Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tea Moons, Circle Poems, and Mesostics


[[EDITOR'S NOTE: Not long ago the US Mail brought me one of the more extraordinary packets I have been privileged to receive. It contained an envelope of creamy ivory stock, adorned with a postage-stamp from the Republic of China that shows Yixing teapots being filled with tea. The envelope was stamped in red capital letters, 'DO NOT BLEND' [sic]. It was stamped, moreover, on the back with tiny poems in continuous-circle format. Inside were a number of small cards, made from heavy card-stock paper, each painted -- in tea -- with a full moon, and inscribed with a tea-related mesostic poem. I could not have been more delighted. I asked the poet if he might favor the readers of CHA DAO with a sampling of this beautiful and inventive art-form, so germane to our discussions and yet so fresh and unforeseen, and here -- just in time for the full Harvest Moon -- he has done so, with a lucid and stimulating explanation of what it is all about.

ADRIAN LURSSEN, a distinguished poet who has been published in such eminent venues as AGNI, holds the MFA in Fiction from George Mason University. Born and raised in South Africa, he brings an unusually global perspective to his writing -- and a lively and perceptive mind to his tea-drinking, as readers of CHA DAO will already know. He is the Founding Editor of a splendid literary journal, PRACTICE: NEW WRITING + ART, which deftly juggles the arts, verbal and visual, in innovative ways for the new millennium. It is a pleasure to share his work with you here. (To enlarge the images, click on them with your computer mouse.)]]

I recently learned via Lew Perin's Babelcarp translator (of Chinese tea terms into English) that the word YUN, used to describe a tea's aftertaste, translates literally as RHYME.

This is an exquisite fact; yet another example among many of how poetry and Chinese tea are inextricably linked. A tea doesn't have an aftertaste - it has a rhyme! The rhyme is soft or strong. Like some word rhymes, it can be felt at the back of the throat. Or on the lips. Or the tongue.

I could go on, but actually have been asked to describe tea moons, mesostics, and circle poems. And yet here I begin, without rhyme or reason.

Tea moons are moons that have been painted using tea. That's one simple definition. Lately I have been doing exactly this because 1) I think the results are beautiful, and 2) it serves as a personal record of teas I might never drink again. (This season's Baozhong. Or, a 1960s Zhong Cha. Or, an aged Shui Xian in limited supply.)

Whenever I brew a "notable" tea, I always place a few extra leaves in a tiny gaiwan sitting to the side and add a splash of hot rinse water from my main pot or gaiwan. Later in the day I'll return to the steep in that little gaiwan and, using a small watercolor brush, I'll paint moons on 3 by 5 inch cards (made by Italian paper company Fabriano and called Medievalis 208 S.) I have a large and growing collection.

I like moons made of tea. They remind me of farmers watching the spring sky for the correct moment to harvest leaves.

Generally, the moon also reminds us of the passage of time. And naturally, in ways too numerous to mention, time has everything to do with tea. The shape - a circle - also brings to mind the lip of a cup, the mouth of a pot, an unbroken bingcha.

The idea of tea moons came from Scottish artist, poet, publisher Alec (Eck) Finlay - who was the subject of a recent interview published in my literary magazine, PRACTICE: NEW WRITING + ART.

My friend Susan Tichy - the mag's poetry editor - conducted the interview. After the issue came out, Susan traveled to Scotland and met Eck Finlay in person. She presented him with a gaiwan and some Wuyi yancha (all PRACTICE contributors get tea from us). In return, Finlay sent me a tea moon. His was created in a slightly different way: he'd spilled tea (our Wuyi) onto a sheet of paper, placed a cup in the spill, and left it to dry. The spill and the cup turned into the faintest hint of a moon. It was lovely.

Seeing that first moon was like being struck by lightning. I understood it as a way to capture the remarkable experience of tea, which is weighted by time but actually in practice quite fleeting. (It is the same inclination, to me, that leads a person to make tasting notes. Some teas wait decades to be drunk; the experience, when it finally arrives, takes a mere afternoon. How to make it last?)

And so, tea moons - created in two different ways. There are bound to be so many more.

Lately I have been experimenting with Finlay's original method, which relies on chance more than mine does. I like it very much and have been doing more in that style. I think both methods have their place in an expression of tea art (whatever that happens to be) - one might be seen as an act of will, the other an act of chance.

