Sheng Puer Cake 200g 2016
This puer is unusual compared to other puers. The buds are fresh, silver, and fuzzy. They yield a rich, sweet, and complex brew, like a bunch of fresh-picked flowers, due in part to the high concentration of amino acids. The color is a bright, light apricot color and the aroma will accompany you through the last cup. Puer tea drinkers of all types will find something to like about this cake.
The original mother bush used to make this tea grows at an elevation of 1,700 meters (more than 5,500 feet) in Yang Ta village. The mature leaves are large — 13-17 centimeters long and 5-8 centimeters wide. The tree itself grows from 3 to 5 meters tall and is easy to cultivate by cuttings, which has contributed to its spread.
The tree is strong and robust even through harsh winters, and produces unusually fat and evenly sized buds with lots of white down early in the spring. Since the Qing Dynasty, these buds have been picked and given to the Emperor under the name Bai Long Xu Gong Cha, or “White Dragon Whiskers Tribute Tea.” Buds for this cake are picked before the Qing Ming Festival around April 25th, just like high quality green tea.
This puer cake is unusual compared to other puer teas. The buds are fresh, silver, and fuzzy. They yield a rich, sweet, and complex brew with an aroma like a bunch of fresh-picked flowers that is due in part to the high concentration of sweet-smelling amino acids in the tea buds. The color is a bright, light apricot color and the aroma will accompany you through the last cup. Puer tea drinkers of all types will find something to like about this cake.
To compress puer into cakes, the tea is weighed with a scale. The traditional weight was 357 grams, but now many factories use 400 grams. This year we requested the non-traditional size of 200 grams per cake. A piece of cotton fabric is placed inside a special 1 foot deep tin bucket that has holes on the bottom. The weighed and dried tea leaves are placed inside the fabric, enough to almost fill the bucket. The leaves are steamed for about 3-5 seconds at first, then a worker places a one inch square piece of paper that is stamped with the company’s logo on top of the cake, with a few leaves on top of it to adhere it to the cake. The next worker sits in front of the steamer, and after about 5 seconds they will remove the fabric and wet leaves from the bucket. The dry tea leaves are transformed from being very puffy to a condensed 3 inches thick. The next person will quickly tie the fabric, making a knot at the end. They compress the knot into the center of the cake under a compression machine. It takes the perfect amount of pressure to push the wet tea leaves tightly into about a 1 inch thick cake. If you look on the back of a puer cake, you will see the indentation from the fabric knot. Some producers still use the traditional way of compressing cakes. Two stone molds, that are curved to match the shape of puer cakes, are used to flatten the cakes. Someone will stand on top of the mold and evenly shake their body to mold the cake into its shape. Factories that use this method will have one worker whose job is to compress these cakes. They must be a specific weight as to not over compress the cakes. The best cakes will have every leaf stuck together. They are not too loose, but are still easy to remove chunks of tea from them. The minor amounts of space will allow air to move through and naturally ferment the cake over years. After a few hours, the wet cakes are removed from the fabric and placed on wooden shelves. The cakes slowly dry for a few hours at a temperature of about 40 degrees celsius. Once the tea is dry, the cakes are sent to the packaging room. A skilled tea worker will use cotton paper to quickly wrap the cakes. They will fold the squares of cotton paper so there are exactly sixteen wrinkles. Clean, dry bamboo shells wrap 7 cakes together at once. Bamboo string is used to tie the shells together to secure them for transportation. This is the traditional packing method that is still often used. The bamboo shell will cover the tea from rain, but will also allow the tea to breathe. Bamboo is a very neutral scent, and will separate other scents from reaching the tea.