<![CDATA[Chinese Tea Guide - 'Pu erh tea' Tag Feed]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea.html Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:34:28 +0000 Zend_Feed http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss <![CDATA[Dry Throat & Mouthfeel (Locked Throat) After Drinking Pu Erh Tea? Here's The Explanation]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/dry-throat-dry-mouth-pu-erh-tea.html As a tea lover you may have experience excessive dryness in the throat or mouth after drinking tea. It may feel like your throat is tightening, and sometimes even itchy, or painfull. In China we called this a ‘locked throat’ or 'suo hou' (锁喉). In the West, it’s often just described as a dry mouthfeel or dry throat.

Especially those drinking pu erh tea, may have had such an experience. Even though, dryness is a common experience, the cause of this still a mystery to most tea lovers. In this guide, we will take a look at the potential causes of this phenomena.

Also read: pu erh tea taste explained.

Improper blending

One important factor causing dryness in the throat is the raw materials which are part of a pu erh blend. The majority of the pu erh teas are the result of blending tea from different regions of Yunnan. Through this, the tea master attempts to create a balanced and complex end product. However, when the blending doesn’t ‘fit’ or when one of the raw materials used is particularly low in quality, it can case the end product to fail, with a dry taste as a result.

However, a dry taste may not always be a problem of low quality tea. Some raw materials, especially small leaves from small bushes, may have an intense bitterness. When a pu erh is solely made from such raw material, it can cause the end product to be very dry in taste. One needs to carefully tweak the brewing parameters to get a good steep out of such tea.

A skillful pu erh blender will know that such leaves should never be made solely into an end product. When they're blended intelligently with larger leaves, the end result can be good to excellent. Generally larger leaves will over time allow a tea cake to obtain a smoother texture, while the smaller leaves add complexity to the taste. Basically you combine the advantages of small and large leaves into a perfect end product.

Bad blending won’t appear often, especially not at large tea factories, such as Dayi tea. They've a lot of experience in standardizing blends, which are perfected through decennia. On the other hand, small factories, which have cost and time constraints, may do less research and blend in a reckless way. In such situation, improper blending can result in teas with a dry mouthfeel.

Oct 18, 2016 8:56:45 PM

The battle between single-origin and blends

In the world of tea, there's a battle going on between single origin and blended pu erh. Smaller factories tend to compete on better raw material from a single origin, while larger factories are still convinced that standardized blends are the way to go. As a consequence, productions from small factories are more volatile in quality, while large factories offer a stable and predictable product.

Improper processing, using high temperature

To save time, some factories deliberately use high indoor temperatures to dry fresh pressed cakes; or roast tea with too much heat. The latter process is known as 'sha qing'.

To give you a basic idea of pu erh tea processing, raw leaves are picked and withered until it has lost a certain amount of water content. The withering is then stopped by roasting the leaves in a pan. This process is known as 'sha qing'. It's especially at the shaqing stage at which overly high temperatures are used, which can possibly burn the leaves and allow it to lose too much water content. Rushing the production process in such a way can cause the chemical composition of the leaves to get out of tune. This subsequently negatively affects the fermentation process, if the raw pu erh is pile fermented (wo dui) into ripe pu erh.

When too high temperatures are used during the roasting and steaming process, the end result may be a dry taste. This may not only be the case in raw pu erh, but even in post fermented pu erh. See below a video of how leaves are steamed before they're pressed:

Improper processing, drying finished tea under the sun

When maocha (processed loose leaf) is steamed and pressed into cakes. They are still a bit wet and need to be dried indoor on wooden shelves. For efficiency purposes some factories will quickly let the cakes dry in direct sunlight.

Whether the final product is a cake, tuocha or brick. In no circumstances should the cake be dried in sunlight. The reason is simple, the resulting cake will be still wet inside and dry on the outside. Such an unequal distribution of water content will result in mildew. The taste of the tea will also not develop in a good direction, possibly causing dryness in the mouth and throat.

Improper storage

Good pu erh tea requires good raw materials, good processing and good storage! Storage is the most important factor to secure optimal aging of pu erh.