The painted moons are contrived to capture the specific colors of a brewed tea in the shape of a moon - as I said, a personal record of a tea life over time. The spilled moons do this, too, but they're magical for the way chance is involved: a cup is placed in spilled tea and as a result, a moon like no other is formed.

No need to compare, both have their place, but I mention them side by side here for this way they seem to represent two sides of the tea experience. Water temperature, pot size, leaf amount, harvest day, steep time, storage duration, leaf quality, blend recipe - all of these represent something we can control, the act of human will imposed upon tea. Like painting a perfect moon with a brush.

And then there is the part played by the unexpected, the random. The unpredictability of a winter season. Or, the unpredictable growth of a tea bush in any given year. The strength of the sun the day the leaves are picked. The vagaries of storage. Your mood when you brew a pot. (To name just a few obvious ones.) A chance spillage. A cup set within the spill. The moon that appears in turn. Aspects of chance, the art arising from it.


This all started not with moons but with circle poems.

In the PRACTICE interview, Susan and Eck Finlay discuss his worldwideletterbox project, which - in short - involves placing circle poems in letterboxes at 100 locations around the world. (Read the interview here; it is a truly amazing project and deserves a better explanation than mine. For the sake of space and time, I'll focus only on circle poems.)

Circle poems have no beginning, middle, or end. They start where you jump in, they end where you jump out. Their meaning often changes, depending on where you choose to start. And, surprise, they are perfectly suited to the subject of tea. Last spring, while working on the magazine, I started writing tea circle poems - and oh boy has it been fun. My first was to do with aged sheng pu-erh ("in time a cup for now a leaf") - which must be read in a circle.

Circle poems by their nature seem to mirror the circular process of tea, which is probably more spiral than circle: plant to leaf to pot to cup to lips to pot to cup to lips to pot to cup to lips, etc. And, like moons, in shape they resemble cups, pots, and tea cakes. And the circle itself ... again, like time.

My favorites so far have to do with Da Hong Pao ("a tea between rocks a mist between pours") and Yixing ("a pot seasons a tea seasons") - both of which also must be read in circle form.

The poems are made into rubber stamps and then pressed in ink onto the back of the tea moon cards. All part of the fun.


Along the way, Eck Finlay - who seems to live for collaboration they way I live for tea - urged me to start writing tea mesostics.

The mesostic form was invented (and used extensively) by American artist/composer John Cage. It involves writing a poem of only one word per line that forms, in vertical intersection, a word that relates to the theme or subject of the poem. Whew. (It's like an acrostic, in which the first letter of each line spells something, but in this case the word appears within - not at the beginning.)

For example, a mesostic about aged uncooked pu-erh:
Or this one, to do with Wuyi yancha:

What I love about mesostics - which, like circle poems, are harder than they seem - is that the backbone word, the vertical intersection, can be read as an ending to the short poem. (Ex: Among rocks, leaves borrowing ambient strength: Oolong.) And as Finlay pointed out, the trick is to create mesostics that are more than mere lists. Although I like this list-type meso, to do again with yancha:

Another thing about mesos that I like so much: their grid-like nature and the vertical/horizontal text remind me of neifei. Or, of Chinese text grids in general. For this reason, and for all the other obvious resonance(s), I've been including related mesostics on the tea moon cards I've been painting.

Here's another, relying on "instruction" - which seems to me a frequent motif in tea art:

I've also been sending the cards out as gifts - collected in a series of seven. Each card can be read by itself, or as part of a larger whole: one poem about tea in seven stanzas, seven mesostics. And the recipient, the reader, can re-order the cards for each reading. Like tea, it's all part of that dance between chance and will.

All of which to say: you should try your hand at a circle poem or mesostic. Like tea, it is oh so addictive. And fun!

(by the way, I have been drinking a 1996 Menghai #7542, well stored for a decade in Hong Kong, while writing this. I can't yet put into words what the brew tastes like, but I can tell you that it rhymes on the roof of the mouth.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

'Global Dimming' and China Teas


[[EDITOR'S NOTE: This very thought-provoking post comes from Steven Owyoung, former Curator of Asian Art at the St Louis Art Museum, and an internationally revered authority on the teas of Pacific Asia. Readers of CHA DAO will remember with pleasure his learned contributions on "Cha 茶 and Ming 茗"; on the Qianlong Emperor's Jade Tea Bowl; and on the Jade Spring. Text and images are published here by his permission. As always, the size of the images may be increased by clicking on them.]]

