Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Helping a tea friend brew Gushu puerh

Here's part of an email I received from R. last week:
"Your teas are remarkable. The Wild Baozhong from Spring 2019 tastes like it was from this spring. I do have a question for you please, and I so much appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me Stephane.
I find that drinking raw puerh which I love, does not love me! The flavor profile is just awesome, but the energy the tea has is just too much. I feel too weird (tea high? or just too much caffeine for me?) after I drink it. Sometimes just after my 3rd steep I feel this wave of nervous energy come over me and I have to take a break. Sometimes it lasts for 20-30 minutes and I really don't like it. Mostly its not relaxing.....its anxiety provoking, unlike I get with high mountain Oolongs, Dancongs, lightly roasted Oolongs and even black teas, it's only with raw puerh. Do you have any thoughts on this? I am brewing using a 70-80 ml teapot and using 5 grams of tea with very short steeps and 210 degree water."

Since I'm making Live video lessons on my blog's FaceBook page during the confinement, I made this Chaxi lesson about young Gushu puerh to show how I'm doing it:

A little later, I made a second video where I examine the open leaves. This video isn't available on YouTube. You can only find it on my above mentioned FaceBook page. And I sent him this recommendation: "According to my calculations, I'm using 5 times less Gushu puerh than you when I take into account the size of my silver teapot (2 gr for 150 ml)! This means you could try it with 1 gram!"

A few days later I received R's answer:
"A quick report as I am on my 8th steeping of the Gushu with 1 gram in my 70ml. The first 4 minute steep was a little strong actually and same for the second steep at just less than 2 minutes although the flavor wonderful. Next time I will reduce the times for both 1st and 2nd.

From steeps 3 thru 8 I have been doing approx 3 minutes adding a little each steep and they have been wonderful. Its been about an hour while listening to Mahler 1 and I am on top of the world.

The energy was good and relaxing. Then I started sweating, but its hot here in Florida and I dont run the air much during the day. The tea hit me pretty hard, it just creeped up out of nowhere!!! but I was fine. Just a rush of energy for about 5-10 minutes and then I chilled out. Almost a numbing sensation in my head, ears and face........tea is amazing!

Everything I have learned on Youtube/other tea sites has been the opposite of what you have taught me. Use lots of tea, 5 to 8 grams or essentially fill the gaiwan or Yixing with dry tea and do very fast steeps.

I must say , using this Gung Fu Cha method (lots of tea/fast steeps) the flavors are amazing, but the tea energy (caffeine kick) will destroy my day and the flavors can be a bit much.

Your way is much more peaceful, relaxing and subtle. You get all the nuances and layers of flavors. It might be a lighter and tamer experience......more refined. I relate it to drinking a 1-2 year old Burgundy to a 13 year old. Same wine, completely different experience. Both good, but I prefer the second.

Thank you sir!!" 

Actually, my understanding of gongfu cha isn't lots of leaves and short steeps, but finding the right parameters for each tea. This search for the right brew takes more skill than always using the same approach. That's why I still like to call it gongfu to use 1 gr of gushu in a small teapot. Each tea has a different character and the more we understand it, the better we can brew the leaves accordingly! In the case of my spring 2019 Lancang Gushu puerh, for instance, the loose leaves come from 300 years old puerh trees and are very powerful. They haven't been mixed with plantation leaves and their old leaves have been sorted out. That's why it's so pure, refined and full of energy! Less is more!

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