Tea 201 – Pu-erh Tea – Shu Pu-erh

shu pu erh Tea 201   Pu erh Tea   Shu Pu erh

Shu Pu-erh

Pu-erh tea: the wine of teas. I know by now that some of you know what Pu-erh is based on my article on Chinese Mythology: The Legend of Pu-erh. But those of you who had not read it, here’s a quick rehash as to the 101 on Pu-erh tea:

Pu-erh is characterized by the fact that it is packed into tight, hard cakes and allowed to go through an aging process of fermentation (very similar to wine) for a determined amount of time based on the taste and texture that the tea producer wants (also similar to wine!)

There are two main types of Pu-erh tea based on their characters. Today we are going to talk about Shu Pu-erh:

Shu Pu-erh is also known as “ripened” Pu-erh, created in the 1970s to accommodate the growing need for aged Pu-erh in China and Taiwan. In order to make Shu Pu-erh, you will find that there are a lot of similarities between Sheng Pu-erh and Shu Pu-erh until the initial drying.

Once picked, the leaves are withered then heat treated with a wok to stop oxidation. Then the leaves are left to dry in the sun. If the weather is not favorable, the tea is then heated in a large oven to try and replicate the process. This is not preferred because it can change the quality (and therefore taste of the tea). Then the leaves are arranged in piles and allowed to ferment in a way that is not so dissimilar to compost. Tea producers actually need to be careful with this step because if left to run amok, then the tea can actually decompose and lose any appeal. This process can take up to 60 days depending on the tea producer. Once finished the tea is steamed in order to be pliable again and shaped into the typical cake shape.

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Tea 201 – Pu-erh Tea – Sheng Pu-erh

sheng pu erh Tea 201   Pu erh Tea   Sheng Pu erh

Sheng Pu-erh

Pu-erh tea: the wine of teas.  I know by now that some of you know what Pu-erh is based on my article on Chinese Mythology: The Legend of Pu-erh.  But those of you who had not read it, here’s a quick rehash as to the 101 on Pu-erh tea:

Pu-erh is characterized by the fact that it is packed into tight, hard cakes and allowed to go through an aging process of fermentation (very similar to wine) for a determined amount of time based on the taste and texture that the tea producer wants (also similar to wine!)

There are two main types of Pu-erh tea based on their characters.  Today we are going to talk about Sheng Pu-erh:

Sheng Pu-erh is also known as raw and green Pu-erh tea (Chinese茶; pinyin: shēngchá or Chinese茶;  pinyin: qīngchá)

.  There are two types of Sheng that are solely based on whether or not they are completely post-fermented or not.  For this type of tea, the longer it is aged, the more complete the polyphenols saccharomyces and non-saccharomyces oxidations are.

In fact, there are those that liken Sheng Pu-erh to simple green tea (with a few notable differences)

Sheng is normally left in the sun to dry naturally.  However if the weather is not permitting then the tea producers will continue this process but through light heating.  This is not done lightly as it can affect the quality of the tea.  Afterwards the tea is pan fried in a wok to stop any natural oxidation from occurring.  Then the leaves are rolled and rubbed to be shaped, dried again and then finally placed into stone molds to give them that characteristic Pu-erh ‘shape.’

What do you all think? I would like to try this Pu-erh.  I know that it would have the similar ‘grassy’ flavor of a green tea…but the shapes must be fun, too.  Right?

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Tea 201 – Lies of Misstatements About Tea

tea lies Tea 201   Lies of Misstatements About Tea

Tea

While Americans still drink more coffee than tea, the popularity of our Camellia sinensis is rapidly growing.  Most of its popularity is because of the supposed magic properties of tea.  I say ‘supposed’ simply because there are a lot of myths being thrown out there about tea.  This article today will hopefully dispel some of those rumors.  As much as I love tea, I know it is simply a plant with many healthy properties.  But its amazing properties are still only quite limited.

There are a few good articles out there that give you the hard honest truth about tea, but there are some main points that need to be addressed:

Myth: Tea comes in many varieties.

Truth: False.  Tea comes from one plant and one plant only: Camellia sinensis.

Myth: Herbal Tea is tea.

Truth: False.  Unless there is Camellia sinensis in the tea, it is not technically tea.

Myth: Tea helps in fighting cancer.

Truth:  Studies have shown that it has helped tremendously for rats.  In the case of humans: there is not enough research to prove it one way or another.

Myth: Black tea has more caffeine than green tea.

