As a lover of pu-erh, I talk about this wonderful style of tea with friends and family. Sometimes I get the response, “But I’m afraid to give pu-erh a try. What if I don’t like it?” Considering the price of some pu-erhs, this fear is understandable. But that’s not the only issue. To assist you would be pu-erh drinkers, I have put together this “how to” for your assistance in overcoming that fear.
|2005 Nannuo Mountain Old Tree Raw Pu-erh – 200g cake|
Tricky to Purchase
Fake pu-erhs abound, so yes buying pu-erh can be tricky. Plus not all pu-erh processors store the teas properly after processing and before you buy. The solution is simple: buy from a vendor or dealer you know and trust. We source many of ours from processors we have confidence in.
Start with sample packs or pu-erhs sold in loose leaf form. Those little tuochas are another option. That way, you are spending only a relatively small amount plus you can try several different types of pu-erh and find out which ones you like. See our article Raw vs Ripened Pu-erh — What’s the Difference? and this article Pu-erh in a More Convenient Form to get you started on making a selection.
That “Earthy” Taste
Yes, many pu-erhs are known for having an earthy quality to their flavor, akin to the aroma in a forest that has a deep layer of leaves on the ground — a layer slowly turning into soil. But happily not all pu-erhs have this. You just need to know which is which.
Here are a couple to try:
- 2005 Nannuo Mountain Old Tree Raw Pu-erh — Extremely sought after by Pu-erh lovers due to a flavor that is very sweet (even for the new raw Pu-erh) with a rich honey aroma. A tip: Do not use any strainer/filter to filter this tea; as it is sufficiently clean. Also, use of a strainer will greatly influence the denseness of the tea liquid.
- 2007 Xiaguan “FT” #4 Premium Raw Pu-erh — The drinker will notice the pungent aroma that is characteristic of Xiaguan teas. The after-taste is sweet and there is a mouth-watering effect that happens quickly. Notice the aroma at the bottom of your drinking cup after each infusion. This is really an excellent tea. I personally highly recommend it.
Difficult to Prepare
This is so often claimed but couldn’t be further from the truth. The larger cake forms such as discs and bricks seem to be the most intimidating. You need to break off pieces, which is admittedly a bit more time consuming than opening up a box of teabags and taking one out. But the difference in amount of time is minimal and the flavor experience is far greater, so it’s worth that extra effort. If you choose to buy a whole disc or brick, just follow my simple steps to break it apart shown here on the blog: Pu-erh cake loosening technique.
As for the steeping, many pu-erh drinkers either use a simple and handy gaiwan, or a Yixing teapot, a regular teapot, or even a steeping mug. There are no rules here. You can use what you feel comfortable with to start and then explore alternatives once you get the hang of it.
Hazardous to Store
Actually, this one is pretty much true. But not in a “radioactive-you’re-gonna-look-like-the-Hulk-after-being-around-this” hazardous way. Your main enemy here is moisture. Keeping the humidity level around the tea at the right level is crucial to prevent mold growth. Some aficionados have found a pan of water naturally evaporating around the stacks of pu-erh cakes. Others use humidifiers and watch the reading carefully. You have to watch out for other things like airflow, heat, sunlight, and odors. The only solution here is knowledge. I find that knowledge removes fear. It can also make something that appears complicated now be seen as the simple thing it truly is. Like the simplicity of enjoying pu-erh tea.
I hope this makes you feel more confident in taking the plunge into trying pu-erh teas!