First you heat the water
In keeping with the theme of discovery, I carefully measured out three grams of tea broken off the brick in order to have a reference point to match the amount of tea leaves to the amount of water (12 ounces or 350 ml) I intended to use.
Apparently there is some disagreement about whether to take tea from the center or to cut the whole thing into a top half and a bottom half first. That’s a question for another day. In any event as you can see from the photo, my tea brick has been mutilated beyond the point where the question is relevant.
Three grams of tea in a palm gives some idea of how much (or how little) tea that is. It turned out to be perfect for the twelve ounce vacuum flask (thermos) with an infuser. After heating the water, I let it cool to 175 degrees fahrenheit (79 C) and then inserted the infuser. I steeped the tea for three minutes.
The look of the clay tea sets is fantastic but this quest is about finding simple ways of taking the taste and ritual of tea with you. Can one have a simple tea ceremony in an airline seat?
Then you make the tea
I followed up in the Tea Drinkers Facebook group and learned some more about pu-erh from the owner of the Tea in the Ancient World Blog and a little more from a reprint of William Ukers’ 1935 book, All About Tea. Even with 500 plus pages there was only a page or so about pu-erh tea. But between the Tea Drinkers and William Ukers, light was shed on pu-erh.
What I have is in fact a cake, not a brick. The tea is named after the trading city in Yunnan Province where this tea was historically marketed from, and that it can either be Shēng chá (raw) or Shú chá (ripe).
Check out the video to get a good intro to all things pu-erh. This may be a product of a hypothetical Yunnan Pu Erh Tea Trade Promotion Group, (It just has that vibe to it) but much of it is actually worth watching. I embedded part 1 here to start from the beginning but you can skip right to part 2 ~13:00 to learn about what makes pu-erh tea, pu-erh tea. The first video is mostly an extended “First!” with respect to whether or not this tea started in China or India. It’s important to the growers and traders so I respect that, but it’s difficult to get worked up about the controversy. Feel free to give you thoughts in the comments.
Next you drink the tea properly
You’ll just have to take my word on this one. Trust me, it was proper.
That is all you need to know
Ok, we have a pu-erh tea cake that most likely originated from Yunnan Province, China. The remaining clues were the purchase location, Fujian and the label on the package. I think we can forget about Fujian for now since the tea was produced in Yunnan province. Checking out the label may lead us back to Fujian but we’ll leave that for now. Have you ever seen this label before? Leave a comment below if it looks familiar to suggests anything to you about the origin.
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