A sudden drop in temperature coincides with the start of autumn in Taiwan. The cool breeze calls for a warm and mature tea. It's a very good time to drink raw, wild puerh again.
My Cha Xi is very similar to the one I designed to match the event "Autumn colors on the Chiao and Hua Mountains". However, today I'm using my ivory white gaiwan instead of a zhuni teapot. Following the hot Taiwanese summer, I want a neutral brewing of my 2003 wild Yiwu cake. The gaiwan is the simple, elegant accessory that makes gongfu cha affordable to all. It's not as simple to use as a teapot, but that's also where one can gain skills that will improve the tea.
For instance, since porcelain doesn't retain heat as well as clay, the preheating of the gaiwan (including its cover!) is a key success factor:
- use just boiled water,
- touch the cover to make sure that it's hot
- without haste, don't wait too long to put the leaves and the pour the hot water, after you've emptied the preheating water in the cups. Everything should be ready in advance: the puerh should be flaked before you start preheating the gaiwan. If it's very cold, you may even want to preheat the gaiwan twice!
- use a little more leaves than you would with a teapot,
- (for puerh) pour the boiling water rather low and strong to avoid cooling in mid air.
- and, if it's a good tea, let it brew a little longer than with a teapot. You can wait until the water that covers the edges of the cover retreats inside below.
- leave your cover on the gaiwan between brews to retain the heat of the wet leaves.
One of the most basic qualities of puerh and tea in general is a clean feeling. (The brew should be clear, not cloudy). It should leave the mouth comfortable, with a nice 'buzz' similar to a gentle massage. Sweetness is coating the palate and throat. And even if 8 years mean tamed and more quiet fragrances, the cha qi unfolds strong and harmoniously. My upper body feels warm and, on the second brew, my forefront and hands feel moist.
Now, I enjoy the cool, dry autumn air. It's nice to be able to turn off the A/C and fans again. The breath of fresh air combined with the natural warmth of this puerh feels good.
In spring, we taste different things, 'unfaithfully', choosing between what we like or not. The fall season is the harvest season, a time of commitment and deeper love. We are 'harvesting' our past decisions. Some teas are shunned, like old classmates who became annoying. Luckily, there are leafs that still comfort and please us every time they visit our cups. We know them well, and yet, each encounter is unique.