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Old 01-23-2013, 05:20 PM   #1
Whipper Snapper
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Default My thoughts on puerh tea, and why cigar guys might like it.

You might think that the only way tea and cigars are alike, is in the fact that they are both made out of leaves. This is not entirely the case.

Before I married my beautiful wife, I knew full well that she was not fond of tobacco use. This didn't keep me from marrying her of course, and so out of respect for her, I don't smoke as much. That's a different conversation for a different day.

Because I knew I'd be smoking less, I knew I'd need to find some kind of replacement. My research somehow brought me to puerh tea. For those who don't know what it is, puerh tea comes (mostly) from the yunnan province in china. Its leaves are picked from mountain bushes, and tea trees. The leaves are almost always picked, dried, and then compressed into various shapes. (Bricks, discs, bowls, etc.).

The unique thing about puerh tea is, much like cigars, the tea changes with age. Puerh tea undergoes a natural oxidation and fermentation process. The leaves get darker, and the flavor profile transforms. A 2 year old tea is going to taste different from a 5 year old tea. A 5 year old tea is going to taste different than a 10 year old tea. I think you probably get the idea. The older teas are almost always more valuable and desirable.

The regions in which the tea is picked also has a huge effect on the taste of the tea. Some puerh teas are blends from different moutains, while some teas are blends from a single mountain. So, puerh tea also shares this in common with cigars.

Puerh tea does not have nicotine (for those who enjoy a little buzz with a smoke), but it does have caffeine, and another substance that makes one feel awake yet calm. Indeed, some high quality teas can even make one feel high. I have experienced this firsthand. It is kind of like having a little bit of a booze, caffeine, and narcotic buzz at the same time, but it does not impair your judgment or ability to function.

Lastly, there are all kinds of factories with their own variety of blends. So, as you can see, this is a world that has a ton of similarities to the cigar world.

It's also worth noting that there are two kinds of puerh teas produced.
Sheng, and shu (or raw/ripe).

Sheng/raw is more or less a green tea that ages/darkens in color over time.
Shu/Ripe is a puerh tea that undergoes a rapid fermentation at the factory to emulate what an 15+ year old naturally aged sheng puerh tastes like. Many people think that shu puerh benefits with age as well.

Both have their place in the drinking world, but most collectors prize sheng over shu puerh. Plus, many people prefer the way young sheng puerh tastes. Me? Well, I like it all. I've not tried a tea older than 98 yet. They start to get really pricey at that point. But, I'm hoping to age some stuff myself in the long run.

If you have any questions, let me know. Puerh isn't a terribly expensive hobby to get into. But it can be if you want it to be.
"I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God." -Charles Spurgeon.
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