Friday, July 17, 2009

Ripe old Puerh Magic

When the weather is hot and the sun shines with all its strength, it's often time for a green tea or a light mountain Oolong. Teaparker had another idea: a brew of 7638, the 33 years old ripe brick from Kunming Factory (3) using leaves recipe number 8 (not necessarily the grade of the leaves). (Note: they inverted the number for factory and leaves in 1976 for this brick.)

Amazingly, it works! The tea is so soft, pure and mellow, that it managed to cool us by its calm. It has the smell of ripe puerh, but the taste is so soft, almost non-existant that we didn't rinse it. I contrast this to most recent ripe puerhs that I've tested recently. Their first 2 or 3 brews are best thrown away, because so unpleasant in the mouth and throat. But with this old brick, it's perfect with the first sip. We did notice some white oily shine on some dry leaves, which means that this brick is still evolving. Time has made it better, but I don't think that time alone is responsible for the perfection of this ripe puerh. First, in 1976, the leaves used were still mostly wild or old arbor. Second, the ripening process was done well. This isn't always the case with ripe puerh, though...

Teaparker told us so pretty scary stories on how some make ripe puerh:

- Dig a hole in the ground, fill it with puerh leaves, cover with a plastic blanket, wait 4 weeks approximately. Et voilà! It's magic! (This method brings a very 'earthy' taste to ripe puerh!)

- Put the puerh leaves in an exposed cabin with thin walls in the countryside (like where a farmer keeps his tools). Sun and humidity from the fields next and under the cabin will do the rest! (This method also involves pesticides to keep insects away from the leaves!)

The right way to ripen puerh is in a clean building, with concrete floor. Ideally, the leaves would be put on bamboo mats. Then, only pure local mineral water would be used to water them, and the ripening process would last around 7 weeks with regular checks.

Now it's time to see if ripe puerh is also a good choice at my sunny tea spot! I grab my oldest cooked puerh, the 1990 '9016' Fuhai Tuo Cha.

I choose a Chaozhou teapot and 3 small old porcelain cups. The porous teapot will help soften the tea and the thin cups aim to catch its finesse. The natural colors of the background echo to the ripe puerh, while the refinement on the Cha Bu suggest that even ripe puerh can become a wonderful tea.

After rinsing the tea once, I proceed with my tasting. Of course, it can't measure up to the 7638 brick, but it remains one of the nicest ripe puerhs I could find. Sweet and calm. It's a different way to cool down (than young green tea), but it works!


Karen said...

Interesting that you should have been inspired to do this because despite its being summer, I've been jonesing for puerh over the last week, too. A friend shared a cake with me (I need to have some Chinese colleagues take a look at the paper so that I can identify it) and it really hit the spot over the last few days. In fact, I bought a (supposedly old) yaobian pot because I had a hunch it might be good for cooked puerh and it seems to be a nice fit--retains the aroma but rounds out the flavor compared to my gaiwan.

Jennifer said...

This sounds wonderful! I know so little about tea...I look forward to learning :)

organic tea lover said...

Wow, I had no idea of the work that goes into pu erh tea. I will appreciate it so much more now!