There are those who love puerh, and there are those who decidedly don't despite their love of other kinds of tea. "Like drinking dirt," they say (probably not unlike my assessment of single malt scotch as "like drinking airplane fuel"). And even among puerh drinkers there are further sub-groups -- those who mostly drink young puer, those who only drink aged puer, those in search of a good investment, those in search of a good tea-high, etc. My time away from puer has allowed me to learn some appreciation for other kinds of tea but has also left me wondering, just what is it exactly that makes puer so enjoyable (for me)? Because yes, the "tastes like dirt/wood" assessment can't be denied in many cases, especially with older puer (although that doesn't mean it's a bad thing). Such was the curiosity I brought to my tea session today.
|the beautiful interior glaze of the cup|
The water boiled and poured into the pot for the first wetting. The initial aroma is all storage and age. It's a smell I've come to appreciate for the way it evokes deep, often unconscious memory. This is part of the magic of good aged puer. Now and then I'll have an actual articulable memory surface, but more often it's simply a palpable sense of connection to a vague and distant past which serves to ground my awareness at a deeper level than is usual in my waking day. A great 'entrance' to a sitting with some very good tea.
Given the age of this tea I watch for the cloud feet. They're there alright, barely moving on the surface, slowed with age, a contrast to the flashing, fast-moving cloud feet sometimes seen on younger teas. I've been contemplating this matter of age lately. The past-present-future. Nondualists (and others) are fond of saying there is no actual substance to past or future, there is only the present; the now. True enough. And yet. Is it just our mental constructs about age and past that make drinking aged puer a wholly different experience than young puer? I don't have an answer to that, but it occurs to me that an aged puer is perhaps a long accumulation of nows.. traces of nows that have piled up like fallen autumn leaves, changing and decomposing into new expressions of what once was.
Although not all puerhs exhibit strong qi (and completely ignoring the debate on what qi is at all, not unlike the fussiness over puer/puerh/pu'er/etc), the best ones do exhibit "movement" in the body of the drinker, and this one is no exception. Yet another reason for my love of good puer. Just as aroma and taste vary from tea to tea (and from sitting to sitting even with a single tea), the qi that a tea exhibits is changeable, as well. My experience with the Da Ye loose leaf this morning found a spreading warmth my chest and the faintest rise of perspiration to my temples and cheeks, causing a greater sensitivity to the slightest breeze in the air. I welcome the enhanced awareness. Does this mean someone else will experience this same phenomena when drinking this tea? Maybe yes, maybe no. There are so many factors at play. No definable "best" or "right." I can only speak to my own experience. One man's "tastes like dirt" is another man's (or woman's) drink of bliss :)
Cultivate the beauty that draws you :)