I have read with some interest your postings on pollution in China and its effects on tea and tea production. In addition to worker hygiene, pesticides, water and air pollution, and global warming, attention needs to turn to another kind of pollutant effect and what is known as "global dimming."

Global dimming is the reduction of sunlight that reaches the earth due to the amount of particulate matter suspended in the atmosphere and the resultant refraction and diffusion of light in the polluted air. The refraction, deflection, and diffusion of light in the atmosphere reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the earth's surface. In moderate to high pollution, the reduction in sunlight caused by global dimming may reach as much as ten to twenty percent.

Sunlight, especially bright late winter sunshine, is crucial to the tea plant, especially the first spring flush. The marked reduction of sun reaching the tea leaves has a pronounced effect on the quality and quantity of production and on the flavor of the tea.

During the winters of 2003 and 2006, Hangzhou was covered by dark, hazy overcast skies. Nearby West Lake, the region known for Dragon Well tea, suffered under the same dim sunlight.

At midday, the nether shores of the lake were nearly invisible and even landmarks in the middle distances were but muddy shadows and dishwater brown. Even in the far south along the Li River in Guilin, the fabulous peaks were layered in a filmy gauze. Back in Shanghai and Suzhou, on the sunniest days, the air was thick with haze. Even by the most lenient standards, the air and skies of China are very polluted.

Given that tea and rare tea are dependent on sunlight and all its constituents, global dimming is a problem and a threat to tea to say nothing of other agricultural products.

Monday, September 17, 2007

LETTER FROM FUJIAN: Pollution and Purity in China Teas


[[EDITOR'S NOTE: Readers of CHA DAO will likely remember the last LETTER FROM FUJIAN, an interview with Warren Peltier, who has been teaching in China for some time now. This piece is adapted from an email to Corax about the issues of pollution and hygiene that were raised in 'All the Tea in China -- Polluted?,' an earlier post to this blog. Warren's material is published here with his permission.]]

China's tea is a heavily-exported commodity. So I suspect if sales are falling off due to scares about pesticide residues, tea companies in China will soon use non-chemical or organic pesticides instead -- and that will solve the problem. Most are flexible, and they will switch production practices to meet consumer demand.

On a recent visit to Wuyi Shan, where famous teas such as Da Hong Pao are grown, I saw no evidence of pollution. This was likely because it is 1) a tourist destination, and -- more importantly -- 2) a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It would be shameful for the Chinese government (and bad for tourism dollars) to have a polluted UNESCO site in China. So they keep the city very clean, and the citizens of Wuyi seem to avoid practices that are common in other parts of Fujian:
• Wuyi residents don't throw their trash into the street curbs for pickup. Result: the streets are much cleaner. There are no black oil spots or general grime on sidewalks or in the streets.
• Wuyi residents don't burn their trash. This is an assumption, not a fact; but I'm guessing they don't, because the air there is so much cleaner than other parts of Fujian. In many small villages in Fujian, including Anxi (where Tie Guan Yin oolong is grown), you will sometimes see fires burning alongside the roads. Sometimes they are burning dried grass. But often it's bags filled with garbage. The smoke from them is very powerful. (They also burn rice fields after the harvest, in order to clear the land. But the smoke from those is not as bad as that of burning garbage. And burning the rice fields actually has some positive aspects: it gets rid of the dead grass, and it fertilizes the fields.)

As far as tea being exposed to pollutants after the growing period, i.e. during processing and/or packaging -- that is also a possibility. In processing some teas, there is a period where the leaf is spread out to dry in the air/sun. But in many places in China, there is a black dust that settles over everything. You can't sit down in a public place without first wiping away the dust. Balconies of houses become covered in a thin layer of dust after a week or so. You have to be constantly cleaning the dust away.

Tea may also be laid on an unclean surface before being sold. In China, they often lay herbal medicines straight on the dirty sidewalks to dry in the sun. Sometimes they will even lay them right out on the street, or in a parking lot, causing cars to have to drive around them!

