I am drinking a really excellent 1996 Sheng Puer that was part of a ton of samples that arrived to me today from Ginko of Life in Teacup.  I started it about two and a half hours ago, and have been drinking it in a leisurely, contemplative manner, whilst doing some thinking, writing, and browsing, and it is still going strong. Puer really is the most variable and the most meaningless distinction of all tea categories.  I have drank plenty of Puer that is utterly unremarkable, or even, as MarshalN has written, “drain cleaners,” but when you drink a good one, it can be eye opening, and affect your whole being in a deep, restorative, energetic way that is not really possible with any other type of tea, with the possible exception of some old Single Bush Oolongs or old Wuyi Bushes.  I think the key term is “old”; but old isn’t enough.   Just because something is old doesn’t make it good.  Conversely, just because something is fresh, doesn’t make it good.  Ecology, and subsequently, individual life forms, individual trees, are complex.  Trees, like human beings, have an opportunity to interact with their ecosystems in deeper ways the longer they’re around.  If the development of an organism that we view in terms of drinking pleasure/benefit can follow a certain pathway, based on its individual genetic heritage, terroir, and various external forces that are unique, will never be exactly repeated, and have a certain element of randomness to them, then there are a huge number of potential pathways which will create all sorts of resulting brews.  For the purpose of human consumption, we can categorize these trees/leaves.  I remember reading once, that when taking stock of wild tea trees in Yunnan, one authority stated that most were simply undrinkable, some are just ok, and just a small number end up being really good.  So kind of like anything.

There’s a tremendous sense of energy in this tea.  I’ve noticed lots of tea people in the English speaking world like to talk about the qi and energy of tea.  It’s unclear to me what percentage of these people experience these types of energy in their body at other moments of their lives.  Personally, I am not sure one should talk about the energy of any product, plant or otherwise, unless one has a reference frame for internally generating it on some level, as a basis of comparison.  As for myself, I have been meditating, and practicing both yoga and martial arts for a number of years.  In the grand scheme of things, I am still a beginner in these matters, although compared to most people (i.e. the “average” person), I have enough skill in them that I feel comfortable instructing others up to a certain level.

In the case of Puer, when I drink a good one, usually one that has been aged at least 10 years, there is the possibility that, in addition to the sense of mental clarity, perception, and well being that I get when I drink any good tea, it will give me a certain warmth in my belly, a peculiar and fascinating feeling, accompanied by a rather happy and powerful sensation.  I have only experienced such sensations in a small number of other activities, and rarely, but felt them through these activities before I ever experienced them through tea.

One way, the easiest way, probably, is through acupuncture.  Since the purpose of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to cure illness by moving “blocked” energy through the body, it is unsurprising that I have felt this effect of swirling warmth almost every time I have received acupuncture, both in my stomach, and in other areas of my body.  Occasionally, I have also felt these sensations when practicing yoga, when meditating, and when doing gong fu, tai ji, or aikido.  Usually it is more likely to happen if I have not eaten too much beforehand, it seems, which sort of makes sense to me.  Is this sense of centering-energy-warmth more likely to be induced when I am focused, calm, and aware?  I can’t prove that, but I have a sense that it is.  When our body is in alignment and things are working optimally or close enough to optimally, it tends to feel “right.”  If the body feels right, then the mind should, and vice versa.  Of course, I don’t believe that mind and body are separate things; I am a materialist, after all, and based on our understanding of human anatomy, without our body (or at least some sufficient amount of one), there is no mind, at least as far as I can tell.

To those adults who would say to complaining children, “it’s all in your mind,” my retort is, “but isn’t everything?”

The reassuring part of that is that our mind contains both our problems and our solutions.  To quote that great Buddha, Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

I am glad my mind allows me to enjoy such delicious and powerful tea throughout my entire being.  And, in this way, a tea tree that was somehow planted several hundred years ago, thousands of miles away from where I currently am, is affecting me now, in this current moment.  Ain’t causality amazing?

Now three hours since I poured my first infusion, and I am on something like my 15th infusion.  And I’m using a fairly large gaiwan.

Lately Cher and I have been watching Twin Peaks, and the surreal, hypperreal mystery of the series is occupying many of my background thoughts, in both the conscious and subconscious lands.  David Lynch and potent teas are odd bedfellows, but quite natural, for me.  I wonder if I’ll have more strange dreams tonight..