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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Personal Puerh Aesthetic: the Why


Why do I drink puerh tea? I approached puerh tea via a long journey through green teas, over a period of years, for health reasons. I find green tea a helpful tonic, along with stress management, to keep my kidneys healthy. This alone is not a reason to spend $200 on a beeng. The Why behind drinking puerh tea, especially in the west where the tea is not easily accessible, is mostly a rabbit hole of reasons, none of which particularly justify the purchases from a financial point of view. Actually, I cannot think of any good reason to buy puerh for health reasons that less expensive forms of tea will not suit just as well, and perhaps better than puerh. The health claims behind puerh are mostly anecdotal, or involve stuffing mice with more puerh than any human can reasonably and comparatively drink. In fact, I could go back to buying gunpowder green tea at the grocery store and come out just as healthy.

Puerh tea also comes with social issues related to coffee and tea consumption in the west. Most people do not purchase large quantities of tea or coffee. They purchase a bag of loose leaf, or a box of tea bags, or a bag of coffee beans to consume and then refill the supply only when finished.  By contrast, most puerh drinkers will need to buy ahead of their drinking because of the aging and resting of the tea. A serious puerh drinker is buying ten or even twenty years ahead of time, and I don’t think anyone who purchased tea ten years ago is regretting it now, given how high prices are today. But the buying ahead comes with social explanations to partners and friends and family, why do you have so much tea? The stockpiling and aging process runs contrary to the more minimalist caffeine approach that most of western society takes with their beverages. Puerh is slow tea, not fast break pick up at the drive thru window.

For me, slow tea is one of the best explanations behind why I prefer puerh. Checking my storage and going through my collections is relaxation time, much in the way a gardener goes outside to check the plants, pull a weed or two, and in general enjoy the fruits of a long season of labor. Puerh tea involves work, which most people in the west don’t associate with a beverage. They get their shot of caffeine on the way to work, rather than take the time to gongfu brew in the morning. No one seems to have time for slow beverages. In my part of the US, slow mornings carry a tinge of lazy morality, not the get up and move common to my culture and associated with success.


One might turn to fellow pu heads for support and encouragement, but even here the urge to keep going is easily stifled. While one might share a common hobby with another pu head, all too often pu heads judge each other based on their own personal preferences. Sure, you drink puerh, but do you drink the right kind? Are you in the club of wet heads, drinking traditional stored puerh, who disdain young green sheng puerh? Are you a factory tea drinker trading Dayi and scouting Taobao, or god forbid do you buy teas from easily accessible online vendors? Do you spend $200 and even 4x that much on a beeng, or are you in the club of people singing the praises of buying a $20 beeng, no matter the quality, and bragging you won’t spend a penny more? Do you merely drink shou puerh, or are you gulping green 7542 without a wince?

Really puerh people seem to have an opinion on everything and certainly I do as well. With so many contrary opinions around, all we can do is have our opinion and feel brave enough to stick to it. In the end, perhaps all we can expect from fellow pu heads is maybe a tip or two on a decent buy, or a swap on occasion. Socialization is somewhat limited in the end if we are all busy criticizing and arguing over storage. I can’t say I am into puerh for the social aspects at all. While we can wax on about how great it is to share tea with others, the reality is we mostly drink alone and get together mainly on the gripes.


Still, something about the depth and complexity pulls at me, the long, deep throats, the custardy thick brews, body feels, whiskey finishes. I taste puerh randomly when I am out in the world, sitting at a stop light in the car, suddenly I feel like I just sipped an old Yiwu. The idea that no two sessions are ever quite alike appeals to me. The fact the my tea changes enough to surprise me puts puerh tea miles ahead of green teas that don’t change, but rather fade in a year or two. I can look forward to more every year from a production well kept.

Puerh is just the most excellent of teas. Can we drink to that?



8 comments:

  1. Cwyn N,

    Wonderful post, along with the earlier related posts. Your concept of slow tea struck home as one of my reasons for drinking pu’erh. Taking the time to brew deliberately and focusing on the tea and its attributes is one of my daily highlights.

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    1. thank you to everyone who read the entire series!

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  2. Cwyn N,

    Beautiful post from someone who understands the deeper reasons why people drink puerh. Cheers!

    Peace

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  3. Love this post. I would say I drink it socially but rarely. It takes a lot of energy and it is really uncomfortable to drink tea with others, but when you are both feeling the same thing, it's really cool.

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  4. I think Puerh is a much more personal experience as you state. Many people don't understand the 'Inventory" as we do. Hopefully a few will read this and understand better.

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  5. It's a sad world when people can't get together for a cup of tea and celebrate what they have in common rather than focusing on differences.

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  6. Awesome post! The problem I had with pu erh is... Once I find something I really, really, really like... They may not have it anymore. So now, once I find something I really, really, really like... I buy a lot of it...

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