Then, before packaging, some teas like Tie Guan Yin mao cha must be further processed to take the stems off, before it is ready for sale. They often do this in individual retail stores, i.e. in the very place where the tea will then be sold. How, then, might tea become polluted during processing, if it's processed in a store? Nothing is being added to the tea. Vendors would not risk adding some chemical that might taint their tea. But personal hygiene may sometimes be unfavorable. For example, public toilets often have no toilet paper or soap. This means that most people after using the toilet (even in their workspace) have no access to soap to wash their hands (unless they bring in their own personal supply to use). However, most people don't bring their own supply of soap for handwashing, and do without the soap when washing hands. They would then go and process the tea. It's a reality. (And not only in China: a recent study conducted in Chicago showed that one-third of the men there did not wash their hands after visiting the rest room. So this is not just a Chinese problem.)

Fujian province is also a very hot and humid place. Perspiring is a natural bodily function, and cannot be avoided when one is processing tea. If one's palms are sweaty during the labor of processing tea leaves, there is no way to prevent its coming in contact with the tea. Most shops are not air conditioned -- at least not to the degree we are accustomed to in the West. So it's an unavoidable problem.

Tea that is being poured from large 10-kg bags may inadvertently be spilled onto the floor. If that happens, they don't sweep up the tea and toss it in the garbage bin: no, that would be a waste. Instead, these lovely, innocent and naive young ladies will sweep the tea with their hands into a pile, then scoop it onto a piece of cardboard or paper, and place it back in the bag, for sale. As long as the floor looks reasonably clean, and no foreign matter gets mixed in with the leaves -- that's what they will do.

But all of this is just my own experience. You need to see it to believe it. Perhaps later I can take photos and everyone can better understand the whole tea process, which is hugely labor intensive.

Just rinse your tea well before you brew it. And store it well. I always rinse my tea before steeping, and sometimes even rinse leaves well in cold water first. And examine the rinse water.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Making Traditional Jasmine Tea


[[from an email to corax. text and photograph used by permission.]]

One of the most widely-enjoyed teas in the world -- jasmine tea -- is no longer what it used to be. Jasmine tea has been in the cup of tea drinkers for many decades, but there are several reasons why naturally-scented jasmine tea is not made for wide consumption.

Originally, jasmine tea was made with any of three different teas: Mao Jian (green tea), Long Zhu (green tea), and Bai Hao Yin Zhen (white tea). These teas can come from almost all the provinces of China where tea is cultivated, such as Fu Jian, Guang Dong, Zhe Jiang, Si Chuan, An Hui, Yun Nan ...

The difficulty residing in making traditional jasmine tea is a matter of materials, skills and time. It takes an astonishing four kilos of fresh jasmine flowers to scent just one kilo of tea leaves! As if picking four kilos of flowers for each kilo of tea weren't already enough, the blossoms must be picked at a specific time of day. The tradition requires the pickers to harvest the flowers during the day of "bloomation" -- but before the blooms have actually opened (see the photograph above). Once back home and after a rest, the blooms will open; then the process of scenting the tea can start.

The Process

The tea will be scented over the course of three days, so three scenting sessions are required. The flowers are divided into thirds, with another little portion of them reserved for the final step. On the first day, the first step is to humidify the tea; one-third of the flowers is then added to the tea; the tea and flowers are mixed and then allow to sit overnight. The next day, the tea will be dried in a wok in the same way pan-fired green teas are dried. Once the tea is dried, the flowers are taken out of the tea and the makers can proceed to the next step which is the same one. The tea is humidified again, mixed with the flowers, and allowed to sit overnight. The same steps will be done three times until the third day, when the rest of the flowers that were set aside will be added to the tea. This mixture will be pan-fired to dry it, and then the tea will be stored for one week at least before being sold.

Everything that makes this traditional jasmine tea also explains why such a tea isn't suitable for mass consumption. The large ratio of flowers that must be picked at a specific time; the first scenting step needing to be done the same day; the tea being crafted over the course of three days, and requiring pan-firing to dry it. Even here in Guangzhou, the biggest tea market in the world, to locate genuine traditional jasmine tea is even harder than finding original Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Musings on Adolescent Sheng Pu'er


[[based on an email to corax. published by permission of both geraldo and shenlikest2. NOTE: to enlarge the table, click on it.]]

