I remember when I first started out drinking puerh, mostly by way of friends who had much better stuff and who made it for me, I was often told that the best infusions for an older puerh starts with infusion 5.
Yes, it begins with infusion 5 or so. Everything before is full of mixed flavours and merely a build up. In the words of one, you can pretty much toss everything up to that point.
Contrast that view with many bloggers, who generally think that by infusion 5, a tea is ending or close to its end. Anything above and beyond is, in American parlance, gravy. I think at the heart of this difference is a fundamentally different style of making tea, but just as important, a fundamentally different conception of what one should get from a tea.
Of course, when I say something like this I’m probably overgeneralizing a little. Yet, I do think that from what I can gather from many blogs out there, the largest focus is on the initial flavour of a tea, the strong feeling one gets from the first two or three cups and how the tea performs in the mouth in those fleeting moments. Is it apricot or is it peach? Or, maybe straw? Grapes? Mud? The list goes on.
I don’t think we often see a lot of discussion of how a tea reacts in the mouth after the initial impressions. That, I think, is partly because teas are about flavours in the West — what does it taste like? That, in turn, is something that I think a product of drinking a lot of greens, low oxidation oolongs, and that sort of thing. For those things, flavour is indeed often very important. They also tend to die faster.
But even in these teas, what the tea does to you and how long it does the same thing to you are very important, but I rarely see this sort of thing mentioned in reviews online. Discussions of infusions of tea after maybe 4 or 5 is usually an afterthought.
Are my impressions remotely correct? I often feel the best kinds of teas are the ones that keep giving after 10, 15, 20 infusions. But I don’t tihnk I ever really see anybody talk about brewing a tea out that far, aside from a very few individuals. Are these not mentioned because they’re deemed unimportant? Or is this simply not done? I’d like to know.