Chetillons bubbly breakdown last post by inderpal singh, Blake Leja and Jeremy Eubanks. Alex Ring came through with the nitty gritty that I was looking for with the Moncuit bit - nicely done!
This week: Pu'er tea
I was led through a tasting of these recently and they kind of blew my mind as to how many parallels there are with wine. Someone fill us in!
Who led you through the tasting, Chris? Never heard of it before now, but I'm intrigued after your comments and a YouTube video. I would love to try it.
Pu’er tea is a special type of aged and fermented tea. It is from the Yunnan province in southwest China. The name is protected by the Chinese government.
There are several different varieties of pu'er tea, but they fit into two common categories: Ripe pu'er tea and Raw pu'er tea. Ripe pu'er is tea that has gone through a man-made fermentation process, as opposed to being naturally aged.
In 2013, a bundle of 2083g of pu'er tea from the 1900s was auctioned off for 1.5 million US dollars.
Good quality pu-erh tea has a deep, rich flavor that many consider earthy or mushroomy. It pairs well with rich desserts and it is a great option for drinking during a heavy meal or as a digestif right after.
I saw all of the different shapes on the Youtube video. He mentioned most are pressed into discs due to traditional transport requirements, but is there any meaning to the different shapes like the mushrooms and doughnuts?
Would you mind sharing the link to the Youtube video?
www.youtube.com/watch ...just realized Wikipedia has a decent article that gives a good explanation of the shapes (at least enough to satisfy my questions).
Oh man. Studying tea is such a deep rabbit hole to start down... No turning back now.
Pu'er or Pu'erh is a type of fermented tea made from camelia sinensis assamica- a large leaf type of Chinese tea found in the Yunan province of China as well as in Assam, India (the largest tea region in the world.) This differs from the small leaf type of camelia sinensis known as camelia sinensis sinensis, used for all other major types of Chinese tea.
Pu'er is known in China as a black tea, while the black tea we commonly refer to in the western world is referred to as a red tea in China. Our black tea is commonly referred to as a "fermented tea", although it is really oxidized. True black tea, Pu'er, undergoes a true microbial fermentation, known as a solid state fermentation. This takes place through two different processes (ripe vs raw) as already mentioned. I would compare this in the wine world to the two types of aging for Madeira, one faster and lower quality and one much slower but producing a more expensive, higher quality product.
If you're already familiar with the different processes involved in different tea categories, from picking to rolling, drying, aging, etc, Pu'er starts life similarly to a green tea but importantly it is not fully dried in the "killing the green" or pinyin stage of pan roasting. At this point, a green tea would be further dried with hot air to fully deactivate all enzymes in the leaves, while the pu'er tea is sun dried. At these much lower temperatures, there is still some enzyme activity happening, and the tea is able to develop further.
At this stage, all pu'er, ripe or raw, is the same. Raw pu'er can now be sold loose, which some people prefer because it speeds up aging, or rolled or compressed into various shapes and sold compact, which can be more consistent but require much longer aging to reach full levels of maturity. You can consider these a vintage product, just like wine, and can brew tea from one batch over the years and watch as the flavor changes and develops. The best quality raw pu'er can change and improve for up to 30 years! Fresh raw pu'er taste a lot like green tea, and as it starts to age can be similar to a white tea after a year or two as some of the more harsh flavors "blow off" and slight oxidation occurs. A few more years and more oxidation leads to flavors similar to oolong. Even further and you're closest to a black tea. After decades, however, the flavor will continue to develop and gain in complexity, and while the color is similar to a black tea, the flavor has much more depth and complexity and nuance.
Ripe pu'er, also incorrectly referred to as "cooked" pu'er, is fermented in a process known as "wo dui" or "wet piling" in English, which is exactly how it sounds. Raw pu'er is transferred to special rooms where it is carefully arranged in piles, sprayed lightly, covered, uncovered, mixed, covered again, and constantly monitored over the course of 45 days to up to one year depending on the conditions and quality level. The tea will literally develop bacteria, fungus and yeast cultures and the leaves ferment until the desired stage is reached, when the tea is transferred to a dry room to dry out. This tea can then be sold loose or pressed, just like raw pu'er. These teas are intended to give the flavor of a well aged raw pu'er immediately, although many experts recommend aging for a year or two to let harsh flavors "air out." These teas can age, although not as well as a raw pu'er, and are thought to hit their peak in about 10 years.
I think you have all honed in on the greats about his tea...one of my favs and a perk for covering the floor at Hakkasan whilst I look for a new sommelier
I did at Miro tea in Ballard. The owner Jeannie is awesome and possesses a wealth of knowledge. Check it out next time you're in town!