Winter is the time to whine, and Old Cwyn got a slew of complaints from Pu heads over the previous post about Shui Xian tea. I don’t know why anyone would read a blog written by a person who used to brew green tea bags in a drip coffee maker. How objective can I be when any leaf tea tastes darn good compared to what used to be available? Even the green tea bags were a cultural improvement in the US compared to plucking plantain from the yard which I was doing back in the ‘80s. Serve me up a cup o’ Misty Peaks because I don’t wanna go back to Wisconsin forest herbs and I don’t feel like driving to Madison to scour the rare tin of English Earl Grey which I must stretch out for years if I’m to have any tea other than Lipton iced tea powder. Because that is all we had, people.
So the complaints are that I’m supposed to write about puerh, but I’ve got complaints of my own which are more important by far. Most discouraging is the persistent spreading of misinformation about storing puerh in dry North American winter heating climates. Now if you live in Georgia or Florida or Louisiana, you can store your puerh in open air by doing a book test in the summer. Just put a few books in your un-air conditioned room for a few months. If those books grow mold, you have a climate where tea can age without any special microclimate. Just scrape the mold off and you’re all set.
You’ll likely need to keep the tea in air conditioning, but if you are checking the RH in your house in a humid state, the air is probably still more humid than a house with winter heating such as mine where the RH is running in the 20s right now. We’re actually in a warm spell now, temps outdoors just below 0 degrees C, so my house RH has risen by a few percentage points.
Let’s take a look at what RH 20's% does in the house. Check out the duct tape on my ceiling tiles in my bedroom.
You can see the strips, which have been there for about 18 months and now starting to loosen from dry air. This repair job is the result of some leaky hundred year old plumbing I needed replaced in the upstairs bathroom. I got the plumbing replaced, but the ceiling tiles are difficult to line up, requiring the application of duct tape. I fully expect these tiles to collapse at any moment onto my bed while I’m sleeping in shower of mouse droppings and asbestos. Of course I could replace the tiles, but why I would do that when Petr Novak is having his winter gallery sale? Once I recover financially from the teapot gorge to my wallet, we’ll be into the spring tea buying season. The cheaper solution is to leave those tiles where they are, and spend the money as needed on tea ware and tea cakes. If you are complaining that puerh storage is too expensive and too much bother, I hope you have better ceiling tiles than I do.
Next, consider the wood radiator cover I have near the front door.
This cover is a nice seat for putting on shoes and a place for empty boxes from white2tea. One can argue that this seat is nearly 100 years old, but over time the dry air and heating split the wood right down the middle. I could repair this board with some wood glue but oddly the design of the cover in its original state is such that it wouldn’t stay propped open all the way to expose the radiator. But it does stay open now that half of it is split. And wood glue costs money I don’t have right now after ordering a new bamboo tea strainer and some “30 year old” Tieguanyin from Verdant Tea that only cost a surprising $12 for 25g, I can’t imagine a deal such as this anywhere else, and certainly not anytime soon after it sells out, which it will. But there goes my wood glue budget, and so I can’t see any real reason to repair the wood lid. Nevertheless, we have an example of how woodwork splits in the dry weather. Any idea what this dry air in my house will do to bamboo tongs?
Bamboo is meant for transport of tea, and for storing tea in humid climates. Yes, we get attached to our bamboo wrappings, but the truth is if I’m going to need a microclimate storage solution I have to get rid of the bamboo. I found out in a bad way mold can form under the bamboo, and probably starts there before it works its way into the tea. Western facing vendors should really skip the bamboo and just strop the tea with plastic for shipping since no one except mrmopar is going to bother with storage.
I digress. The intent of this post is to address complaints. Now that I have the important ones out of the way, I can return to puerh tea. In fact, here is the best idea I can come up with for the people who really don’t want the trouble of storing tea cakes or thinking of storage solutions. Instead of drinking the stuff, you might as well just smoke it.
Here we have shou puerh conveniently rolled into cigarettes.
Of course these are advertised as “weight loss solution” on Aliexpress. The good news, these only cost $4.90 a pack, which is far less than that Dayi cake you’ve got your eye on. And you don’t need to worry about how to store this shou, because the cigarettes arrive already so dried out that they will smoke and spark their way down to the filter in about 2 minutes, thereby relieving your mind of any long term considerations.
I took a couple of puffs off one of these, and while the smoke was somewhat smooth, I started coughing after two puffs. Overlooking the fast burning paper and dried out tea, I smell the unmistakable odor of cloves. Takes me back to the early 1990s in Madison, when bars started banning cigarettes and for five minutes we had cigar bars cropping up where you could still smoke cigars, and clove cigarettes were also allowed at least initially. I tried clove cigarettes for maybe three of those five minutes, they were fashionable amongst theatre people who eventually returned to their Marlboros and weed when the cigar bars disappeared within a couple of years. This period of time was an in-between phase after which smoking got banned from bars entirely, resulting in a new sidewalk bar culture.
But if you’ve ever tried clove cigarettes, or hung about with people who smoke them (almost no one anymore), you never forget the odor. It’s a cloying smoky combination no matter whether the cloves are mixed with tea leaf or tobacco leaf. Cloves are rough on the sinuses, and stink up the room and clothing of everyone around you. These are not quite as strong as a true clove cigarette, in fact they smell a bit like Indian bindis, if you’ve ever tried those, I think some bindis have cloves too. I approve of these cigarettes for cultural reasons, maybe a ritual rather like a Native tent meditation. I can’t figure on what gets added to one’s meditation by smoking these, but perhaps I’m missing out on some essential instruction, like the part where the tea gets mixed with weed before smoking it.
Dissecting the cigarette doesn’t suggest any weed got added, and for a good stoner I’ll take Last Thoughts any day over these but then again, one has to have a storage solution for Last Thoughts and all you need for a pack of shou cigarettes is a drawer. I don’t see any crumbs that look like shou at all. But what do I know? I’m the tea bag lady, remember?
I also tried adding water to the crumbs, in case I might need to brew one of these in a pinch. Not much tea infusion though.
You can also find sheng cigarettes. These cost more, because sheng always costs more than shou right??
This pack set me back $11.90, a not-so-economical alternative to real cigarettes for people even in the UK, but I suppose if you are trying to quit, maybe you can convince yourself that these are the real thing while you wean yourself from nicotine. Opening the pack I guess the smell is a bit like a real cigarette.
Hopes are dashed, however, with the smell of cloves once more. This cigarette is milder and smoother than the shou pack, as long as I don’t inhale and just puff it like a cigar, they aren’t too bad on the tongue. A little acrid sting on the front of the tongue, much like any cigar. A dissection shows the leaf is a bit greener than the shou cigarette, but not by much.
Adding water got me a slightly greenish liquid which isn’t very visible in the photo.
I might be better off buying some tubes and a machine and rolling my own, since I have plenty of shou and sheng, well, just think of all the time I could save myself with storage if I smoked up my entire stash. But then I’ve devised a solution of stoneware crocks and a fridge and my Pu smells just fine. If you have yet to come up with a storage solution of your own, I’ve got some rolling papers to sell you.
Requiescat in Pace