Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Art Of Tea No.12

I had purchased this issue in KL Malaysia early this year.  This is "The Art of Tea", issue 12.  Printed by Wu Shing Publications, Taiwan, this magazine is in English and is mainly a collection of articles about tea in general.

This issue, no 12, had a few articles on pu erh, an article on tea ware - zisha teapots, tetsubin and Tianmu (rabbit hair) bowls.  There were also news on the various tea expos as well.  This magazine has lots of nice photos and it does make interesting reading.  The only setback, to me, was its price.  It was going for 45rm (about US$16) which I could in KL, purchased a very nice pu erh cake/brick with the money.

Pix 3 shows the shaqing, or 'kill green', a step in pu erh tea processing where the tea leaves are 'fried' to soften the leaves and break the cell walls of the leaves so as to maximize flavor when the tea  leaves are brewed.  Notice the wood fire, which I think contributed the smoky scent in the tea leaves in this instance.

Mr Chan Kam Pong, aka Cloud, a well known writer on Chinese Tea, had also written an article; 'How to select Puerh Tea'.

An excerpt

"The revival of Puerh culture and corresponding developments have brought forth a multitude of different styles.  They can roughly be classified as: large factory, small factory, home workshop, large tree, plantation tea, pure material, blends, famous mountains tea, dry storage, wet storage, natural home aging, raw, ripe, pressed cake, 'tuo' style, brick style, loose leaf, gift box, cardboard tube, bamboo tube, wooden box collectibles and event memorabilia.  After factoring in aged puerh from different years, the number of types of Puerh teas grows from nearly one thousand to well over ten thousand.  Superficially, this situation appears to provide an excess of choices."

Cloud goes on (I agree on this point)

"Some people prefer spicy and stimulating flavors, while others are drawn to sweet flavors.  Still others do not enjoy either of these flavors but instead prefer mild and gentle tastes.  Puerh provides many different types of flavors, and different people may be drawn to different teas.  Those who enjoy dry stored teas may not prefer teas stored in humid conditions, and vice versa.......Consequently, it is important to know your flavor preferences when buying tea."

He goes on

"....when looking for Puerh tea to buy, you need to look for something that will not only satisfy you as a daily drinker for the next several years.  You should also try to predict just what you will enjoy in ten or even twenty years.  I suggest people looking to start collecting Puerh consider broadening their range  a bit.  That is, purchase a number of types of tea as a precaution against changing tastes.  Also, consider gong a bit deeper.  If you find that you really like a certain tea, you will wish you had bought more of it."

My thoughts on the article - I understand cloud's good intentions of suggesting purchasing or choosing a tea by predicting 'what you will be enjoy in 10-20 years time'.  This will save me lots of money as a 20 year old tea I like, will most probably be very costly and very hard to find. But.....what I like in 10 or 20 years time is quite unimaginable for me.  I believe 2 factors that will influence this 'prediction' - state of my finances now and in the future and more importantly, life experiences, that I will go thorough, will affect my taste preferences for tea in the future.  Sounds mambo jumbo, but to summarize - its difficult to tell what I like, in 10-20 years time.  Nothing is static.  Even puerh tea - I had noticed in my recent travels to Guangzhou and Malaysia; that many new raw pu erh tea seem to taste different, like the tea had been processed in a new way, extremely drinkable, very light, floral and fresh tasting.  I do wonder whether such teas will make good candidates for aging but thats another story.  

I am no expert in pu erh tea.  I am not able to predict what a pu erh tea cake I have in my hand will taste 10-20 years down the road.  Many tea collectors worldwide have different tea storage conditions that may give result in their pu erh tea having its own aged character.

Cloud in the same article did qualify himself :

"As I explained previously, only after ten years do you learn that the tea you have aged is not the right one and is incapable of developing an ideal flavor.  Eventually, you end up buying ready-for-consumption aged puerh from Guangdong tea sellers and discover that buying aged tea to drink actually makes more sense than storing the tea yourself.  It also takes up far less space."

Time for a cup of tea. And do watch the queen playing a role with 007 in the opening of the London Olympics.  Salute! 


hster said...

Hi Wilson,

AoT now provides some feature articles on line: so I was able to read a little bit more of Cloud's article and of course enjoy a bit of the past issues.

In Cloud's First Step to Pu-erh Tea he actually advises against too much diversification and sampling too much which can split up precious resources. I think the recent Cloud's article on How to Select Puerh and others like it do not provide usable advice for me.

I'd rather he outlined some practical steps such as
try beengs from Mountain A (known to be sweet), B (known to be spicy), C (known to be sweet and spicy). Instead of just saying some people like sweet, some like spicy! (Insert double eye-roll here.)

The sweetness in pu-erh is subtle and different enough that he could have listed the different kinds of sweetness one encounters (sugarcane vs honey vs maple syrup vs brown sugar vs caramel) and even give examples.

Enjoy the olympics and your cup of tea. I will do just the same.

wilson said...

Thank you for your comments. Its novel to classify the sweetness in pu erh. Yes, sweet encounters of sugar cane, caramel and fruits are some examples. I will try to remember the describe the subtle sweetness when I blog on a pu erh tea. By the way, I enjoy reading your blog - I enjoy the humor very much. Thank you. I hope to start a tea exchange with my readers and hope we get to sample teas from different storage and aging conditions around the world. Make more friends too!