I believe Aged sheng puerh is the most suitable type of tea for tea ceremony / meditation / self-cultivation, here are a few reasons why (and one why not):
1 Ancient trees
In Yunnan there are a lot of old trees (much more than anywhere else in the world), therefore puerh from old and ancient trees, while rare, it’s available.
We know both from Tea and from other plant medicines that older, wilder trees perform much better as medicine than young, cultivated counterparts (to say nothing of pesticides/fertilisers). I talk in depth about this in What is good quality Tea?
Ayahuasca is another example that has both wild old trees and cultivated versions and the differences are very similar to young/cultivated and old/semi-wild puerh trees. Cultivated Ayahuasca tastes much worse, makes people vomit much more, has less deep healing properties.
American and asian ginseng, same story: Wild and old roots performs in a way that the cultivated versions just can’t. Cordyceps, mushrooms, etc, you name it – if a wild and cultivated version of a herb exist, the wild is what people really want because it’s the “real thing”.
2 Deep still Qi
The Qi of aged Tea is much more conductive to deep stillness and peace than the Qi of most younger tea, which tends to be a bit too “jumpy”, a lot of bright energy but it’s harder to actually stay still and go very deep in your mind.
There is also some interaction with caffeine where younger Tea just seems to express much more restless energy than aged Teas do (this is true for all Tea, not just puerh).
3 “Pure” processing
When Puerh is processed either as shou or as black tea (dian hong), it loses quite a bit of its depth and magic. It’s very pleasurable to drink from day 1, but some of the “forest spirit” is lost in the processing that makes it like that. Look I don’t know why, but try it, it’s obvious… they’re nice, just a bit too one-dimensional, doesn’t keep you interested for that long.
4 Comfortable on the body
This is the key reason why both tea “masters” and common people only drank puerh aged for most of history (except the last 30 years or so): Aged puerh is much more comfortable on the body (and pleasant in the mouth) than fresh sheng puerh.
Many people still believe that sheng puerh can’t be comfortable on the body/mouth because they’ve never experienced medium or high quality properly aged (15+ years for natural storage, 20+ years for dry storage) puerh. Sad!
It’s really not that hard to brew puerh: so long as you don’t make it too bitter that you have to stop, a basic “shamanic/meditation tea experience” can be had quite easily even if you’re figuring it out on your own.
Most other Teas like Oolong or Japanese teas would require much more skill to get a basic practice going, and is quite hard to learn without a teacher. By the way: I believe oolong and harder-to-brew tea are probably better suited than puerh to a more “martial art” style of tea ceremony, but I think this is really best practiced with a Teacher, at least for the first year or so.
Alternatively to a Teacher, if your mind is already still enough that you can really get into the depths of Oolong (or other more “fine”/gongfu teas), that can be an extremely satisfying experience too, one much more “human”, aesthetic, refined (while Puerh is very much shamanic plant medicine).
I had this level of concentration available at periods in my life where I lived “meditation retreat” lifestyles (very little contact with the outside world, a lot of meditation, no responsibilities at all). But I can’t reliably be so still currently, so brewing oolong feels a bit like an uphill battle at the moment: so much harder to enjoy and really get into it than when I drink puerh.
I do love how puerh taste, and by taste I mean the whole mouth experience: thickness of the liquid, depth of aftertaste in throat and cup, balance between bitterness, astringency and sweetness, huigan, etc…
But to me, taste is maybe 10% of why I drink Tea, it’s a very shallow level of experience. The real depths of communion with the Tea happen deep in the body and the mind.
So taste is not a strong reason to drink Puerh. There’s a lot of liquid out there (whether tea or not) that tastes better than a lot of puerh.
Once I realised how deep the puerh experience can go, I very quickly lost interest in other more “fancy” flavoured teas, tisanes and drinks.