Speaking of tea, most people start with green tea. The taste of green tea, unlike Oolong or Puerh – which are strong or even bitter – is mild and pure, tending to be easily accepted by a greenhorn. There is a natural sequence when people study tea: first they learn green tea; followed by black tea; moving on to Oolong tea- which begins with Tieguanyin all the way to the Wuyi Rock tea; and finally, Puerh tea. I guess the sequence makes sense to have people start tasting tea which has a mild and simple flavor and gradually learn to appreciate tasting tea which has a strong and complicated flavor profile.
Actually, I did not take this logical route.
I started with the strong and bitter teas. For a long time, my favorite teas were Wuyi Rock tea and Puerh tea. Even Guanyin (tieguanyin) was too bland to me. I think it was because of the tea-drinking companions I had: when I started drinking tea, all the tea friends around me were drinking Rock tea or Puerh tea. Also, my character is suitable to drinking strong and bitter tea, at least according to the adage that there are two kinds of people who like Rock tea and Puerh tea: one is the experienced tea drinker; the other is man. Some men, even those who are new to drinking tea, prefer strong and bitter teas from their first tastings.
I think, in some way, you can glimpse another’s personality from his/her favorite tea. For example, if a man hates Rock tea, he might have some of the favorable characteristics of women, according to my observation. In my case: from the beginning sip, I loved Wuyi Rock tea and Puerh tea, and especially Rock Puerh tea ( Shengpu生普). When I reflect on my personality, I share some of the positive characteristics men have. These are my observations and reflections – not conclusions. My observations are limited by the difficulties when moving to English from Chinese. My guess is that the reaction from different cultures would be different.
In the past two years, I went back to drinking green tea and I found that green tea has its own charm. It is simple, it is pure, but has its own enchantment. I used to regard green tea’s taste as lacking variance and too bland. I’ve come to appreciate that simplicity and blandness have their own precious places in the tea spectrum.
I recall once making tea for my tea Master. I was making Shengpu which is brewed using wild tea leaves, and a frequent favorite of my tea Master. After tasting, my tea Master told me, “you made too strong!”
I tasted and replied, “I think the taste is just perfect for me.”
To which my Master said: “When you learn to drink thin tea, you start to know tea.” Now I am beginning to recognize the charming notes of thin green tea. Does it mean I have made progress in my tea study? Or, is what my tea Master referred to the philosophical metaphor of returning to the simplicity of nature?