My tea adventures have taken many turns. On the pumidor front, things are coming along nicely. My initial thoughts of wanting to perhaps accelerate aging (given that I'll be into my 70's by the time many of these cakes start to reach good numbers in years) have subsided. I'm of the mind now that there's no such thing as "accelerated aging," short of going shou (and even here I think it can be argued that shou is a whole different animal, merely an approximation of an aged sheng). Teas do what they do, and take their own sweet time doing it. The controlled humidity of the pumidor does help to soften hard edges and tame aggressive tendencies, which I like and which (for the time being) keeps me committed to the pumidor idea (at least for my tastes in tea). I've adjusted the RH to a steady 60% (give or take a few percentage points) with the idea that I simply want to keep the teas comfortable and active. No more trying to push the RH high to make the teas "age" faster. That's nothing but a silly fantasy. But, upon researching the matter of enzymes, phenols, volatile aromatics and such, it's well-documented that environment plays a crucial role. So at this point I'm going for a not-too-dry, not-too-humid, not-too-cold, not-too-hot middle ground. Everything in moderation, as the saying goes.
|Old trees in Alishan, Taiwan|
Speaking of the age-range of a puerh, I've noticed that those teas which have crossed over into the 10+ year range have definitely made a significant jump from "young and green" to "okay, yes, this tea is definitely developing that aged character." It shows in the darkening color of the tea soup, the deepened and woodier aromas and flavors. Still can't say I notice any change in a tea's energy, but perhaps like those early cake purchases this will develop as I gain more experience tasting different puers as they age.
And... can it be? Am I really starting to develop that enviable ability to name a tea's origin just by taste and aroma (the ultimate party-trick at tea gatherings)? After tasting so many puerhs and taking copious notes, it seems this sort of thing just starts to happen. I've still got a ways to go (the specific character of Naka, anyone??), and am not the type for party tricks, but it lends a certain awareness of increasing mastery while sitting alone at the tea table each day. Another of the joys of this whole tea practice thing.