; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Three Days ;

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Three Days

Summer of Sheng

On these hot days I'm sleeping out on my three season porch with my tea, while my ex mother-in-law enjoys the comforts of my air conditioned bedroom. Aside from the hot weather effects on myself, no complaints on sleeping with my pu. After all, you never know when some local enterprising meth head might learn something about puerh and decide to raid my stash. I like to keep the porch door open too, to welcome more air circulation through the screened door.

Wisconsin has three months of weather in the summer time with the potential to mimic Hong Kong storage. Unfortunately for my tea, not every single day is hot and muggy. Some summers we do get incredibly hot and muggy weather, but this year we've had a wet summer with cooler temps, and now we have smog from Canadian wildfires drifting over our region, leaving the sun in a haze. Canadian breezes also provide relief from the heat on occasion when a high pressure gradient slips down bringing more glacial air, and this year the smog too. Other US states get humid weather daily, but Wisconsin isn't Virginia or Mississippi or even Missouri.

People tell me constantly, "I can't be bothered with crock storage, it takes too much time." But when my climate has so few really muggy and hot days, crock storage is a way to make the most of the best tea fermentation weather. Opening up the crocks takes less time than watering a vegetable garden. If I use one big crock, I only need a few seconds to open the lid. And I'm getting too old to bend down and mess with an unplugged fridge. My crocks sitting on a table are more like the clay flower pots that normal people have.

My Pu sure loves the warm, muggy days, tuos and bricks start to loosen up and release their fragrance. I can use baskets or unglazed vessels to take advantage of the humid air. And when the weather dries up again for a cool day, I can close up the tea to let the moisture from previous days soak on in. This is the time of year when I want to see how all my teas are coming along. Hopefully you've already purchased your fresh sheng for the year too, because hot summer days call for a cuppa the raw, and the fresher, the better. Shou is for winter warmth.

Sheng, on the other hand, is cooling on the body. I take a number of pills which cause a side effect of fluid retention, and then another pill to rid me of excess water. Still, the hot weather rules over the efforts of my pills, and I retain a massive amount of water. Some days this gets a bit much, and I feel tired from it and take a nap which helps my body loosen some of the excess. Sheng helps a great deal with the rest. Yin people look for warmth everywhere and probably drink shou in the summer time, but I'm constantly chasing the cold. Even my mother-in-law complains about the heat.

"I'll never move to Florida like other old people," she says, referring pointedly to her brother, and my siblings too. "I like the cold since I don't have to go out in it."

That last part is key. When you stay in the house all day and never go out if you can possibly help it, who cares what the weather is?

For my condition, I find that fresh sheng works the best. Any problems I get from sheng puerh stem from drinking in the middle of fermentation, so anything between 2-10 years old tends to give me issues. I have no problem with fresh tea when the leaf is excellent quality, and no problem with aged teas. Since this year's fresh teas are coming in a bit higher in water content, I can just drink more.

And I should be drinking more. Originally I started increasing my green tea consumption back in the late 1990s to help prevent a non-stop cycle of kidney infections that increasingly grew resistant to antibiotics. The infections tended to hit following days of extreme weather, high heat and humidity in the summer, or extreme subzero temps in the winter. Several days of these extremes and driving in my car for work and so on, my kidneys couldn't take it. When I started to run through antibiotics, I realized I needed to make lifestyle changes, among them spending less time in my car. I also greatly increased my consumption of green tea and started buying better quality tea leaves, eventually progressing to shou and then sheng puerh starting in 2009. I have felt lucky that I haven't had an infection for about 8 years.

However, the combination of high heat, sleeping on the porch, cleaning up the bathroom after my mother-in-law and sometimes avoiding the bathroom altogether when she had recently used it, this all added up on me a few weeks ago. I drank a small cup of sheng in the evenings but the weather felt too hot for more. Three days of all these factors and I got hit with a bladder infection. Luckily I called the doctor and nipped the infection with only three days of Cipro, the only antibiotic left short of an injection that works. Eight years is a long time and now these infections are far more exhausting than before. And I needed to rest to make sure it didn't spread to the kidneys as it has so often in years past.

"Three days that I dread to see arrive," wrote Faron Young before he shot himself, words in a song Willie Nelson later recorded in a favor returned for "Hello Walls." "And it does no good to wish these days would end, 'cause the same three days start over again."

