; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Personal Puerh Aesthetic: a Who-What-Where-Why Consideration ;

The Very Limited T-Shirt for Cwyn's Tea Fund

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Personal Puerh Aesthetic: a Who-What-Where-Why Consideration


Puerh collecting is a rabbit hole of a hobby, whose lemming-like labyrinthine paths toward tea greatness are never-ending tunnels in which we lose ourselves, emerging only to check the position of the sun in late winter to anticipate the coming Yunnan spring tea picking season. Oh, then we find ourselves thirsty thinking of all the rich nutrients in spring tea, or so we hope, and such cravings empty the wallet quickly. Before I know it boxes will arrive at the door, and I wonder what the heck I bought and why, asking “what were you thinking?” knowing full well craving is not the same as thinking. I think, I am puerh collector, and so I am. Perhaps considering more deeply who I am as a collector will not only inform my buying, but perhaps inform not buying, not allowing my cravings to take over my wallet. A Who-What-Where-Why Strategy is a good way for me to flush my hoarder self out into the light of day well before the first signs of spring. This post will consider who I am as a person/collector. What aspects about me personally affect my behaviors with puerh, my aesthetics, if you will?

Who: A Embarrassment of Riches

My own personal aesthetics on puerh drinking definitely have roots in my childhood food and beverage experiences. Specifically, how I approach puerh now probably relates to my father’s foodie tendencies. One might forgive him his approach. Dad attended a seminary school on a poor boy’s scholarship not long after the great War. He starved his way through eight years of seminary and then three years of law school. His stories were filled with bad food, too little food, stealing sugar and ketchup packets from the cafeterias to fill in his stomach beyond the one meal a day he received for years.

Understandably then, my father was obsessed with food. He spent money on little else, and he spent riches. Dad would not accept a meal of a casserole, or something cooked by a child, no, it needed to be rich meat, and the best meat. Not t-bone steaks, but filet minon tenderloins, individually wrapped and ordered from specialty food companies. Not pork chops or lamp chops, but whole pigs and lambs purchased from farm children at the local fair and Dad made sure to overpay so those kids had money in their pockets for college.


Toward his food efforts, Dad bought a fishing boat on Lake Superior, and a hobby farm for growing acres of fresh vegetables and fruit trees. He stopped his car next to canning factory fields and ran us in to grab up armfuls of pea and bean vines filled with pods. He stopped food semi-truck drivers at the bar. Not Maine lobsters, but rock lobster tails ordered from South Africa. Not Gulf crab, but King Crab from Alaska. Not chicken, but duck and goose. Never carp or cod, but fresh Lake Superior Lake Trout and wild-caught salmon. He left behind guns and fishing poles.

“Your dad didn’t own much stuff,” my stepmother said after his death. “He spent his money on food.” Well, and drink too, we cannot forget that. Both killed him early.



All this of course affected me in ways that are not socially acceptable to discuss, really. Who wants to say they grew up dining on lobster tails and filet minon? Who should say that I had enough of steak at age eighteen never to want to eat it ever again? I sound ungrateful if I say I went from a childhood of rich food to preferring simple vegan food for many years, and an interest in world cuisines just to balance out what I grew up eating, when anyone might give their left arm to dine as I did as a child. Even as a nun I could not get away. Dad called me up.

“Go down to Reinhart’s Foods, there is a box for you,” Dad said.

The box contained more special order filet minons and lobster tails, and crab. None of the nuns knew how to cook these things, and they were so pleased and ignored my embarrassment. We were supposed to be poor and eat simply. Dad even sent a microwave to every convent house I lived in. I swallowed my embarrassment because I knew Dad thought I might starve as he had done. He did all that because of his Who-What-Where-Why, and who in their right minds wouldn’t want the best of the best?


So of course this carries over into my puerh collecting. I want to know what the best puerh tea leaf is. I will pay ridiculous sums for the best tea, and yet at the same time I appreciate a craft product, stemming back to the vegetable and canning days Dad put us through, just to make sure we had plenty of the fresh stuff. Dinner started out early with hors d’oeuvres of fresh caught same-day fish filets and fresh veggies, and then we ate a large meal at seven. I was pairing food and drinks and learned the beverage order before I learned algebra, and bought alcohol starting at age ten. What are kids for, after all? We always had guests too.

I approach puerh as a digestif, probably a substitute for the cognac and single malt after-dinner drink set. Green tea started out for me as a way to keep my kidneys running, but so very natural to migrate on to the single malts of puerh tea as a way to end a fine day, and the occasional bender over night, because what else did I see growing up? Drunk people on the rug, passed out from too much good food. A reader told me “you seem to have farm and city sophistication, but you really can’t have both.” That person didn’t know my dad, because he had both and I got both. He was a farm boy, after all.


I had an embarrassment of riches growing up, and so today I am embarrassed at the riches of my tea collection. I am definitely the after-dinner drinker like my father, and he passed on his aesthetic to me. In the next post, I will consider the What of my tea drinking, that is, what I prefer to drink. Perhaps you may wish to reflect along, and consider how you formed your own approach to drinking puerh tea.



1 comment:

  1. If you ever feel the need to make another tee shirt, that nun with the boobs would be a great candidate.

    ReplyDelete

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