The experience of searching for a better grade aged Puerh tea is similar to a baby learning how to walk. The baby must have mastered basic walking skills before he/she started to run. When we were born, we knew nothing. We were a piece of blank paper. By the same token, a Puerh novice knows nothing about Puerh tea at the very beginning. By gathering more experience, a beginner will gradually become a knowledgeable tea person. Certainly, this takes time.
First Step to Chinese Puerh Tea
When Cloud was a beginner a decade ago, what Puerh tea Cloud started to drink was so called "loose-leaf Puerh tea". People taught Cloud that the flavor from this kind of tea was called the "Yunnan flavor". Now, Cloud knows that it was in fact the earthy taste of the ripe Puerh tea. With the dark color tea broth, the taste was not bad. It was sweet and smooth. At that time, Cloud was satisfied with that "loose-leaf Puerh tea".
Cloud was always drinking the "loose-leaf Puerh tea". After some time, it was found that the tea no longer satisfied the taste buds. It was too smooth and became nothing special. Then, Cloud bought a better grade "loose-leaf Puerh tea" from the same shop. It was called "Extra Fine Old Puerh". Wow! That was much better. Apart from the "Yunnan taste", it brought Cloud warm, thick and sweet finish. The aftertaste was great. It seemed that it was a blending recipe from raw and ripe loose-leaf Puerh. Cloud thought at that time that this great tea should be bought and drunk for the rest of Cloud's life and not choosing other kinds of Puerh.
Cloud had been drinking the "Extra Fine Old Puerh" for quite a long time. Incidentally, Cloud discovered another tea shop in Hong Kong and asked for the tea of the same grade as the "Extra Fine Old Puerh". The shop owner recommended the 1980's Menghai 7432 wet storage aged vintage. Cloud tried this one. Mmm... that was not bad with sweet and smooth tea broth so that Cloud purchased a stack (7 pieces) for future consumption. This was the second time that Cloud thought it was the ultimate tea to be consumed for the rest of the life. Unfortunately, this tea did not have strong cooling aftertaste.
After a year time, another chance came. Cloud went to another tea shop and tasted a very great vintage. The vintage was the 1980's Menghai rough tissue paper tea cake with slightly wet storage. Apart from its smoothness, it had vivid taste and marvelous cooling aftertaste. The entire mouth was occupied by the aged Puerh taste. Although Cloud was saving this tea because it was expensive (it was expensive as Cloud was still college student at that time) and that was the one and only one great vintage tea cake at that time, it was all finished within half a year. What a quick consumption!
After finishing that 1980's Menghai rough tissue paper tea cake, certainly, Cloud wanted to buy the same vintage. Unfortunately, the shop owner said that this rough tissue paper tea cake was out of stock. She instantly introduced a better Puerh vintage, but with double price, to Cloud. That was the 1970's Zhongcha Brand Simplified Chinese Characters Seven-son Tea Cake. Wow! Amazing. After a little sip of this tea, one could feel and tell why Puerh vintage was worth its price. Its vividness and smoothness were so great that one would feel very comfortable after drinking several cups of this very aged Puerh vintage, especially in winter. Then, this meant Cloud upgraded again. After that, Cloud relied on the 1970's Simplified Chinese Characters as the standard reference to judge other kinds of Puerh tea and vintages and collected more and more good Puerh tea cakes. Finally, Cloud purchased some 1960's Blue Marks (which had all been consumed) as well.
Searching suitable Puerh similar to life
The searching and upgrading process of Puerh vintages is similar to one's life, getting a better job, making more money and buying a dream house, etc. When one was a student, one may take public bus or drive a low price old car. When one graduates, one may consider to buy a better car. If it is lucky getting the promotion very soon, one may try the sport car. After gathering several years of work experience, getting a better job and one may drive the Benz or BMW. If everything is ready and the opportunity comes, one will become the boss and own his business. When the business is good, Porsche and Ferrari will no longer be a dream and become true. One's life is to get the next better car. (Although car is used for this analogy, getting promotion or having a better job or getting a bigger house is the same.)
In fact, a Ferrari, a Porsche, a Benz, a BMW and a Japanese car are all cars. But why is there such a social difference? Whether a car is a social status of yours or just a driving tool taking you to the destination? This drives Cloud thinking about that for a long time.
