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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Puerh the Whisky of the Tea World

Yes, you read the title correctly. And I suppose a similar comparison could be made to wine, but whisky is what I know, and to me certain similarities just jump out. And no not the obvious one about aging and such, or about vintages, I have two others one is slightly more obvious and the other is more of a musing that just occurred to me while drinking my 90’s Huang Yin.
Huang Yin Late 90's
The rather obvious one is the single malts and blends comparison. These exist quite clearly in the puerh world, with single mountains and specific factory blends. In whiskey certain blends are known for being solid, and while the material they have to work with changes from year to year, they do their best to create something as similar to the previous year’s product that they can. Whereas puerh experts can tell you what characterizes a certain mountain’s tea while being able to pick out the mountains of each tea from a blind taste test. I do not have that ability; I’ll admit it flat out.

But what I find as the more interesting observation I have for this comparison. I find that with puerh, especially aged, and whisky, the more you drink them the more you can over look what people find unpleasant about them initially. Many people turn away from puerh for the earthy flavors, and the musty and damp leaves characteristic they tend to exhibit. But drink aged puerh every day or every other day for a week or more, I believe the more and more you drink the easier it is for you to overlook those flavors, and focus on the nuances in that particular tea. In whisky the similarity is hopefully obvious to anyone that has ever had any hard liquor, and felt the burn. Now I’m willing to venture anything at 40+%ABV is going to burn when you drink it. But you have a glass every night or every other night, because you are on holiday, the burn does not bother you, you are comfortably familiar with it, and the tastes of that whiskey is no longer performing shock and awe on your system, you are being shocked and awed by all the unique flavors.

So to say this to people getting into puerh it is not like most teas. Puerh given a long enough break between your last session with it, may just shock your taste buds. But persist through the obvious flavors, and eventually you will be able to pick out the subtle details hiding beneath those strong tones.
1960's Wang Zi
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