- About Pu-erh Tea
- Cha Tou Preparation
Cha Tou is a real treat for anyone who enjoys a good shu puer. Cha tou occurs naturally during the post fermentation process. In the making of shu puerh tea leaves are heaped into a pile to facilitate fermentation where they are periodically turned and tossed either by hand or with a large fork. During this process some of the most tender leaf shoots which naturally contain a higher percentage of pectin stick together, forming these small nuggets. Because the nuggests are made up of the youngest, less bitter leaves, Cha Tou has a smoother, sweeter, softer taste. Our Cream of Puer is made from prime spring harvests for the best taste and health benefits.
The soft, sweet, earthy aroma of our Cream of Puer has hints of dried fruits, sugar cane and Chinese liquorice. It has a transparent, rosewood colored infusion and a softly sweet, smooth body that tastes of Chinese liquorice and American ginseng with notes of rolled oats. Carried by a silky soft texture it has a lingering sweet, quenching aftertaste.
Ingredients: Shu Puerh Tea
Origin: Yunnan Province, China
Pu-erh tea is made from the broad leaf variety (camellia sinensis var. assamica) of the tea plant camellia sinensis from the Southwest region of Yunnan China, believed to be the birthplace of tea. Over 2000 years ago, the people of the area began cultivating "tea gardens," open areas, mostly in the high mountains, where tea trees are grown, coexisting with the native plants and ecology. Today these tea gardens continue to be tended and harvested by the aborigines of this region. Not only are we privileged to be able to consume tea from these ancient tea trees, the traditional packaging and processing of the tea have remained essentially unchanged to this date, earning Pu-erh tea the reputation of being the "King of Teas" or the "Historical Tea."
While most teas, by and large, are best consumed soon after production to retain both their flavor and antioxidant value, Puerh can be aged and refined like wine. It undergoes a fermentation process where microbes act on the tea leaves over time, causing the leaves to darken and the flavor to change, becoming smoother. Depending on the conditions and environment of aging, the taste can transform through various stages of being fruity, nutty, grassy, herbal and earthy.
There are two types of tea we in the West commonly know as Puerh. Raw Puerh (Sheng tea) and Ripe Puerh (Shu tea). The difference is in the aging process. Raw Puerhs are typically fermented very slowly by being stored in cellars and aged for up to 25 years. These teas, typically priced well out of range of the average tea lover, usually reside in the collections of exceptionally wealthy Chinese tea aficionados – their presence on the international markets is incredibly rare. Raw Puerh vintages are characterized by warm tones of earth, damp moss and oak that shift and shape during the aging process.
Both types of Puerh Tea (Raw and Cooked) are made with Sai qing “sun-cured green tea,” which is processed by withering, roasting, rolling, kneading and drying the leaves in the sun.This is how Raw Puerh is made: After it is processed as Sai Qing, the tea leaves can either be left loose or compressed into shapes. At this point the tea may either be consumed in this “raw” green/semi-green form, or properly stored for aging, (which means the tea will be subject to further oxidation and to natural fermentation).This is how Cooked (or “ripened”) Puerh Tea is made: It is subjected to a transformation through natural fermentation. After the tea leaves have been processed as Sai qing, they are intentionally fermented in piles by adding purified water and mixing the tea leaves in a well-ventilated, climate and temperature controlled room. This process is similar to composting.Once the desired fermentation is complete, the tea is sorted, graded, and then processed as either loose pu-erh or it can be compressed into shapes (like tea bricks or tea cakes).
Cha Tou nuggets should be well blanched with boiling water to remove any post fermentation residue. This will ensure a cleaner taste profile and will help to open the leaves. If you're new to Cha Tou you might want to start with a low leaf to water ratio of about 2 grams per 6 ounces of water and steep for at least 5 minutes. The longer infusion time with fewer leaves will result in a smoother, sweeter body while the reverse will provide a more intense first impression. Once you're more familiar with it you will want to experiment with tea to water ratio and steeping time. A well-seasoned Yixing pot would be ideal, but not necessary--a gaiwan works beautifully as well. This tea is really fine enough to stand on its own.
In contrast to preparing other kinds of tea Puerh does not require a long infusion time. Rather, all Puerh tea is traditionally prepared in the gongfu style using an Yixing teapot or a gaiwan with a high leaf to water ratio and many short infusions. We recommend using between 5 and 8g per serving. The first infusion rinses and "wakes up" the tea and is then discarded. According to one school of thought subsequent infusions are brewed in sort of a "touch and go" style. As soon as the water is poured, the lid is replaced and the tea liquor is immediately poured into a chahai, or serving pitcher. We recommended accumulating the 1st and 2nd infusions in the pitcher in order to even out the flavor and taste. For each subsequent brewing, no more than 5 to 30 seconds is recommended. By brewing in this fashion you will get as many as 20 infusions. The other school of thought is slightly different with respect to the timing. This one starts with an infusion time of 30 seconds, increasing the time with each subsequent infusion. Using this method will provide 8 to 10 infusions. Fortunately, both methods produce a delicious tea, so you can easily play with it until you find your own preference.