Friday, October 19, 2018

A quiz and paradigm shifts in tea

Puerh A
Let's train our observation skills on 2 puerhs from my selection I've brewed recently. Can you recognize which one is the oldest? Are they sheng or shu? Can you maybe even recognize which ones they are?
Puerh B
This kind of exercise is interesting, because it teaches you to find answers about a puerh you might want to buy from the leaves themselves instead from the wrapper or the story told by the vendor. Learn to read the tea leaves! (The answer to this quiz is at the end of the article).
The second subject of my article is paradigm shifts in tea.

To explain what's a paradigm shift, I like the picture on the left: it shows a young lady or a very old one depending on how your brain processes the image. The shift occurs when you start to see the second person instead of seeing the first. It's kind of destabilizing, because it challenges your beliefs and perceptions of reality. 

Looking back on the last 15 years since my first tea class this fall, I realize I have gone through many paradigm shifts about tea. Here is an incomplete list:
1. Before: Straight and parallel lines of tea bushes, like in the picture on the left, look beautiful.
Now: Such plantations are shaped to be machine harvested. They mass produce tea that is mostly of lower quality. Tea trees that grow differently, with more space are naturally beautiful.

2. Before: Teas from Mainland China are cheap, low quality and suspicious, while teas from Taiwan are expensive, high quality and healthy.
Now: Teas from Mainland China vary a lot. The best Chinese teas (gushu puerh, Yan Cha...) are much more expensive than top Taiwanese teas. 
3. Before: Taiwanese tea farmers go to China to lower their production costs.
Now: Taiwanese farmers go to China to sell their teas to affluent customers.

4. Before: Big wooden tea tables are cool.
Now: Big wooden tea tables are ugly.
5. Before: I trust labels on tea packaging.
Now: I don't trust tea labels (except when I write them for tea-masters!)

6. Before: I'm taking a few classes with Teaparker and will soon learn everything there is to know about tea.
Now (15 years later): I'm still going to the weekly class. The learning never stops. The world of tea is boundless.
Here's the solution to the quiz:
- Puerh A is the 2003 wild raw puerh from Yiwu.
- Puerh B is older, because it's the early 1990s Luyin raw puerh cake from the Menghai Tea Factory.

Please also check my latest Fall 2018 specials.


Tuo Cha Tea said...

I strongly disagree with point 4.

TeaMasters said...

Thanks for your reaction! Everybody is entitled to their opinions and tastes! These are just my own personal paradigm shifts. So, does it mean you agree with the other 5?

Tuo Cha Tea said...

Yes, I'm totally fine with the rest and agree with them.
The straightly cut bushes show signs of "industrial" production to keep high yields, suggesting lots of machine and pesticide/fertilizer use. Do not trust the story of the tea, just the taste of it. You can never learn enough.
But I see the current chaxi as a sort of fashion thing that will pass :-)

TeaMasters said...

Tuo Cha Tea, thanks for your new comment.
Concerning the Chaxi, I agree that there's some part of it that is a fashion. Also nothing is eternal and tea preparations evolve with the culture that surrounds them. However, I think that there will always be a deep connection between harmony, beauty and tea. Right now the Chaxi is a good way to express this, I feel.