Monday, July 30, 2012

Joys of a Dilettante

 I am not ashamed to be a mere dabbler of numerous delicious edible and imbibable delights.  Try as I might, I accept that the realm of true pu-erh connoisseurship may be outside my physical abilities and limited purse.  I'm only willing to put a hole in my stomach once a week so expanding my palate with young sheng becomes a real challenge.  I'd rather save up for more real estate than throw my hard-earned ducats on the best examples of aged sheng.  So where can I take this hobby?  Where does this rabbit hole end?

 I'll be drinking tea daily for the rest of my life as I have done at least for the past quarter of a century. And given how much pu-erh I've snuck in the house, it's very likely I'll be drinking pu-erh till the very bitter end.  That is an extremely comforting thought to have such a constant to look forward to.

I'm not necessarily looking to scale the Everest of taste discernment.  I want to know what the good stuff is but I don't have the need to drink it regularly.  But most importantly, I want to be able to enjoy pu-erh effortlessly without having to think so hard about it.   Obsessive analysis definitely hinders the moment of enjoyment, and since most of the teas I brew I'm sampling for the first time, my mind is uncontrollably whirling with comparative analysis. 

Cheeses, chocolates, salumi, wine, olive oil - I am entirely content to enjoy at a subjective level. Although each of these products boasts complex flavor profiles from terroir and different methods of processing that  could merit obsession,  I just take each encounter simply as an opportunity for pleasure. And perhaps in a few years time, my pu-erh pursuit will mellow out in the same way.

The above is my candy purchase for the week.  I normally special order dark chocolate bars by the case but since my order had not yet arrived,  I had to resort to a grab bag.  It took me less than 4 minutes to select these goodies since I know this grocery store's chocolate inventory by heart. Half of these I have been passing on for years due to my small-minded prejudices.  For one,  I've avoided bars with endangered animals for over a decade, but even I have to admit these eco-marketing bars have come a very long way in flavor.

Normally I get single origin bars 70-88% but I'm giving a reprieve to my daily recipients and going for some fun and easy stuff- classic blends of fruit and nut,  chili peppers, coffee, cacao nibs, as well as new exotic mixes of coconut and curry,  and even a salt and pepper chocolate bar.  That's what most people like- not the uber dark bars with subtle and complex flavors that you have to scrunch your face to enjoy- but stuff you pop in your mouth for instant gratification. 


  1. My dad has taken to eating 100% cacao bars after workouts. Eep! Too bitter!

    1. Nick-

      Those bars can give a serious buzz so I imagine eating one before a workout would make more sense. It's definitely a masculine kind of thing to do.


    2. I believe he eats them post-workout due to a paper he read in which rats fed chocolate extract after running showed signs of higher aerobic capacity due more efficient use of oxygen carrying by blood or something to that effect; caffeine in the chocolate may be part of it, but I think it has to do more with the intrinsic *whole* qualities of the chocolate rather than any specific compound, as is usually the case..
      Actually, there's a whole field of literature devoted to what you eat in the minutes or hours following high aerobic capacity and how this helps or hinders your body's efficiency and future aerobic capacity--it's not just before the workout, it's the total window surrounding that elevated stress/aerobic level.
      I am also an amateur chocolate connoisseur (much less than you, though) and also tend to find these sorts of medical associations interesting, as I studied biology and read a good number of papers on such stuff in the past, but going for 100% cacao just by virtue of a study, without regard to taste..that's an engineer for you.

  2. Hster, I would not be worried about not being able to enjoy young sheng too often. Focus upon the teas that you enjoy the most that agree with you. Too often there is a sense of sheng snobbery that often treats shu as being less than a real puerh in my experience so don't feel any less than true puerh connoisseurship as you put it. Also I found from experience that if one takes a few months off without having any young sheng that it is possible to get away with having sheng a 2-3 times a month especially during hot weather. Just be careful about not overdoing it, but when it gets to the point of starting to hurt you again it is time to take another few month break away from young sheng. Personally that is why I focus mainly upon shu as I like to be able to drink my teas as much as I want and as often as I want.

  3. Dear John,

    Even without sheng snobbery, I really really do want to drink young sheng because that's what got me into pu-erh and I miss the dynamic flavors. But most importantly I cannot grow my sheng collection or increase understanding of my palate without sheng tasting. But you are entirely right in all your points. I just cannot seem to grow on shu. (I try very hard...)


    1. Hster, Sorry to hear about it being young sheng puerh that got you into puerh and that being what you love the most. For me it was cheap shu puerh that got me into puerh. If it helps at all I've found that the 2009 Xiaguan Eco Wild tuocha is a very mild on the stomach yet the strongest Qi that I have ever encountered in a puerh. Maybe that is one that you might be able to handle more often like I am able to. If you would like I would be willing to send a sample of what I have as part of a trade.