A recent thread at Live Journal’s Puerh Tea Community deals with the stages of maturity in sheng pu’er. "shenlikest2" wrote to pose some innocent and important questions ever on the minds of pu’er enthusiasts and collectors:
This may sound like a silly question. Please bear with me.
Is there a standard by which a raw tea (sheng) reaches maturity? As time passes, when is it considered shu? Or ripe? Or what?
I've heard so many opinions on this and really wondered if the criteria are subjective or standardized? Is there a specific amount of time needed from birth to vintage when one would consider a tea mature? Is there an industry guideline?
I know the differences I consider: color, scent, flavour etc. The sensual adjectives. The characteristics that matter to me.
However, I'm curious as to what is considered a norm or what are your criteria?
My response was more or less as follows:
"Mature" is a relative term, both in and out of tea. Some folks are mature earlier than other folks who seem never to mature. Perhaps people with lots of years but little maturity are too tightly compressed and have lacked sufficient flow of air.

As regards maturity and sheng, there are vendors who use "aged" to describe on their websites products that are only three to five years old. As an analogy, here in WA, the state government encourages high school juniors to enroll in community colleges. In both of these cases, we see an odd manipulation of a definition purely for the sake of profit.

Here's how I personally think about sheng and maturity on the most basic level:

1-5 years old: Nascent
6-10 years old: Juvenile
11-20 years old: Adolescent
20 years and beyond: Aged

[. . .]

I've tasted decades-old tael and tight tea that had not seemed to mature very much. Some beeng chas, on the other hand, mature quickly, and if stored carefully, have many wonderful and complex characteristics. An example of the latter would be the 1998 Yieh Sheng Chiao Mu from Hou De, an expensive adolescent pu'er mature beyond its years.

As regards your use of "ripe": In my own system of definition, "ripe" and "shu" equate to cooked pu'er and are not synonymous to "aged." There are, however, extremes of wet storage that can produce a substance that seems more shu than sheng, but that usually is accompanied by a wet-laundry taste and aroma that I find far from yummy. Therefore, shu/black/cooked pu'er begin as ripe, while sheng/green/uncooked is never ripe, but it can mature. Hope this makes some sense. Other enthusiasts will have different terms and opinions.
Having somehow staggered into the third year of my sixth decade, I have moments of clarity when the prospect of purchasing nascent pu’er seems downright silly. Now when I buy young pu’er, a little voice squeaks, “What in tarnation are you doing, you great idjit?” In twenty years, if I’m still kicking, I might not be able to taste tea with the discernment I now possess. I’ve read that our mouths age with the rest of our bodies, and that folks of antique vintage have lost a great deal of their tasting ability. I know not if this be true. Do I want more nascent and juvenile sheng? I have more such sheng than I can ever drink. Still, it’s fun to collect pu’er. I’ve not purchased as much pu’er from 2006 and 2007 as I purchased in previous years. Now pu’er that sprang to birth during the nineties and in 2000 seems ever more alluring, especially given the price explosion that placed 20-year-old sheng out of my reach.

I do like many young pu’ers, so the little voice does not compel as persuasively as it would like, especially when the nascent pu’er purchase is small. Here’s a case in point. I bought some 2005 Single Estate Bu Lang from Jing Teashop. The tea arrived just yesterday, and I dove straightaway into my newly-acquired nascent sheng. This cake is perhaps one of my all-time favorite young pu’ers. Also, it happens to be one of the most tightly compressed beeng chas I’ve encountered aside from iron cakes. The flavor is huge—the first two infusions had my head spinning. In its overall effect, I’d say this product is an exemplar for the phenomenon of qi in a young beeng cha. Once my mouth and mind accustomed themselves to the liquor’s power, I was able to enjoy the ride from the fourth steep onward. Granted, at this point in its career, Xing Hai Bu Lang is likely too strong for casual consumption. I would not drink it often at this juncture. Yet I love it, but loving it, should I buy more of it? If I did, I’d be a nutcase. In twenty years, this nascent sheng might be fairly mellow. In twenty years, I’ll be past seventy. If I were thirty-five, I’d go to the bank and borrow money to buy a lot of it.

About four years ago, I surveyed pu’er from the nineties and was appalled. Much of it barely tasted like sheng at any stage of maturity. It tasted like cleansing compound or flavoring additives. It tasted like mud and dangerous fungus. Or it tasted like heavily-cooked, lowest-quality shu. I decided then that young sheng and 20-plus-year-old sheng were even bets for purchasing, but adolescent sheng was dangerous territory for this humble buyer.