Storage becomes problematic when high temperatures are combined with high humidity or bad ventilation. In such conditions, when the tea isn’t sealed and the packaging wrapper is in direct contact with the air. The locked throat phenomenon can happen easily.

Read this article if you want to learn more about how to store pu erh tea.

Not awakening tea

One other reason that can cause dryness is when the tea is not properly awakened. Especially very old pu erh, sometimes requires time and air to awaken. Luckily this can easily be fixed. Carefully pry the pu erh into small pieces and spread it out for 30 minutes to let it get in contact with the surrounding air.

Rinsing tea is also part of the awakening process. So besides waiting for dry tea to awaken, we also highly recommend to perform one or two quick rinses to let the leaves further unfurl.

When this doesn’t fix the problem, we recommend to break up the tea and store it into an Yixing jar. These clay jars are breathable and lets the tea slowly awaken. See below a demonstration video:

Improper Brewing, Too High Pouring Speed

One other factor contributing to dryness in pu erh could be due to improper preparation. To avoid dryness, try not to pour hot water from too much distance to the teapot. This will cause the water to flow too fast creating a fast current in the tea brewing vessel. Instead, get closer to teapot and control the pouring speed. This principle also applies when pouring tea from teapot to pitcher, and from pitcher into the cup. As weird as this may sound, consciously controlling the pouring speed, will soften the texture of the tea.

While lowering the pouring speed can help reduce dryness, it won’t be able to fix an overly dry tea.

Also, we do not intend to argue that high pouring speed isn’t good at all times. While it’s not good for aged pu erh, high pouring speed can be good for fresh and highly fragrant teas such as oolong or jasmine tea.

Drinking tea too hot

At last, dryness can also be caused by drinking tea quickly after it's poured. The tea is too hot the texture is more dry, and can damage the throat. On the other hand, cooled down tea will have a smoother texture. So it's good to pour tea and let it rest a bit. To allow tea to cool down faster, we recommend to get smaller Chinese tea cups. Especially ones with a flat profile allow the tea to cool down in just a matter of seconds.

If you're new to brewing pu erh, have a look at our pu erh tea brewing guide discussing all the ins and out of brewing a good cup of tea.

dry throat pu erh tea pouring speed.

Personal Condition

Sometimes, it's not the tea, but personal conditions that cause you to have a dry mouthfeel after drinking pu erh. Especially if you've a sore throat, it's very sensitive to bitter flavors. Therefore, drinking raw pu erh can easily lock your throat. In such circumstances, switching to a smooth ripe pu erh will be a much better choice.

At last, if you're very thirsty and you already have a dry throat, drinking raw pu erh tea directly may only make it worse. It's recommended to moist your throat with warm plain water first.

Concluding Notes

In practice, the majority of the causes of dryness is related to improper processing and poor storage. Poor blending may lead in a bad taste, but not easily causes dryness. Improper awakening and brewing are causes that can easily be fixed, and we hope that the tips above will improve your tea experience; and help you in choosing the right pu erh teas to invest in yourself.

If the above info doesn't help you fix the taste of your pu erh tea. Also read this article for more tips on improving the taste of pu erh.

Dry mouth after drinking aged white tea

At last, dryness in the mouth can also be caused by aged white teas. Aged whites have a lot in common with pu erh tea, as the raw leaves are also sun-dried. In addition, the same processes of steaming and compression into cakes apply to white tea cakes. The same principles and causes described in this article will also to some extend apply to white tea.

We highly appreciate it if you could give us feedback on this article in the below comment section. Also, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask as well!

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Tue, 23 Apr 2019 02:45:24 +0000
<![CDATA[Pu Erh Tea: Wet-Storage Versus Dry-Storage]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/pu-erh-tea-wet-storage-versus-dry-storage.html Pu erh originates from Yunnan province (in China) with a characteristic dry climate. Therefore, traditionally pu erh teas have been stored in a dry environment. As pu erh gained massive popularity in the Guangdong in the past, a lot of locals started to invest and store pu erh tea. Soon it became clear that storing pu erh in a more humid climate of Guangdong resulted in a completely different flavours and aromas over time.

