The quality of your pu-erh cake is not just the appearance of the outer leaves. In the case of this much-in-demand tea, quality, like beauty, goes deep! We showed you 5 Ways to Tell If Your Pu-erh Is Fake but a more insidious issue is coming increasingly to the attention of pu-erh lovers: cakes with inferior content (sometimes not even tea leaves) with an outer layer of high quality leaves.
The cake can contain all tea leaves, but they can be tea leaves harvested from outside of Yunnan Province in China, and they can have been processed differently before becoming part of the cake. Some oolong or regular green tea can be added in to a ripe or raw pu-erh leaf batch and pressed into cakes, with those high-quality leaves on the outside. Result: a gorgeous-looking cake that will not age well. It will taste good at first, but the real value of pu-erh is in its improvement after several years of proper storage.
Some cakes even contain twigs, sand, and other extraneous matter. These are especially bad and have to be broken up, sifted, and put into some kind of storage container such as a tea tin so you can get at least some use of them. Or you can just toss them away, making sure that your next purchase is from a reliable and trusted vendor.
The best quality cakes are those that are consistent on the front, back, and center. A fine sample is this 2009 Yunnan Sourcing “You Le Zhi Chun” Raw Pu-erh tea cake (357 grams) shown below. It is entirely first flush of spring 2009 mao cha from 100-200 year old trees on You Le Mountain in Xi Shuang Banna. Only 280 cakes were produced, and each is guaranteed to be of high quality. The sourcer for this tea states that it was picked and processed entirely by hand by the growers themselves in the village of Long Pa.
And there’s the key: the sourcer. This is someone who is more than just a buyer. He is someone who will often have a personal relationship with the people who grow, harvest, and process the tea leaves. He will also, in turn, work closely with tea vendors to supply them with the best teas. Everyone’s reputation is on the line, and with the growing concern over fake tea cakes, such attention to quality is a must.
|Gorgeous through and through!|