Recently, I surveyed the adolescent sheng field again, and the tea I found delighted me. From eighteen acquisitions listed below, only one disappointed me. The rest actually delight me. They seem mature beyond their years. I expected sheng that seemed a little aged. I received sheng that seems happily aged and is in fact quite good to drink right now. This heartens me: Perhaps my younger collection also will produce in six short years some adolescent pu’ers that seem mature beyond their years. An additional delight is the prospect that these small purchases of adolescent pu’er will likely age farther in their little zisha canisters. I have a special shelf reserved for pu’er produced between 1990 and 2000.

Maturation rate is a function of an exceedingly complex parameter. These might be just a few of the many variables:

• Storage humidity
• Storage airflow
• Presence or absence of light during storage
• Shape (beeng cha, iron cake/disk, tuo cha, zhuan cha, fang cha, bamboo, etc.)
• Compression ( machine, hand, wood, iron, stone, etc.)
• Leaf type (bud-laden, broken leaf, full-leaf, single leaf, one-bud-and-two-leaves-on-a-stem, etc.)
• Leaf origin (You Le, Bu Lang, Yiwu, etc.)
• Mao cha blend (single estate, single-mountain, numbered recipe, etc.)
• Age of mao cha at compression (beeng chas compressed with stored mao cha, sometimes many years old)
• Leaf size
• Vintage weather
• Vintage season (spring and autumn)
• Factory processing

Of course, each of those variables itself would unfold into many variables, and there are dozens of other items one could include on the list variables that might affect maturation rate.

Some young beeng chas have a predominance of brown leaves; others have a predominance of green leaves. Some have small leaves, others big. Some have broken leaves, others entire and intact bud and leaf systems. How do these factors affect maturation rate? These mysteries are as mysterious as ever for me.

My recent survey uncovered pu’ers that seemed surprisingly aged. The worst I think was intentionally drowned and I do not include it on my list. It actually lost its integral “leafness” and became an amorphous chunk of stuff. The best was wet-storaged for a little while and then stored in a dry location. Some I purchased as entire cakes. Others came as gift samples. (Thank you, shichangpu and ck2998!) Some of these I purchased in tiny, tiny samples. For example, the fantastic Yieh Sheng Chiao Mu was priced such that I could afford but ten grams. Nevertheless, within a few hours of listing them, Guang Lee of Hou De sold all of his beeng chas at $255 a pop. Some of the adolescent shengs are still available; some are not.

[Aside: I've purchased a little tea from Awoono, a Yunnan native residing in Canada. Awoono seems knowledgeable about pu'er and is quick to figure out what I like. Awoono’s eBay store seems rather under-remarked in the forums and blogs.]

Below is a chart with the teas listed and a few comments. Proviso: I must add that opinions in the “Wetness” column are simply wild guesses. I arbitrarily arrived at holistic decisions. My calling a pu'er wet-stored or dry-stored certainly does not make it so. My opinions are based on my experience and judgment.

Three of the items above do not fit my personal definition of “adolescent pu’er.” I’ve included them because they are close to the age limits, and they exhibit both marked maturity and high quality. There are the two MengKu MengSa cakes and the 1998-2004 Mengyang Guoyan beeng cha. The former are just one year out of range, and the latter is three-sevenths adolescent.

Why are adolescent teas for sale on the Internet better now than four years ago? And what makes many of them seem prematurely aged? I cannot say. Perhaps the art of wet storage has evolved; perhaps wet storage is less wet and less protracted than it used to be. Just a few years ago, “wet storage” referred to the nefarious art of making pu’er seem older. Now, “wet storage” simply refers to traditional Hong Kong warehousing. Times change.

As I consider the data at hand, I wonder if compression (or lack thereof) might not have played the biggest role in faster maturation. Tuo chas are often very tight pu’er shapes, but I believe the tuo chas in my table were looser than we normally encounter. Not all of the samples I tried were of sufficient size to indicate the compression of the cake from whence they were broken or flaked; however, those that were, demonstrated, overall, less compaction. But this is merest conjecture. If I were to buy nascent compressed pu’er with hopes of seeing it mature quicker than the norm, I would choose a mini-beeng cha (100g) or small fang cha or zhuan cha that exhibits a loose structure. I would store it where there is a good flow of air, and I would keep it in conditions of ~70% rh.

To bring these digressive musings to a close, I’ll offer my picks for those seeking to buy adolescent sheng to enjoy now. As I’ve mentioned, some items on the list are no longer available. Of the products that are still for sale as of this writing, I would recommend both Jing Teashop’s 1993 Feng Qing tuo cha and Awoono’s 90s Mengku Raw Puerh Brick.

All the best,