Cup of Tea and a Blog

Welcome to my spot for musing about all things tea. Here you'll read reviews of quality teas, click through comments on tea rooms and shops I've visited, and see photos of leaves and cups. You’ll also find things I might talk about over a cup of tea, like philosophy, literature, current events, or fun ways to pass the time.

Location: Pacific Northwest, United States

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08 July 2005

Puerh & Margaritas

Tea Posur asked if I’d tried one of my found-in-the-cupboard puerhs yet, and that made me decide to brew some up before forgetting for the next 5 years. I'm typing this while sipping, so you’ll get the live play-by-play account. :)

(click image above for larger, more detailed photo)

This is really my first attempt on my own with a toucha, but I did try to follow the advice of fellow bloggers and teamailers. I attempted to gently peel and separate, but the toucha is pretty dry and the leaves fairly small, so mostly it crumbled away (into thin and rather delicate leaves, gold and brown with a hint of green).

FIRST ATTEMPT: I boiled the water, warmed the Yixing pot, added leaves, rinsed the leaves, then steeped for a few seconds. The tea that poured into the pitcher was lighter than expected, with a definite green tone to the tan (a khaki color).

First sip – ewwwww, yuck, bitter bitter bitter. But then, I often find a sharpness in the first brew and prefer the second (see below for a question about this). Resteeped again for a few seconds – not quite as bitter, and more palatable. The tea tastes like water with a wedge of lime in it, even with a sort of bitter peel flavor. Third steep produced not much flavor at all.

Is it bad puerh, puerh that needs more aging, or just my own mis-brewing? Probably the latter, so I’ll give it another try.

SECOND ATTEMPT: I brewed for only 2 or 3 seconds, out of concern that I had overbrewed last time. This did seem to make a difference. Either that, or as I pulled off more from the toucha, a different layer of leaf kicked in.

First steeping: Good -- I’ve erased that bitter flavor and it tastes much better now. There is still a definite flavor of fresh lime juice, perhaps even a lemongrass sensation, but now that is mediated by a muskiness that is quite pleasant. I suspect this hints at what the toucha can become in another 5 years.

Second brewing: darn, left it in the water for too long, and now it’s got that bitter lime peel flavor. Okay, so timing is indeed important.This is quite a finicky puerh, which I am going to attribute to its teenage years. :)

note the sediment left at the bottom of the pitcher

Question 1: is this amount of sediment normal?After pouring, the tea is initially quite cloudy, but it almost immediately settles down into a sediment at the bottom. I can tell that some of this is just the dust and broken leaves from crumbling. Does this mean I need to pull the leaves off more carefully?

OVERALL: At this point in time, the puerh is delicate and finicky. It tends toward a bitter, sour end, but there is a nice mustiness that promises of a deeper flavor in the future. I have a second toucha, which is tucked away for at least another 5 years. I'm not sure if I'll tuck this back in the cabinet or experiement further.

I do think it might be best paired with food. Saltiness would tame the sour a bit – like the salt on the rim of a margarita glass can control the musk of tequila and the sourness of lime juice. In fact, that was the one of the first similar flavors that came to mind for me, a margarita. I bet this would be good with some hot green chile salsa and tortilla chips!

This is the second time that I’ve thought about pairing puerh with hot and spicy food, in particular with chiles from New Mexico. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been missing the incredible chile rellenos and enchiladas of my grad student days. I’d like to think, though, that this could be an ultimate international fusion – who wouldn’t like sipping puerh while munching chips with super hot salsa, a perhaps pairing a nice musty 15-year-old puerh with posole and tortillas? Maybe I could start a new fad??? :)

(getting sidetracked. Back to tea . . . )

Question 2: Why don't I like the first steep of most puerhs? Even with the deep and musky and relatively easy loose leaf puerhs, I often reject the first steeping. I’m wondering if this is because of something incorrect in my brewing process, or if it is just a taste that rinses away. Are there any other puerh drinkers out there who have a similar reaction?

INCOMING! I am incredibly excited about some new puerh headed my way soon. Thanks to Stephane of Tea Masters blog, I’ll be soon be sipping some mighty fine teas. Sebastien of Jing Teas recently sent me samples also, and I’ll be posting notes and photos of those soon.

(July 9, edited to addlinks in the last two paragraphs)


Blogger Stephane said...

The residue is 'normal' for tea. But it also shows why it is so bitter. Broken leaves, and especially residue, unleash their bitterness. Careful flaking, the solution is.

Young puer also display more bitterness. That's why some only drink them old, when they're mellow. The 2001 raw wild Yi Wu Puer coming your way has already aged a bit, and I would drink it now, but wouldn't use too many leaves. Call me stingy, but I prefer to use few leaves for long steeps, then lots of leaves for short steeps! This way it is also easier to control steeping time.

But also try the 1990 Jiang Cheng wild puer sample I sent you. I don't think you'll dislike the first steep! Each steep is great!

9:04 AM  

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