Schultz offers another Sisyphean motif. In this recurring scenario, Lucy sets up a booth with a sign saying "Psychiatric Help 5¢ The Doctor is In." And Charlie always pays the nickel and Lucy gives cheap and often pithy advice every time. The message is that someone is always willing to dispense cheap advice, and always an idiot around who will fall for it. Sometimes Lucy isn't even there and Charlie Brown pays the nickel anyway. So, if puerh buying is a bit like forever trying to kick the football, or like putting a nickel in the jar hoping for advice that changes everything, then we are all Charlie Brown in a sense. And Lucy is the expert with an opinion for a nickel.
In a Relativist universe of tea, everyone has an opinion and no one's opinion is better than anyone else's. In that universe, we should all set up a Paypal link for people to pay a nickel. But if tea drinking is not an entirely relative experience, does this mean it's possible to be an expert? I've noticed how many people in the tea world stop short of using the word "expert." The idea of "expert" assumes that there is an objective set of criteria with which a person can become familiar, up to the point of claiming expertise. Perhaps expertise is something to read, like volumes of tea science, or philosophy, written by someone like a Thomas Aquinas with his forty volumes, and an expert is the person who knows those volumes inside and out, and has written a thesis and successfully defended a premise in a jury of peers who have also read the same forty volumes.
But what do we do in a Post-objectivist Puerh Universe if we don't have those forty volumes? Or if we do have those forty volumes, what happens when Thomas Aquinas wakes up one day after a bad bout of pneumonia and calls his own forty volumes "rubbish," as he most certainly did? What happened to Thomas is that a Vision of the most sublime kind convinced him that a Divine Experience reigned supreme over any rational proofs that he could devise. In fact, one could argue that familiarity equals experience, and an expert is someone who has simply consumed more divine tea than anyone else. At that point, wisdom or expertise becomes a function of time, and thus of age. Or, at the most wishful, an experience of luck, of Divine Intervention. If experience, age, and Divine Experience are the criteria for expertise, then I've got a nickel booth to sell.
My nickel booth most certainly is about Age, and my tea buying criteria has everything to do with my age. The main reason I will choose one tea over another is because I don't have as much time left as you young people. I want teas I can drink now. I can't wait for a hoard of plantation cakes to hopefully age into something drinkable.
To be completely honest, I'm mostly looking to get wasted on tea.
One of the reasons I love puerh tea is sometimes I get so utterly tea drunk that I think I'm 20 again. For an old lady like me, nothing beats a nap and 8 quick steeps to forget, at least for a little while, that physically I've turned the corner. I hoard any tea that gets me so completely delusional as to forget my white head of hair, the ridiculous number of medications I have to take, and my occasional incontinence. Some teas work better than others, and in this I might possibly have a suggestion. A couple of teas recently have got me stoned, high, dry-mouthed, and left with the munchies. Drinking this stuff isn't for pleasant company, it's for lying around and avoiding. Like any other addict, I don't want my supply compromised. I fear a run on these teas once the word gets too far.
Twodog2's 3rd tenet about tea is if you find something you like, then you better move and buy it in bulk quick, before the stash is gone forever. This is wise advice, but the problem is one of the cakes I like requires the sale of my first born. So I've been trying to pawn off my First Born on everybody I run into, including the plumbers working on my house last week, but so far no takers. The most promising possibility has been "if you'd asked back in May, we'd have taken him." So I'm stuck with wanting to buy more of a tea that I can't afford. However, my couple of months of research did yield me a few possible substitutes.
The cake I really like is white2tea's 2005 Naka. Now this tea is described on the website as providing "an uncommon body response of deep calm." No, I'm not going to help you by providing a link, go find it yourself. Or better yet, don't go. Leave that tea alone. TwoDog2 wrote me a short letter saying "this tea should come with a note saying 'don't operate heavy machinery.' The tea is pure drugs." And it most certainly is. In fact, I'd recommend it for writing your Essay on Human Understanding, which none of you really want to write, do you? Turning into a babbling idiot on purpose is wasted on anyone with lesser intentions, myself included. However, for writing something of lesser import, such as beginning a tea blog, it's a great tea to start anyone out.
