"All of the teas I like a lot, and several of them, for me, are very special. I guess my situation and requirements of a tea might be slightly different than most people's, so I'll give you some background.
I'm entering the 3rd year of a meditation retreat. I have breaks for a few weeks at a time maybe 3 times a year, but apart from that I spend 7-8 hours a day in meditation. As such, the subtle energy of a tea is very important for me - too much of the wrong kind of energy and I can't settle my mind in meditation, and since that is what I am principally trying to do with my days I need to be very careful with this.
With that in mind I've made some comments about some of the teas you sent, and tried to keep some brief notes of the effects I can attribute time and time again to the tea.
- 2003 Spring wild Yi Wu Pu Er Qizi Bing Cha,
I enjoy drinking this one. I like the flavours and immediate effects of this tea while drinking it, but the effects afterwards are, for me, disastrous. The qi is too raw and powerful. The easiest way I can describe it is by analogy - it feels similar to the comparison of a raging mountain stream gushing over rapids, compared to the smooth powerful flow of a deep and wide river.
Perhaps I think I would like this from time to time in ordinary daily life, when I had to get things done, but for meditation my mind feels raw and jittery - difficult to settle for any length of time and impossible to control. I had a couple of sleepless nights after drinking this one.
Stéphane: "You're not the first to report sleepless nights! You have experienced why this tea is called WILD RAW puerh! I completely agree that this tea has a lot of power. This strength is also what makes this puerh suitable for long term storage. And this strong qi is also what many tired tea drinkers look for in this kind of tea: a wake-up beverage! Still, you mention that the flavors are already very nice to drink now. So how could you reduce the effects of the qi? You could first drink it earlier in the day. But most importantly, I think you could reduce the weight of dry leaves you are using. Since it's so concentrated, just a few leaves would be enough for a start.
- 1989 raw wild Jiang Cheng Pu Erh brick & 1985 Tuo Cha
These are the broad smooth deep river compared to the gushing rapids above. The energy is powerful, but smooth and controlled. These are great for meditation when you aren't tired to begin with (i.e. you don't need any 'waking up'), and just need to settle your mind and concentrate. Nice. It's a pity they're expensive, I'd like to drink these regularly. I might order a 1990 Menghai District Fang Cha from you, maybe this would fulfill my drinking needs at a lower price, and keep the samples for special occasions.
- 2007 Summer Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao Oolong) from Hsin Chu
Great, I really like this, smooth energy & beautiful aftertaste.
- 2007 Spring Shan Lin Shi Luanze Oolong (1650 meters)
I liked this one in a similar way to the Shou Cha. It had a nice smooth energy, gently nourishing and waking me up the morning after a jittery night from the 2003wild puerh.
- 2000 cooked, grade 5 leaves,Yunnan Pu Er Cha Zhuan, CNNP,
In my limited experience of shu puerh (only 8 types so far) this is the best I've tasted. Smooth & tasty, smokey reminded me of lapsang shouchong. Felt a nice comforting energy from this, which is quite pleasant sometimes when you just want a warm soft drink as these cold autumn nights turn towards winter.
I quickly overcame my initial disappointment with *only* getting grade 5 leaves once I'd tasted it. It's funny to watch these minds sometimes as they grasp at wanting the best of things. This one was great though.
- Roasted Baozhong (Shou Cha)
This is amazing, the aftertaste of this tea comes back to me even days after I've drunk it! The energy of this tea is very mellow and smooth. Not too powerful, but what is there is smooth. My favourite I think, alongside the aged puerhs.
I hadn't realized the beauty of roasted teas before. With my first opening of this I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a fresh fragrant green oolong that blasted my senses with immediate pleasure, but now I think I have swung the other way. The greener fresh oolongs now seem to taste a bit shallow, there's nothing underneath that initial blast... this one seems to have different layers to savour as they slowly reveal themselves to you.... I love it! A new friend."
Stéphane: "This is what I sometimes call the 'magic of hungpei' (roasting). This last step in the making of tea can yield fantastic results when it is well done and when the tea used is of high quality. Such teas become hard to find, because modern tea drinkers like the low oxidized Oolongs more. So, roasting becomes somewhat associated with the cheap tea served in Chinese restaurants. This is a pity, because roasted Oolong is more than just an easy to digest tea.(Picture of a fully oxidized Luanze Oolong that has been roasted 4 times).
Nowadays, if you want high quality roasted Oolong, you have to ask for it or have it made to order. This is what I recently did with the semi-wild Baozhong: I asked the farmer to 'honey' roast it to make it more sweet and fruity. I'm already planning to make another roasted Gao Shan Oolong...
I find it so fascinating what range of different aromas and tastes we obtain by varying the oxidation, roasting and age of the same tea leaves. We go from flowery Gao Shan Cha to perfume like Oriental Beauty and from peachy Dong Ding Oolong to old wood and Cognac smelling aged Oolong. The limit is our imagination and the creativity of Taiwan's tea farmers and merchants.