Finally, some tea.
I’ve unpacked all my teas, although my teaware is still largely confined to their respective boxes. Turns out I have a lot more puerh than I thought – about double my original estimate, now that I have taken an inventory of everything I’ve got. It does scare me a little bit, and puts things in perspective. I think one reason I underestimated the amount of tea I have is mostly because I forgot about the gifts I’ve received, and also some tongs of teas that I bought a long time ago but have been in deep storage, or more less, and therefore wiped from my memory. Well, no more, as now I have a spreadsheet of everything I’ve got, minus the half cakes and the broken pieces that I have collected in various bags.
When you move, you also end up with a lot of fannings. Using ziplock bags means that the fannings are, by and large, contained, and so as a cleanup measure, I emptied the bags of their fannings and then brewed them in my little gaiwan. It’s actually not a bad cup, despite its mixed nature. Hobbes has something like this at home, and we can all do this with leftover samples and bits and pieces, as Scott from Yunnan Sourcing also does. It’s not a bad way to consume tea.
It’s also an interesting, uncontrolled exercise in tea blending. Since we currently live in the age where a lot of more premium puerh teas tend to be single-origin, sometimes down to the farmer level, it is increasingly common to find cakes that are very one-dimensional – they display one single trait very strongly, but there’s a certain hollowness in other aspects. That has generally not been the case in the past, when tea merchants would blend cakes. The public factories obviously did massive blending, with their famous formulas, but even private shops pre-1949 did a certain amount of blending as well. We don’t know their formula, but we know that the leaves on the exterior of the cake and the interior of the cake tend to be different, and there’s a mixing going on perhaps of age as well (different seasons or even years). So, these single season, single-origin cakes are really new in many ways.
I sometimes think of my cakes as raw materials. When aged, I look forward to blending them with each other, possibly to create teas that are more interesting than they are on their own. With blended teas there is a certain fullness that comes with the mouthfeel that you can’t get with single-origin teas. Whereas one tea in the cake might be sweet all the way, another might show more bitterness, while a third may be particularly minty. Blending them in the right proportions can create a tea that does all three things at the same time. Some will claim that’s no good, that they enjoy finding the unique characteristics of one village or another. That may well be the case, but it can also get boring.
I do wonder how all these teas will age in time, and how we will view them twenty years hence. I suspect many will be viewed unfavourably – stuff like laoman’e, with its everlasting bitterness, might not be liked as much by then. I even wonder if this whole single-origin thing is just a giant fad that will fade within the span of a few years, and the blended stuff, especially high end blended stuff (and they do exist, even now – I should post about them) will be treasured among all. Only time will tell.