal with excessive dryness and the fact that I'm leaving the country for 2-3 years, which negates the possibility of using a humidor. So right now I'm not looking to buy much nascent sheng, except for a few for immediate consumption/curiousity sake. I'm looking more for juvenile/adolescent sheng - stuff that has a "head start" on the aging process, and while the prices for these are fairly high, they are at least cheaper than stuff from the 80s or 90s (at least in my budget). I'm thinking that buying wetter-stored cakes would be a good idea, and I can use the "dry storage" here to get over the shi cang.

Just my two cents, and the usual warning: I am by no means an expert...


Bret said...

Howdy Maitre, I havnt forgotten about you. I,m gonna have to wait on the teawares, If a certain somebody was to see yet another package of teawares being delivered there will be hell to pay. Ive been trying to think what teas to send to you, what have I got that you might like? I saw your post on B&B about toucha recommendations. Ive got some Xiaguan touchas that you might like. Yushang and some FT#4, and several others. But I dont know if you have already tried these teas or not. The Xiaguans are some of my favorites, much more aromatic than the Menghai teas. Also much more ummm... robust.

Maitre_Tea said...

No worries about the teaware; just let me know if/when you want them...they'll be sitting in the corner in my tea cabinet.

Assuming you haven't sent out the samples...anything is game. I'm still pretty new to pu-erh so I'm in the "I want to sample everything" mode. And I love Xiaguan...that smokey darkness and leather like sweetness is just amazing.

As you read from my comment on B&B, I'm going to put in a massive order of various Xiaguan tuocha from Tao Bao, and buying in bulk the winners.

Once that happens I'll send some your way to get a second opinion. Should be a fun time...I'm looking to order the same tuocha (even the same year) from like 6 different vendors. I wonder how diff./similar they will taste. Glad you enjoyed the Guan Zi Zai sample; your review was much better/detailed than mine...