Hot Stuff Faron Young eyes a Drake.  
Dammit. I thought I was past it, over a sort of crucial hurdle. But no, I'm three days away at any time. Enough physical stress and too little tea, and back in the cooker I go. I have the emotional constitution of a rhino, but physically I'm a worm. So no more thinking that a single 100 ml cup will do, I need to be at the 1-2 litres of tea daily. And I've found that I really need the green sheng in the hot weather, black tea doesn't seem to have the same effects. And decades back I went through the whole juice and cranberry extracts regime that does not work and led to even more stubborn infections. Puerh is stronger by far to cranberries.

All this has led me to pay even deeper attention to my sheng puerh. Reaching for the cure when my legs and ankles swell and I feel tired. Much of this would improve if I stopped the nifedipine which produces some of the edema. But I can't do that right now.

72 Hours by white2tea (my photo)

Instead, I reach for the sample of new puerh, the 72 Hours cake from white2tea, the bit I have in a bag as a gift from TwoDog. It's handy at the moment, and effective. This is very fresh leaf with mild bitterness, a slight body relaxation after the first two, nothing terribly heavy. Very thick stems indicate a lot of age in those limbs. I pump three small cups of this, maybe 100 ml each, and put my feet up. Maybe doze off a little to help my body out.

I can literally feel my body cooling down after about twenty minutes or so, despite the hot tea. Stiffness leaving my ankles as I begin to shed the excess fluid. The tea is slightly astringent for me but nothing mouth-puckering, with honey notes and a strong honey scent to the cup afterward. Once I'm past the half litre mark I feel rather transformed from overheated, bloated and sluggish.  I lose the excess water, and my sharp faculties return so I can once again focus on reading or writing.
Somewheres past 10 steeps.
72 Hours is also Three Days, "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow." This tea is apparently one that is lightly bitter the first year, but sweetens up rather rapidly within the first five years, according to TwoDog. So to get the best from it, a person must plan to store the cake for 1-5 years. I had every intention of saving this sample in a small crock to see what happens. But I can't stop drinking this stuff. Now I call it Three Days tea, it's the time I have without tea before my body will break down.

What I've learned this summer is I can't stop with sheng, and I can't skimp. I must drink the quantities and I need to buy the best leaf available to me. This isn't about collecting or storage, it's also about what I can actually drink right now. For me this means top quality sheng, or at least the best I can buy, and my shopping list must have tea less than a year old, or it must be older than ten years. Sheng does not bother my stomach if it is fresh and high quality, or it must be well-fermented. That middle fermentation stage is where the trouble lies, just as no one would eat partially fermented sauerkraut, we must wait until the microbes have done their job. Or we eat the cabbage fresh. Milk too is perfectly fine when very fresh, or it needs to be properly fermented into yogurt. Partially fermented milk is only edible in baked goods, such as a sourdough starter or muffins. Fresh or fully fermented. This isn't true for everyone, alas. One of my friends on Steepster got a tummy ache just today from a very mild, fresh sheng. I'm glad I can drink sheng because it is literally keeping my kidneys afloat. If there is a tea jaundice, I surely have it because when I don't drink tea I'm in trouble.

Hopefully by now you've got your own collection of 2015 fresh tea if you are able to take fresh tea. Or you have a decent stash of fully aged or fermented tea like shou or liu bao if that is what you need. I've got my eye on a few more fresh and aged teas yet this summer, so stay tuned for more reviews. I'll keep doing them as long as I can hold out! But now everyone best get out of my way on a beeline to the WC.

Requiescat in Pace.


  1. I think that's something I've been neglecting is properly storing what pu-erh I do have. So far, they've all been kept in a paper Safeway bag in my room, left to deal with whatever elements befall them - heat wave, winter months, remnants of dead cat pee smell, Febreze, failure . . . the works.

    You gave me some possible tips for storage in this humorous distraction.

    1. Dead cat? I have a friend with a dried dead cat he can't let go of. Are you one of those?

  2. wow. just saw the website. that tea is out of my price range. yikes!

    1. I didn't know the price either when I posted the above. Luckily white2tea has a range of teas at different price points.