Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pu for Pleasure

There is something enigmatic about pu-erh tea. The smell, the taste, the age, and the words to describe its' characteristics. There is green, 'sheng' pu-erh which can be classified as a green tea (without the baking). Dark, 'shu' pu-erh with its' unmistakable "scoop from a remote forest floor" flavor profile, classified as a post-fermented tea. With uncommon personality, pu-erh seems to becoming more and more common as people get to know it.

My own experience started a year ago in a local tea where a friend ordered some Rishi pu-erh Maiden for me. I drank it and was overtaken by its' strength, smoothness, flavor and unknown origin. Little did I know as I read some lyrics my friend wrote, that I would soon be diving off the deep end into pu-erh. Almost a year later I've gathered a modest collection of shu's and sheng's in the form of bricks and cakes which I sample from time to time, always refining my gong-fu cha techniques. My two pots and a gaiwan do justice to any pu in the vicinity.

I feel fortunate to be engaged in the pu-erh world at this time. Up until the 90's, most Chinese tea stayed in China. With the help of a few tea explorers in tandem with Chinese political reform, the tea market truly began*. Black tea and Chinese government controlled tea was largely available before the 90's, denying white, green, oolong and pu-erh teas.

It's exciting to be apart of this newly emerging tea culture, specifically gong-fu cha culture. I have met other people in person and online who also share the passion for the pu. It's easy to find a handful of well-written, thorough blogs about pu-erh or other teas. A multitude of websites exist from connoisseurs and sellers. Even Youtube can be used as a multimedia learning experience, where I learned techniques of gong-fu cha. With a little investment in some teaware and quality tea, anyone can get their feet infused with the enigmatic brew. Aside from the internet, the perfect place to start asking questions is your local teashop.

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