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Tea

Pu-erh Tea

My first introduction to aged Pu-erh Tea was at The Fat Duck restaurant in England a couple of years ago, when I finished my meal off with a nicely brewed chunk off of a 50-year old Pu-erh tea cake (the tea is usually packaged up in compressed cakes of aged tea leaves). It was heavenly.

Close-up of the inside of the pu-erh cake
Close-up of the inside of the pu-erh cake

I’ve since tried to find pu-erh tea cakes during my travels, but only found pu-erh in loose form, of questionable origin, and usually quite bitter and earthy. I will normally brew that stuff with chrysanthemum blossoms for a more pleasant blend – the blossoms sweeten the tea and overcome the earthiness of the low-grade pu-erh.

However on our recent trip to Hong Kong we found a couple of tea shops offering vintage pu-erh cakes, so I plunked down 800 Hong Kong dollars (just over US$100) for a cake I was told was 17 years old.

A cake of 1993 pu-erh tea (I hope)
A cake of 1993 pu-erh tea (I hope)
Back of the pu-erh tea cake
Back of the pu-erh tea cake

As I don’t read Chinese, I don’t know for sure if my pu-erh patty is from 1993, but the first bit of it I brewed was wonderful – it had a full, warm, rich flavor without a hint of must, and better yet, the tea is good for multiple brews (I did four on the small chunk I extracted from the cake), and each was as good as the second. I say that because the tea store owners I bought the pu-erh cake from suggested (mostly with sign language) that you quickly rinse the tea leaves with hot water and discard the water (the first brew), and then you can consume the subsequent brews.

Close up of the edge of the pu-erh tea cake I bought in Hong Kong
Close up of the edge of the pu-erh tea cake I bought in Hong Kong

If any of you read Chinese, I would love a translation of the front and the back of the pu-erh packaging shown above. I’m curious if I got a good deal or got taken as a Gweilo.

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Update – August 16, 2010: I have just added the photo below to this blog entry per Kay’s offer in the comments on this post to have her sister-in-law translate. I didn’t realize how much text was under the folded wrapper. It does say 2001, so perhaps that’s the year of manufacture? We’ll find out soon!

The small print on the back of the Pu-erh Tea Cake
The small print on the back of the Pu-erh Tea Cake

8 replies on “Pu-erh Tea”

According to my sister-in-law who is from Shenyang, China the tea is from Yun Nan (Province). The label states the name of the factory but (which is chinese name) there is no date that she can see that tells how old the tea is.

Cool! Yunnan is, according to the WikiPedia site, a prime source of Pu-erh, so at least that’s confirmed… Weird about the lack of a date, though.

She said the print on the right side of the back of the tea may have the date but you can’t see what is written. If you take a pic of it I can have her translate it.

Kay, I’ve updated the blog post with an image of the copious amounts of text that were tucked under the folds on the back of the wrapper. Thanks to you and your sister-in-law!

Here’s what Kay’s sister-in-law said the new addition translated to:

Name: Yi Wu ( a city in Yun Nan Province) Wild Seven Cake Tea
Weight: 400g
Product standard NO: GB /T144556-93
Hygiene permit NO: Si hygiene food certificate 2001. No. D0003
Ingredient: big leaf tea
Storage: keep in dry, clean, dark and odorless place.
Production date: unknown ( this is not good sign, because seller can make up a date )
production area: Yun Nan Province Si Mao City

That cake isn’t raw aged pu-erh. It is a cooked/ripe pu-erh. Essentially it is artificially aged through speedy fermentation to mimic age w/ having to wait. I love this type of tea since it is cheap and doesn’t need to be aged. Ready to drink in 2-3yrs once the “wou dui” taste is gone. Will lose flavor/aroma if kept past 10yrs. Sorry to say this but you definitely got taken for your money. Check out puerhshop.com (US), jas-etea.com (US), yunnansorcing.com (china). They all have reasonably priced tea from well known factories. Try Menghai Dayi for ripe, 2007 or before should be great to drink right now.

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