pondělí 30. dubna 2012

About telling teas apart and a new blog feature

I have added a new feature to my blog - the Tea map. All the teas I've tasted here are marked there. Why did I do so? I was thinking that I have been sorting my notes by year of production and by my opinion on them and that I should sort them by the locality of these teas too. This tea map gives us a reasonable way of navigating in tasted teas acording to their origin.

I started studying the map of Xishuangbanna when I realised I knew nothing at all about the places where the tea I like grows. True, geography was not too favourite subject of mine. I think that knowing where the tea does grow gives us a sort of understanding of its character. E.g., one is not surprised by Bulang and Nannuo having a nontrivial intersection in their taste spectrum, as they are quite close to each other. It is interesting to drink teas from near regions, looking at what they have in common (and where they differ). For example, without looking at the map, it would hardly occur to me that Youle and Yiwu were so near to each other as I thought these regions to be quite different. However, when I brewed some Youle tea along Yiwu, I could detect certain common features (not to be readily found anywhere else I believe).

I guess that when I learned about the places of origin of various teas, it further helped me to tell them apart. I have been asked by friends how does one learn to distinguish various regions. One usually says "drink enough tea and it will occur naturally". I think that it is true to an extent, but the process may be sped up. My first  two puerh years were definitely years of enjoynment, but hardly years of knowledge. I was drinking many samples, chosen mostly randomly or based on the producer's reputation. Although it gave me the idea that puerh is very diverse, I was confused. When I drank 50 teas from 25 quite distinct regions, it was difficult to point out the difference - because I did not have a grasp of what is typical of where. Were these teas wasted? Absolutely not, I did enjoy them in general. But it did not give me much from the point of taste memory/taste appreciation.

Human brain is plastic as...a plastic. It's fantastic. When one uses a sense unusually much, the relevant part of brain gets bigger. Also, tonotopy is formed - the more one does a thing, the clearer and more easily discernable is the representation in the tonotopic structure of the brain. Presenting 50 different new stimuli to the brain confuses it, it is difficult to form a representation based on that.

What really helped me, was to drink 25 teas from a single region. I started with Yiwu. From the 25 (roughly) samples, 20 had very much in common, the rest was CNNP and their likes, whose data were discarded as noisy. From that time on, I could tell what is "Yiwu taste" in a tea. Then I went on with Jingmai and Youle. Some reasonable representation of these regions has appeared in my brain, as the "Yiwu" synapses were, shallowly speaking, strenghtened by frequent use (sort of Hebbian learning). The brain got more confident.

What I mean to say is, that some organization is quite helpful when one drinks tea. When I wanted to understand puerh more, I started drinking chaotically and that did not help much.

Similarly, I find that taking notes about tea improves my memore of taste. From the time of chaotic drinking (where I made notes only seldom), I do not remember much. From the "time of orderly drinking", where I tend to take notes about teas of sufficient interest, I remember significantly more. It probably has something to do with having the locality tonotopy established too.

I feel that the tea map may bring further order to my knowledge of tea...hope it will prove itself to be useful!

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