I'm afraid this post won't have any pretty pictures associated with it as I seem to have lost all my SD cards (I suspect a certain resident teenager), but I've been wanting to post an update of sorts. My tea drinking continues. It's become something of a practice, to be honest. Not that there's any right or wrong to this sort of approach, but it just suits me. I've been paying more attention to the whole process of tea making/drinking, slowing tweaking my set-up and routine in certain directions. I've also put aside (for now) my efforts to record my tea sessions or place judgments on the teas I drink. Does that mean all teas are more or less enjoyable for me? Not in the least. But each has it's characteristics and 'personality,' if you will. Some dive more deeply than others. Some stay with me longer after a session. Some (like this morning's tea) blow me away with wonderfully heady and ever-changing aromas, while others remain more subdued, preferring to shine (or not) in other ways. But the matter of "learning tea" is a valuable one, I'm certain. Contrary to certain schools of thought, I believe there is merit to the note-taking and judgment-making. It's simply a matter of holding these things lightly and not getting too caught up in quantifications. It has it's place and time, as anything does. Beautiful music may come from unskilled hands (and likewise, practiced hands may produce sounds that only grate the ears), but in the larger scheme of things it comes down to the very simple matter of worth in the moment, or time well spent. If you enjoy music, then spend your time at it. Practice, learn about it, work toward mastery (though with a light and joyful hand... by all means, set aside the whip and chains!). The very same goes for tea, or anything that could be considered for practice.
I've been revisiting some of my favorite teas from the last year or two and it's been both interesting and educational. This morning's tea was this one here and I was delighted with the terrific notes of plum in the aromas and taste. Not just one kind of plum, either. At times it was almost sour, like an umeboshi plum. At other times it carried high sweet notes, and still other moments it had an almost Christmas tree plum ring to it. Toward the end of the session the aroma was very much like what I often smell in the air at Uwajimaya (an Asian supermarket near here). And last week I revisited this particular tea. Wow, I sure wish I'd picked up a few more cakes of this one! The quality and characteristics are superb and well-balanced, but what was most interesting to note was it's evolution and maturation since last year. The tea soup was a clear and very dark yellow this time. It seemed, to me, to be well on it's way toward it's early-middle-age. This also came through in the deepened sweetness that began to ring toward certain characteristics I find more familiar (and deeply enjoyable) in older puerhs.
Speaking of older puerh, I'm currently of the mind that (at least for my body and temperament anyway) puerh teas generally don't sit well with me until they're nearing at least the 7 or 8 year mark. Any younger than that and I react differently to them, feeling as though they're too astringent or harsh. Of course, there are exceptions. A few weeks back I had the immense pleasure of tasting a Mingqian (first pick) gushu puer comprised of a blend of leaves from Jingmai, Lao Man E and Hekai, from 2011. I'm still dizzy over that one, truly one of the deepest-reaching teas I've ever tasted. It has totally spoiled me for any other young sheng, I'm afraid. But rare, out-of-this-world teas aside, given the current crazed market for aged puer it's necessary to learn how to drink (and yes, judge) young puer if one is to have any hope for perhaps someday holding some very good aged tea in one's collection (short of winning the lottery).
Happy drinking to you all :)