; Cwyn's Death By Tea: It ain't done yet... ;

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It ain't done yet...

People send me their trash and their treasures. I get boxes from people who really wanna get rid of tea less than ten years old. Hell, less than twenty years old! Then I will find another box in the mail with guess what, the same brand ten years older, just a small tiny chunk, because this person is sending me their treasure. From Dayi to Xiaguan, I get the gamut in the mail of teas one person rejects yet another peep somewhere else in the world has found the same teas age just beautifully.

A ten year old or younger tea is not aged, nowhere near done with its cycle of fermentation. Sheng puerh requires a very long time investment and patience to turn into something nice. How many samples and cakes have I received that are so young? The tea is “flat,” they say. Yet it is merely sleeping, in a stage or a stage-between-stages. I can wake it up quite readily with a little heat and humidity and it says “hello” to me. Or I get packages with a tuo someone says “I will never drink this, take it for your crocks,” and the next week I get a similar tiny tuo chunk from someone else who says “this is so good,” and it is a twenty year-plus aged tuo, darkened to a lovely chocolate color, a red ringed cup that fades to a smooth honey and I think what a good job this person did in choosing and in preserving what was probably a $2 investment. That person might happily take the reject tuos I got last week because they know good tea is all about the wait.

For all the focus we put on “drinking your teas,” we need to put an equal or greater focus on fermentation, on aging, on waiting it out. I am at the point now where I know I will not drink everything I own, and I am fine with that. I am aware that this tea is not just for me, somewhere down the line somebody else will drink this. As with owning a house, I am a temporary caretaker because this tea will endure long past my lifespan as an older person now. 

Quite honestly the fun I have with sheng puerh lately is more about the process of fermentation and aging than with drinking. As for drinking, I feel more like the guy checking the whiskey barrels with a hammer and tap, giving the brew a taste here and there to see how it is coming along. Perhaps for those of you who send me teas, your expectation is that I will drink them and yet the reality is I will merely taste them, because I cannot know what they will be in twenty more years. Everything you send is too young, minus the rare submission of a completely dead, soaked to the bone overly wet tea that is one step away from compost.

How can anyone know what a tea will be in twenty years when it is younger than ten? I am here to take the pressure off you. Everyone is so anxious about a process that will take two or three decades. If your tea is less than ten years old, you have no idea what will happen and yet the tea itself is far more resilient than you think. A little mold here, a little dry air there, a bit of everything will happen to each tea, even those in so-called ”ideal” conditions. Most of us will not see the final result of our teas, but then most of us will not get to see our great-grandchildren either, unless we started early with both endeavors. Both our teas and our grandchildren need to survive, that is the important thing. Anything we have done to ensure the survival of these, then we have done our job and the next gen needs to take over.

My grandfather died a very wealthy man who grew disgusted with his one remaining child and her children, and he left his fortune to a charity. One can say well, a man can do what he chooses with his wealth, and indeed he may. But would he change his mind now that he has great-grandchildren who have grown and graduated college and started lucrative careers? Of course they did this mainly with his seminal contribution and not much more, but really grandfather gave up too early on his efforts. It isn’t about the investment he might have made but rather the vote of confidence, the nod to endurance, the passing of the baton. Make plans for one’s children and one’s tea, in that order. Even if all you have is a plan and crossed fingers, we cannot know how everything will turn out, only that we can give the best possible start. Today’s “tuition” is tomorrow’s success.


  1. New to tea, I had no idea about tea and age. Fascinating.

  2. I think the Grand-son will have some good stuff in his due time as well.

    1. yah cuz his granddaddy isn't gonna leave it all to the Salvation Army.