Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Puerh Semantics: When to call it “Aged Puerh”?

Last week I came across two interesting publications that made me want to publish something about the semantics of sheng puerh aging.

The first one was from a puerh blog I have really been enjoying lately, Dead Leaves Club.  In this article they really attempt to break down the language used to describe the different stages of puerh aging and maturation.

This article made me think of how this language has changed over the last few decades.  In the early/ mid 2000s I think puerh drinkers thought of this differently than they do now, at least my puerh drinking friends and teamasters in Korea at that time.

Back then I think there were really only two terms of maturity discussed.  The first stage was “fresh / young puerh” and the second was “aged puerh”.

“Fresh young puerh” was puerh that still had qualities of youth in taste and aroma.  More importantly, they were teas that possessed bitterness and astringency and that felt disharmonious in the body and still contained a harshness or coldness inherent in them.  They would adjitate the digestion, cause unease, loose stools, bloating, and/or soreness.  Overall, puerh at this maturity would, at the very least, contain Cold energy.

“Aged puerh” was puerh that qualities of warmth and harmony.  They were teas that feel comforting and harmonious in the body.  They were inherently warming in the body and made the digestive system feel comfortable and in balance.  They possessed an aged taste profile rounded of harshness.  Overall, puerh at this maturity would contain Warm energy.

The level of humidity puerh ages under will influence how fast it moves from fresh puerh to aged puerh.  The more the humidity of storage, the quicker a puerh will become aged.  Traditional Hong Kong storage would be classified as aged much quicker than dry Kunming storage.

However, the second factor that determined whether a puerh was considered “aged puerh” was how it felt subjectively to the individual consuming the puerh.  Puerh that was on the edge of being aged puerh consumed by two different individuals could be considered either “fresh young puerh” for one individual if it felt harsh to them and “aged puerh” to another if it felt harmonious.

Interesting to note is that there was no talk of “semi-aged puerh” or “awkward stage puerh” or “adolescent puerh” back in the day.  I think this language was actually first created by vendors in Asia that were sitting on tones of puerh patiently waiting for it to mature so they could sell it because traditionally puerh would never be consumed fresh like it is nowadays.  Fresh young puerh has too much Cold Qi and will damage the Spleen Qi.  Remember, that puerh tea was just as much a traditional medicine than it was consumed for enjoyment at that time.

Nowadays, the language used to describe a puerh maturity has more to do with the process of fermentation that puerh undergoes than how it feels in the body.  This shift is likely due to a much better understanding these days of how that happens.  It also has much to do with the shift away from drinking and more toward aging, storing, and collecting puerh.  However, by doing this, we remove the individual and essence of puerh from the equation.

The other publication that made me think about this is the recent release of Basics Puerh Tea Sample Set by white2tea.  In it there is a “2014 Aged Raw Puerh Tea” …. Hummm… I don’t know about that?  I guess technically it “has aged” but to call a puerh “aged” after 4 years in an educational set… I really think it will just cause more confusion to new drinkers more than anything…

Or maybe it was Hong Kong Traditionally stored and really feels aged in the body…

That’s a stretch.


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