A thought came to me the other day about how similar the stages of life are to the oxidation stages of tea. The following is not 100% scientifically or technically correct, but allow me some artistic license. We humans start out innocent, pure, unblemished, and beautiful, but seemingly somewhat flavorless and bland to all but those who truly love and want us. However, as we’re exposed to the outside world, “oxidation” begins. We develop more character as we enter the “green stage” of life, but also some sharpness may occur under certain “steeping” conditions, as we haven’t yet mellowed and matured. We must be handled more gently or we may become bitter without the experience and wisdom of years to soften life’s sometimes harsh events.
Oolong is mid-life. We’ve developed more depth and layers of maturity. More can be drawn from us as we deepen in experience and wisdom and are able to withstand more “steepings.” It may take several “steepings” to obtain all that a person has to give, to get to know the person better, and to allow the person time to open up to us fully. Oolong is such an interesting stage of life, so full of variety, choices, and decisions. There are stages within stages during the oolong part of life. This is the “midlife crisis” time, where we can stay a green oolong still wanting to be forever 20 (or 21!) or develop into a deeply oxidized Wuyi with richness, depth, and mystery.
At the “black tea” stage, we are truly “oxidized” by life – strong, bold, and rich, with great depth and flavor from the ups and downs, but difficult to make bitter. It takes oversteeping and intention to do that to a fully oxidized person. It may take more time to draw out this person’s store of experience, just as black tea is steeped longer than green. But the vigor to take multiple “steepings” as oolong does isn’t there anymore and patience can run thin if pushed too far and too much is expected from the “leaves.” Older people who have let life “oxidize” them into something beautiful are willing to mentor and “infuse” with life-lessons-learned those who take the time to draw them out.
Whatever stage of “oxidation” you are in, enjoy it. The stages pass quickly and today’s green is soon enough tomorrow’s pu-erh. Only the blessed few get to the pu-erh life stage of “doubly oxidized” and some of us have been more than privileged to know them! Like the best aged pu-erh, they are worth their weight in gold!