Starting Pu erh Tea Tasting Journey
Pu erh tea is comparatively a strange name to American tea drinkers. Most Americans are still preferred to drink bagged tea unlike in Europe, Pu erh tea has grown wide popularity, and this special tea are even addicted by many Europeans.
An amazing tea!
In the United States, Pu erh tea is normally heard only when eating in Chinese restaurants. Pu erh teas served in the restaurant are mostly inferior quality, and tea is being brewed again and again which is really weak and tasteless. And restaurant staffs do not even understand how to properly make good tasting tea. But people are still shockingly impressed by this roughly brewed tea. I cannot imagine how people going crazy when have a properly brewed good quality pu erh tea.
Knowing pu erh tea
Before we going straight to today's topic, some basic pu erh tea knowledge has to be explained. We previously posted information about varieties of pu erh teas and health benefits of pu erh teas. Today, we decide to do some brief introduction for how to get into pu erh tea.
Pu erh tea is mainly grown and produced in Yun Nan province where the altitude is located above 1000meters. You never understand how primeval this land is if you had never been here.
Some of counties in Yunnan grows good quality teas. They mainly produce raw(sheng) pu erh tea and ripe(shou) pu erh tea which are the two major types pu erh teas. Raw pu erh tea is made by primly selected quality leaves. Those fresh leaves not qualified for raw pu erh are finally used to make ripe pu erh. They taste totally different due to how these pu erh teas fermentation processed.
Ripe pu erh tea
Earthy, robust. This tea is being through man-made wet-heating pile-fermentation to fasten oxidation which is new process developed after 1970s for massive demanding from pu erh tea enthusiasts. Although this post-fermented tea can be consumed earlier than raw pu erh tea, still, the aging time will mellow and smooth out the tea.
Raw pu erh tea
If you like original eco tea, raw pu erh tea is best one to collect. Raw pu erh tea is a pu erh tea not being through pile-fermentation, but steam compressed and naturally aged. Raw pu erh tea has strong and irritating properties, new made tea and insufficient time aged tea taste bitter and sharp. New tea is relatively lighter in color, and it is very irritating, not recommended to drink when stomach is empty, especially to people who have stomach problems.
The natural aging of raw pu erh tea is quite slow. It takes years to convert its property, depending on the conditions of aging environment. The color of dry tea will turn from green to browner year after year. After years aging, tea will become more soothing and richer. Many pu erh tea lovers buy valuable new tea, properly store new tea at home and control tea aging by self, because good aged raw pu erh tea always costs more than improper aged tea. In another words, the price of good aged pu erh tea is higher than new tea.
- Ripe pu erh tea: after manually fastened fermentation, green odor would be eliminated, bitter and astringent taste would also be reduced, thus, ripe pu erh tea can be consumed not too long after it is produced. However, ripe pu erh tea completes more oxidation for enzyme and non-enzyme property of polyphenolic compounds in tea that will also taste smoother and more aromatic by its time aged.
- Raw pu erh tea: if you have tried a new tea sample and like it, and also you have knowledge on how to properly store and age tea, you may try to collect few pieces of your trusted new tea and age your own tea. Or you don’t want to spend time on this, you may directly buy raw pu erh tea whichever is older than 5 years aging.
Reference of pu erh tea in the shop
How to begin a pu erh tea
- First, we need to realize what type of pu erh tea we are going to buy, raw or ripe.
- Look for the form of tea. No matter raw or ripe pu erh tea includes loose leaf tea and shape formed pu erh tea such as tea cake, brick, mini blocks and soon on. loose leaf tea is oxidized more even than shape form, because it is exposed to air completely unlike tightly compressed shape tea.
- After we have idea what type of pu erh tea to buy, we need to choose what year of tea we are going to try. Although some people love very aged ripe pu erh tea, there are more people pursuing for 5 to 10 year-aged good raw pu erh tea.
- Now we have tea type and tea year in the mind, then we will seek for tea origin, where the tea comes from. This is a big lesson that we have to try one by one. Pu erh tea from every mountain in YunNan province will have different taste. Previously, we shared about the origins of some popular and expensive pu erh teas, but I personally recommend to start with tea from relatively little reputable mountain. In this case, you are not only pay much less, but also you have pretty much chance to have a good tea.
Not every expensive tea is right for you, sometimes less expensive and little fame tea isn’t bad though, nevertheless, not something extremely cheap. You don't have to go after those expensive genuine Lao Ban Zhang or Bing Dao which costs hundreds US dollars and up, per 357 gram tea cake. Because you have no idea what you are buying.
Mostly, ripe pu erh tea cakes are firmer compressed than raw pu erh cake. So after you receive a tea brick, you will need a prying tool to break pu erh tea. If you get a ripe tea, you will need to break it off a week before brew it. These type of tea need to be broken into small pieces and aired out evenly for a ultimate taste of pu erh tea. We don't have to be so serious about raw shaped pu erh, because it is compressed moderately in tightness. It can be easily picked off sometimes. But it does not apply to all of raw pu erh cake. Older aged raw pu erh cake is a kind of tight pressed, it depends on the manual skill by each farmer or manufacture. Anyway, the tighter pressed shape tea, the longer air-out time is necessary.
It is really overwhelmed when you have no clue how to find a pu erh tea. With this helpful routine, you will not be strayed again.