As anyone who buys pu-erh teas in the larger cake or brick sizes knows, they are hard. Quite. You also know that there’s no way that you want to steep the whole thing at once. So, you need a way to break off the right size for how much tea you actually want to steep and drink. Enter stage left: the pu-erh cake knife (sometimes called a prying pick or needle).
|Pu-erh tea cake or brick prying
pick / needle with stand
While you can certainly use other techniques, such as steaming as I had shown in a previous article on this blog, they may not always be appropriate or practical. Once you steam the entire cake, you are pretty much committed to steeping it in a relatively short time period. If you just break off pieces, you can rewrap the cake in its original paper wrapper and continue to store it. But breaking off pieces is a bit tough sometimes. And you might be tempted to rummage through your toolbox for a solution. That Craftsman chisel set might even make an appearance. It’s time to have a better option.
The tea knife/pick/needle comes in a variety of shapes and designs. They all have the same goal: to chip off just the right amount of dry leaves from that large cake or brick and thus saving your fingernails and sanity. Of course, you can use a letter opener, a pocket knife, even one of your dinner knives. But they each have their drawbacks, including blades that aren’t quite the right level of sharpness or dullness or a blade that is too short to cut off a really good-sized piece for when you have guests.
One thing to be careful of when using any tea cake knife is to keep the tea leaves as intact as possible. Too sharp a blade will cut them. Too dull a blade will tear them. Either way, you could end up with more of a bitter quality in the cup than you’re used to getting from that particular tea. Not the best experience when trying to enjoy that fine, aged pu-erh you’ve been dreaming about having for awhile.
Choose wisely, like this Pu-erh tea cake or brick prying pick / needle with stand that can be kept ready whenever you are, and use with care.