|White Flowering Tea and Pressed Pu Er Brief Color The flowering one is pale green with silvery shades, the pressed Pu Er – dark brown Style Both are for daily use, before or during meals. Flowering invigorates, Pu Er – purifies the body, reduces cholesterol, clears fat from the liver, suitable for delicate stomachs and nutritional diets, not to be consumed in the evening due to the high caffeine content. Typical for China, with increasing popularity worldwide Aromas and flavors Blooming – very subtle fruity aroma, delicate taste, without any grassy or algal notes. Pu Er – hazy potion, smoky aroma, strong and dense body with slight smokiness and strong earthiness, restrained tannins, noble finish. Production methods The bloomer – drying, wetting and hand-shrinking the balls. Pu Er – drying and pressing of cakes, long-term aging. Preparation Both types – 5 minutes infusion with 90-degree water. Blooming in a jug with a minimum volume of 500 ml, Pu Er is stirred during steeping. Consumption Blooming – in its pure form or as iced tea. Pu Er in its pure form or in cooking when preparing meat soups.
Tea is a journey, and as we know, with every journey there is also a return to the roots. In our previous TEAsting, we honored some of the most popular black representatives of Indian origin – Assam, Darjeeling and English Breakfast. Our new challenge together with the expert Adrian Kumbiliev is related to the homeland of this drink and non-specific forms. We should not forget: quality tea can attract us not only with its aroma and taste, but also with its shape.
- A combination between loose tea and machine pressed tea bars
“The Chinese are pioneers in this regard, for them drinking tea is, among other things, also a visual delight. This time we will test two radically different in shape and taste – white blooming and black pressed Pu Er”, Adrian welcomed me at the Tea House in Plovdiv , after which he immediately specifies that it is appropriate to start with the lighter one. I like to compare blooming teas to cigars, they are necessarily made by hand, stitched with thread, shrinking long-leaf white teas to achieve the effect of a blossoming flower. Different colors (jasmine, lotus) appear in the center for a decorative purpose, which contribute to the feeling of calmness and beauty, the delight is both for the eye and the palate,” says Adrian.
- Balls of White Flowering Chinese Tea
The technology of “flowering” is not at all complicated – the tea ball is placed in the jug and poured with 500 to 800 ml of hot water for the first infusion, and we can make up to three. The ball takes 5-10 minutes to turn into a flower. This type of tea is quite popular except in China and Turkey, but our southern neighbors bet on green, not black.
- A 7-year-old asks Pu Er and traditional wooden vessels for making pressed tea
Today, for the test, we will specially unpack a pressing of 7-year-old black Pu Er. Pressing is an ancient processing method and is only done in some small areas of China. As the tea ages, specific enzymes are formed in it, a noble fermentation takes place, this radically changes the taste and aroma. There are strict standards – pies of 50, 100, 200 grams, up to one kilogram are prepared. Our pita is 200 grams, coming directly from Yunnan province. According to my host, the production was assisted by a Chinese organization which decided to simulate its poorer tea regions. “It’s no secret that big concerns buy the produce at incredibly low prices, so this organization decided to resist the invasion and bet on micro-production, giving a shoulder to local farmers and cooperatives, encouraging them to produce the significantly more expensive pressed Pu Er .The organization helps them with both the more modern packaging and the distribution all over the world”, Adrian reveals to me the story of this successful project.
- Adrian Kumbiliev
Centuries ago in China, these pies served as a dowry in wedding ceremonies, so valuable and expensive was it that the girl was taken by the groom along with several tea pies. Even more exotic than the pies is the storage of Pu Er in bamboo leaves, outwardly the final product looks like several candies wrapped in a common leaf. “We have one of these at the Tea House that I remember from when I was a kid, so it’s at least 40 years old. If it’s been properly stored, something like this can be worth thousands of dollars,” Adrian amazes me.
- 40 year old Pu Er stored in bamboo leaves
Starting with the more elegant white, the drink bears the typical characteristics of this type of plant – a very subtle fruity aroma, a delicate taste, without any grassy or algal notes. The jasmine flowers, shaped like a wreath, are just for beauty. The benefits – this tea can be drunk all day because it is relatively low in caffeine. In the summer I would personally try it in an iced tea version, its delicate structure would certainly go well with some cocktails.
- Blooming white tea ball
- Ready brew white tea
And now it’s time for Adrian and I to replace the airiness of blooming tea with the density and strength of aged Pu Er. Here we are already talking about a tradition of two millennia, and the aging of this one-of-a-kind can last for several distillates. The price of aged samples is also fabulous these days, and in the past only the people of the imperial court had the chance to drink them. “Pu Er is quite popular outside of China as well, it is the magic ingredient of the currently fashionable slimming and fat removal drinks from the liver. Of course, it is not pressed, but a lower quality bulk,” confides Adrian. His knowledge of curious stories and details is endless, but back to the tasting.
- In the foreground – Pu Er, in the background – blooming white tea
Important clarification – the taste of pressed Pu Er is extremely dense and intense. The reason – the box in which the pies are stored allows a minimal amount of oxygen. Because the pita is as hard as stone, before use it is traditionally broken with a special metal awl, which we will replace with a knife. The more this tea is crushed, the thicker and heavier its aroma becomes. Since it has been touched by hand and has aged, it is good to give it a wash (first strainer) with hot water for a few seconds before consumption. This way we will be sure that we are drinking tea clean of impurities and dust. The first strainer is thrown away and we are ready to try this 7-year-old miracle. The infusion is 5 minutes, and it is good to stir to better dissolve the leaves in the water. The first impression is that the potion is slightly cloudy. This should not bother us, because it is typical of pressed Pu Er, in China it is often called red tea, because of the specific color of the infusion. And don’t reach for the colander! It is not strained before drinking, Adrian tells me.
- Pu Er ready infusion
Let’s see if the downtrodden Pu Er deserves the halo of fame. The slightly smoky nose is quite pleasant and unobtrusive, the subtle smokiness transitions smoothly into the taste, the aging enzymes have done their job. Density and earthiness conquer the entire palate. The finish is long and noble, without any sharpness, with very restrained tannins. I believe you would certainly allow it into your everyday life even if you are not on a diet. If you don’t want to consume it in the form of a drink, use it in the kitchen. Himalayans regularly use it as a base for their meat soups, the chance of getting fresh yak meat is not great, but you can experiment with beef. I wish you success in Pu Er tea cooking. In September, expect the pearls of Africa: rooibos and honeybush