Car, without doubt, is a tool for taking people to their destinations. However, high performance car is actually a toy of some people. It is the same for Puerh tea. It can be drunk casually or it can be appreciated. It can also be a collectible item. Therefore, one should consider his/her financial ability when buying tea and should not buy over one's budget. It is the same that there is no reason for one to buy a Porsche super car if one cannot afford to pay off the purchasing loan. Some people suggest correctly that if one is financially able to purchase aged Puerh vintage, it will be no harm to buy some to enjoy the aged tea without further waiting. If one is not financially allowed to do so, then, one should buy young raw tea to store and wait until they are old enough for consumption. In the meantime waiting for the maturity of the raw tea, there is still a solution. That is the ripe Puerh tea. The ripe Puerh tea is invented for quick consumption without waiting a long period of aging time. After one to two decades, the raw Puerh tea stored will become the home stored Puerh vintages. In fact, young Puerh tea is better than a low price car because a low price car is always a low price car and would not age into a Porsche. However, a low price young raw Puerh tea may be a great, delectable and expensive Puerh vintages in the future.
If one wants to appreciate delectable and marvelous Masterpiece Puerh Vintages without further waiting, then pay for that! What one have bought is the aging time of the Puerh vintage, i.e., the time of other people. By the same token, if one wants a high performance car, one should pay for the premium. When Cloud was a college student, Masterpiece Puerh Vintage was not affordable. It was just a hope by Cloud that the taste of the 1970's Simplified Chinese Characters should be very similar to the Blue Mark. However, later, when Cloud was financially able to buy his own Blue Mark, it was discovered that 1970's Simplified Chinese Characters was different from the Blue Mark although, to certain extent, they shared similar characteristics. The Blue Mark is the Masterpiece Puerh Vintage while the 1970's Simplified Chinese Characters can only be the semi-Masterpiece Puerh Vintage. In the aging process and at the specific time point, the Blue Mark is always 10 to 20 years older than the 1970's Simplified Chinese Characters. They are situated at different levels. It is the same that a 3500cc car will have more horse power to climb up than a 1500cc little car does. By the same reason, some bikes look like the Harley Davidson, but they can never perform like the genuine Harley Davidson.
To buy what one is capable of
What will be your car? It depends on your financial ability.
Some people suggest that it is good enough for him/her to drive a Benz for several time but not to own a Benz. Although Cloud was unable to own a high performance model of Mercedes-Benz, it is good enough at the current stage to have a Japanese car. Cloud is just a young man not reaching his 30 years of age. There will be a plenty of chances to own one in the future. When Cloud has such ability, a Mercedes-Benz will be on list. This is the question of ability. However, whether the product worth such a price depends on people's views on value.
Human being talks about basic fulfillment such as clothing and meals. The next step is to talk about enjoyment. If there is no meal, how is it possible to appreciate any tea?
A Chinese wisdom (doggerel) says, "Firewood, Rice, Oil, Salt, Sauce, Vinegar and Tea" (柴米油鹽醬醋茶) which are all the necessities of standard living. First, one must have firewood to start the fire so as to cook the rice. Secondly, oil has it high priority for cooking food while salt, sauce and vinegar are just for making the food more tasty so that they are less important. Tea being the last necessity serves the practical purpose for clearing the fat after dinner. Therefore, tea is just an additional and optional item. Do you need to drink tea everyday?
So, why do people insist on good tea? What is the purpose of being a human being? What for?
For money? For Puerh? For Oolong tea? For reputation? For social status?
Being a human being is for happiness. If there is no happiness, there will be no happy life.
Is it worth sacrificing some more important issues just for drinking a cup of good tea?
Therefore, pursuing a good tea within your reasonable affordable target price is good enough. That is your own good tea. Then, what a reasonable affordable target price depends on people because different people have different income. Actually, if one enjoys the tea one has, one will be happy without regarding its price.
Whether you are happy or not really depends on how you feel. If you do not satisfy your life, even though you may have been drinking the Red Mark every day, you are still unhappy.
You will always be happy if you satisfy your life.
If you like the taste of a tea, that tea is your personal good tea, isn't it?
If you have an opportunity to taste a good tea, then try it. If you do not have a chance to taste one, then just drink what you have now. After finishing the existing tea, then buy some again. If it is out of stock, then buy other kinds. Sometimes, other kinds of tea also taste good.
It is the same as one's life. If you do not drive a Benz or BMW, it is also acceptable to have a Japanese car. If you cannot afford to have a car, taking public bus can also reach the destination. All roads lead to Rome. When you are searching for your life, you can also search for your own tea.
Cloud has already found his own good tea and car.
25 August 2003 (Wrote in Chinese)
6 January 2008 (Revised, Chinese Version)
27 January 2008 (Translated into English)
Cloud (Hong Kong)
[Cloud's Tea Collection - Internet Articles]
Cloud's Tea Collection - Private Tea Album