I'm starting to find that all of my young sheng have many similarities in taste. This may be in part due to the fact that my tastebuds have been craving something completely different. I went out for sushi the other day and had a cup of Houji'cha and my eyes shot up immediately because it was a taste I hadn't experienced in so long. When I first started drinking pu-erh, I was amazed by the smoke, the camphor, the melon, the nutty, and all the other subtle flavours that are present in so many of the teas I have. After a while, it all started blending together and I wanted to try something else. Made it difficult to pull enough inspiration out of each cup to merit sharing my thoughts.
Initially, I had this notion that sheng was superior to shou. In many respects, I believe that to be true but only in the proper context. Even asking friends, they've all said they'd prefer aged raw tea. This made me wonder, if it's superior, then why the hell is there a market for shou? This was quickly dismissed when I thought further about those poor excuses for tea that come in cute little bags filled with nothing but dust and fannings. I just chalked it up to "people probably just don't know any better." I made my purchases and never bought shou. I just stuck to my young shengs and I was perfectly content until that moment when I realized that drinking only young pu-erh is like asking a six year child old to build a theremin and understand exactly how it works; then asking him to play Barrios' Las Abejas on it.
End result: A lot of dreaming with no real delivery.
Once this thought hit me, I again revisited my "why the hell is there even a market for shou" thought and this time I rode it out a little more. I've got a pretty healthy collection of pu-erh that I know will serve me well throughout the remaining years of my life. The idea behind shou is that it is supposed to get a tea closer to what it will taste like when it is mature by cooking it. This sounds great, but a big part of me still said "but isn't that why I'm aging my teas?" Absolutely, that's why I'm aging my teas, but I'm also starting to see the limitations of what young sheng can do for me. I had the pleasure of tasting a Xiaguan tea from the early 1980's and it blew me away. The soup was a colour unlike anything I had seen. The complexity of each cup, and a texture I had not experienced before. The way it danced with my taste buds. It reminded me that aging my collection will truly be a rewarding experience and give me some amazing teas to accompany whatever it is old-man Jamus will enjoy doing. But what about now? What am I supposed to do when I'm starting to taste so many similarities between all these young teas, topping it off with the fact that young sheng is harsh on your stomach: Easy, try something else for a while.
I bought a couple of cooked cakes recently; one of them being a 12 Gentlemen Chun Ya Shen Yun. I have had it around a month and a half now, but hadn't cracked it open until tonight. First thing I noticed was the aroma. Very different than the rest of the teas I've had lately. Very nutty, reminded me of a roasted oolong. Sweet aftertaste and much darker leaves. A crimson red soup. All new things. That roasted flavour carried through in each cup and it suddenly made itself new again. Definitely wasn't as good as a truly aged pu-erh like the 80's Xiaguan I had, but I now understand that there is a market for it for a very good reason. I really enjoyed it.
To this point, I must admit that I am ignorant when it comes to shou. This is one humble man's attempt at asking for help. Where do I begin? What do you like? I've got the notion to walk forward and discover this side of pu-erh; I just need to know which direction to face.