What is Sticky Rice Pu Erh Tea (Nuo Mi Xiang Cha)
Pu erh tea is a type of fermented tea from Yunnan, China. One that’s particularly popular is the ‘sticky rice pu erh tea’ also known as ‘nuo mi xiang cha’. As the name already reveals this pu erh tea indeed has the flavour of sticky rice.
The Nuo Mi Xiang Herb (Semnostachya Menglaensis)
You may wonder: how come it smells like sticky rice? Is there any real sticky rice added to the tea? Nope, it’s because of one secret ingredient: a local herb from Yunnan called “Nuo Mi Xiang” or “Semnostachya Menglaensis”. Chinese name of this herb literally means “sticky rice fragrance”.
The Semnostachya Menglaensis has tiny leaves that look like mint leaves, with a sweet aroma that resembles sticky rice. People sometimes use it as a medicinal herb thanks to its detoxifying effect. Yet, the most popular application is to scent teas. Generally, pu erhs (ripe and raw) in a ‘tuocha’ shape often carry the sticky rice flavour.
What is Tuocha?
Tuocha is a kind of compressed tea originated from Yunnan, China. It is in the shape of a bowl or a dome, usually made of pu erh. Tuocha comes in different sizes. A mini tuocha (3-8g) can be steeped whole, while larger ones are pried into smaller chunks for steeping.
Mini tuocha is popular among office workers and travellers, as it’s easy to carry around. And because each piece is exactly the right among for a brewing session, you won’t need to carry around a tea knife. It’s also mostly the smaller touchas that often carry the sticky rice flavour.
There are 3 ingredients in a sticky rice flavoured tea: Pu-erh (can be both raw or ripe), leaves from the Nuo Mi Xiang herb (dried in shade), and time.
Like all members of pu-erh family, sticky rice scented tuocha is mainly made of the large-leaf variety of teas named “maocha” that grow in the mountains of Yunnan. The loose pu-erh is stored with dried Nuo Mi Xiang leaves for several months before being compressed into tuocha form. The ratio of Pu-erh and Nuo Xi Xiang in tuocha is roughly 10:1.
Fortunately, a sticky rice tuocha is included in our mini tuocha mix. It's 6 grams in weight, perfect for a potful.
The dry tuocha sends out a very noticeable and pleasant sticky rice aroma when you hold it close. You can also see some green/white leaves tangled with tea leaves. That's in fact the Nuo Mi Xiang herb.
Normally, we apply a 15 seconds steep in a gaiwan, but because it's a bit late in the afternoon, we don't want the caffeine to affect our sleep later tonight. So we're simply placing the tuocha on a filter and doing a very quick rinse:
The tuocha still releases its flavour surprisingly quick. The magical aroma that comes out instantly puts us in a Dai kitchen with freshly cooked Yunnan sticky rice. The liquor is beautifully orange coloured.
It’s rice-y, nutty, and a bit earthy. Even after multiple times of steeping, the sticky rice flavour is still distinct. All in all a pleasant brewing experience to finish of our hectic work week!