|2005 Naka by white2tea|
With the experience of tea being entirely relative, with some possible Objective Universal Criteria floating out there in a foggy bog, I don't expect anyone to believe me, at least not without some kind of "objective" research. I've had at least 5 sessions with this 2005 Naka cake, and I've got an extra cake, just to make sure I have a stash put by. My sessions have been the usual 8 grams with 125 ml water, but I'm thinking of cutting back these parameters so the tea lasts longer. After all, a good 10 steeps is a good 10 steeps whether in a small teapot or a large one.
|Front of cake, white2tea 2005 Naka|
|Reverse view, white2tea 2005 Naka|
|First steep, 2005 Naka by white2tea|
The mountain old trees in the area produce a smaller, more yellowish leaf than the terraced teas below. That mountain stuff is likely the tea that produces the psychoactive effect, supposedly Age and Experience in tea trees produces the ability to repel nasty insect invaders and this bug repellent produces the tea drunk. Of course it's always possible that terrace tea pesticides are getting me stoned, which is fine by me since I don't have future unborn children to think of. Or possible too that somebody is growing cannabis in their tea garden. Maybe a particular insect chews on the tea leaving behind a sort of saliva. Or, tea experience might be entirely relative or I am completely full of hogwash and you should consult an "expert." But who can tell whether one cake will get you completely Naka-erd and another will not? I have read enough tea reviews of Naka teas in which nobody has mentioned feeling stoned. But I'll make an effort to do some comparison testing, for no better reason than to sound more Objective. What I'm looking for is tea with smaller leaves. Might be difficult to tell chop from small leaves, but the surface of the cake, for once, might actually tell us something.
So too might the processing technique. Chawangshop carries Naka produced the old fashioned Lahu way. Lahu folks cut bamboo stalks at least one year old, but not too old because the sticks need to be a bit damp. Tea is stuffed into the bamboo and then the whole thing is steam/roasted. Once the leaves are wilted down, more tea can be stuffed in until the whole thing is packed tight. The tea can be aged in the bamboo or removed at this point and wrapped in paper. To me this sounds like a great home technique for dealing with that big tea tree in your yard without needing any special equipment. The Mason jar of Naka.
I'm guessing Lahu folk sell their maocha loose, but perhaps the bamboo stuff is what they keep under the floorboards. I have a hard time believing anyone will go to all the trouble to stuff tea chop into bamboo when whole leaves are so much faster, and easier to deal with. And I can't figure out why the Lahu people would want to sell their bamboo-ed mountain tea leaves. If I were one of them I'd be putting it all under the floorboards for myself and telling the tea buyers to bugger off. But maybe a few people actually sell it, and maybe Chwangshop has it.
Chawangshop makes no claims about their Naka village tea, but they have a 2007 spring and a 2012 autumn, as well as a boxed 2010. Any bamboo gets removed for cheaper shipping and apparently to help avoid customs issues. The spring 2007 version seems like something of a ballpark comparison with my 2005, and the description says it's the high mountain stuff. And no, you're not getting a link for this one either.
|2007 Naka Qiao Mu Bamboo Raw, from Chawangshop|
|First steep, 2007 Naka from Chawangshop|
I investigate other Naka possibilities on Taobao and Ebay, just to see if I can find more cheap Naka with the same effect. At this point I either want to compare a plantation/terrace tea or find a lucky mountain tea. Both would be interesting to compare with the two I've tried so far. I find some decent-looking teas on Taobao varying in price from $5-29, but the real kicker with Taobao is shipping cost, plus any fees from a broker. These costs add so much to the price of a cake, I'd be halfway to buying another cake from white2tea. I leave the Taobaos in my cart for now and check Ebay. Ebay cakes usually include free shipping, and luckily I find a 2005 "Naka" cake for $21.99 from a store called fengyuan-teashop.
|2005 Naka by fengyuan-teashop|
|Front of cake, 2005 Naka from fengyuan-teashop|
|Knot hole in the Ebay cake is off-center|
|First steep, 2005 Naka from fengyuan-teashop|
Thank you so much to everyone for stopping by my nickel booth! I really appreciate the fellow tea writers and drinkers taking the time to read or comment. And I especially appreciate the folks in my age group who have dropped me an email, those of you in the same position as I am who have turned the corner and are dealing with progressive health issues, who are aging faster than your tea, or who want to get into puerh tea and find things you can drink right now. I am so with you...(pssst, you guys try the white2tea Naka, sample it, it's the better tea, leave the cakes for me). `
Requiescat in Pace