Truth: False.  They are both the same.  The only difference is the way they are processed.

Myth: Tea will make you skinny.

Truth: Sorry, but false.  Some scientists believe that the caffeine can jump start your metabolism and ability to burn fat.  In fact, even if it did it’s so minimal that you can knock out all that the tea did for you buy eating an Oreo cookie!

There are even some misconceptions when it comes to loose leaf vs. tea bags:

Myth: Loose leaf is expensive.

Truth: You are technically getting higher quality.  However, it is usually the upfront cost of some loose leaves that appear expensive but once calculated only amount to about $0.10 a cup!

Myth: Loose leaf tea requires a lot of equipment.

Truth: False.  There are a lot of fancy items out there but if you have a teapot/cup with an infuser then that’s all you need.  In fact, here’s a link for a low cost beginners tea pot:

http://www.adagio.com/teaware/personaliTEA_teapot.html

Otherwise, there is no difference in making with loose leaf vs. tea bags. With a simple teapot/cup and an infuser there is no longer a question of one being more convenient then the other!

All right, there are many more misconceptions out there that may have to be written in another post.  However, I challenge you all now to go forth into the world and educate!

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Tea 201 – Chinese Black Teas

chinese black Tea 201   Chinese Black Teas

Chinese Black Tea

Black tea, known in China as red tea, is the most common product produced by our favorite Camellia sinensis plant.   It’s the most consume type of tea in the world; however, it is the least popular style in China.  The quality range is also greater than any other tea grown.  It is the Chinese black tea that is known for its highest quality compared to the other mechanically harvested and grown in places like India, Sri Lanka and Kenya.

There is a lot of debate among tea scholars as to when black tea was actually invented.  But everyone definitely agrees that tea appeared in the Chinese market by the 16th century.  Obviously for that to happen, the origin of tea production had to have gone back farther.

There are those who argue that black tea was created during the beginning of the Ming Dynasty around 1391.    Tea drinking in general had become accepted in Chinese society but was traded in the form of tightly compressed tea cakes.  These teas were considered worth their weight in gold.  At its peak, the tea trade was very well known for its wealth and corruption.

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, under the rule of Ming Hong Wu Lian decided to put a halt to the corruption by ordering the end of the production of the tea cakes.  With the production halted, the monasteries that produced tea were stuck with tea and nothing to do with it.   The Wu Yi Shan’s monasteries began attempting to try pan-friend loose leaf green tea.   They were never successful because they could not get the teas to stop oxidizing.  This is typical of black tea.   Thus green tea was created by the time the 16th century rolled around.

Fun history, no?  Are you a fan of black tea, dear readers?

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Tea 201 – Why Japanese Greens Are Unique

Matcha Powder Tea 201   Why Japanese Greens Are Unique

Japanese Matcha

Japanese Tea.  Usually this means green tea of some kind but why is it so special?  Honestly, it is because the Japanese have come up with several different ways to process their little Camellia sinensis plant.

Like typical green tea, it is the least oxidized of all of the teasJapanese green teas are also steamed so that they can maintain their bright green color.  Then they’re prepared several different ways.

Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan.  It is harvested in the early season.  It is created by grinding the tea leaves.  It represents about 80 percent of the tea produced in Japan.

Gyokuro is a high grade of green tea that is grown in the shade.  In fact, it is actually grown in the shade for at least twenty days.  There is actually a different type of green tea that is grown in the shade known as kabusecha.  This type of tea differs from Gyokuro only because it is shaded for approximately a week.

Matcha is the well known green tea powder.  The leaves are steamed, dried and then ground into powder.  This is the tea that mostly used in traditional Japanese Tea ceremonies.  Today matcha is also used to flavor and dye foods like mocha, soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of Wagashi (Japanese confectionery).

Hojicha is made by roasting the green tea leaves unlike most Japanese green teas that are steamed.  The tea leaves are fired at a high temperature which alters the leaf color from green to reddish brown.

Genmaicha is a blend of green tea leaves and popped rice.  It is also known as popcorn tea because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process.  This type of tea was normally drunk by poor Japanese farmers because the rice acted as a filler for and reduced the price of the tea.

Bancha is a tea made from the leaves picked in the late summer.  That’s about all the difference between Bancha and Sencha.

What about you, dear readers? Have you tried the different Japanese green teas?  If so, what do you think? Which ones are your favorites?

Posted in Article, Japanese Tea, Tea, Tea 101, Tea 201 | 2 Comments »