As there's a lot of trading of pu erh cakes going on among tea lovers, it's obvious that the buyer wants to know whether it's a 'wet- or dry-storage' cake. This is how these terms became part of the basic pu erh vocabulary.

Pu erh tea taste: Wet- versus Dry Storage

Generally speaking pu erh tea stored in a more humid environment will age faster. This is due to a higher amount of microbial activity as a result of humidity. In wet storage, the color of the raw pu erh leaves will turn darker faster and sometimes obtain a slightly brownish color similar to a ripe pu erh. As humidity knocks out the astringency, the tea liquor becomes thicker, smoother and sweeter. However, there's a risk: if the cake is stored in wet environments with bad ventilation, there's a risk mold starting to appear and the cakes will become inconsumable.

On the other hand, dry storage cakes of the same age, the tea liquor will be somewhat thinner and more astringent. The taste is more complex and you'll notice stronger aroma.

One should note that the fact that a cake is stored in a location with a humid climate, doesn't necessarily mean that the tea is wet-stored. For instance, in China many tea shops are in large malls with 24/7 air conditioning. Thus, though the outside climate is wet, the indoor climate is very dry.

Wet or Dry Storage: What's Better?

As you can read above the different ways of storage can affect the aging of tea. There's therefore no right or wrong storage method. It really depends on the flavour you prefer. You can almost regard it as two separate categories.

Generally speaking, we recommend dry storage, especially if you've the patience. The other benefit is that there's virtually no risk for molds to appear. While the starting tea drinker may enjoy wet-storage more at first, the more seasoned tea enthusiast will eventually love dry-storaged cakes for the complex flavor and aromas. When you decide to invest in cakes for long-term storage, dry-storaged cakes generally have more potential to appreciate in price over time. In contrast, if you want wet-storage, we recommend you to purchase for immediate consumption.

The Difference Between Ripe Pu Erh and Wet-Storage Raw Pu Erh

Due to the scarcity of properly aged raw pu erh, a new method called 'wet piling' was developed in the 70s. This method can be seen as an extreme version of wet storage. Raw pu erh tea leaves (mao cha) were piled up, dampened with water and covered with a linen cloth in a room with high, but controlled humidity and temperature. This resulted in extreme fast aging, creating a new category of tea known as ripe (shou/shu) pu erh tea. A ripe pu erh should therefore not be confused with a wet-storaged raw pu erh, though they can be seen as great alternatives.

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Tue, 11 Dec 2018 11:24:42 +0000
<![CDATA[Pu Erh Tea Taste Explained!]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/pu-erh-tea-taste.html Pu erh tea tastes like dirt! That's what you'll hear some people say when they first try pu erh taste. Those who had a bad experience trying this post-fermented tea the first time, might believe you need an acquired taste for it. As a matter of fact, Pu erh has a wide spectrum of flavours, and you sometimes just need to find out what matches your taste.

Pu erh is unique in the world of tea. There is no other tea like it in terms of processing, storage, and taste. Different factors such as origins of the raw materials, soil, altitude, time, storage conditions affect the taste of pu erh and make it such a fascinating type of tea.

What are the main flavours of pu erh? What are the factors that affect the taste of pu erh? Being aware of all this will make you enjoy pu erh at a deeper level and make you a more knowledgeable pu erh buyer. Let’s go through some of the main aspects and find out!

Main Flavours of Pu erh

Generally speaking, Pu erh can be sweet, bitter, floral, mellow, woody, astringent, sour, earthy, watery, or even tasteless. A combination of tastes appear in one single steeping. Bear in mind that the taste also changes as the tea ages. So, don’t throw away your pu erh if you didn’t like it the first time.

Raw and Ripe

Raw Pu erh (sheng cha) and ripe Pu erh (shu cha) are the two main categories of pu erh. Sheng cha is generally bitterer, with a strong green vegetal flavour. But after some years of natural aging, the bitterness would disappear and the charming aged aroma would arise. Because of that, sheng cha is popular among pu erh collectors.

Shu cha appeared after the pile (wo dui) fermentation process was developed in 1973. This process accelerates the fermentation process and also gives newly-produced shu cha a special ripe flavour called “wo dui wei” (pile fermentation taste). During storage, the smell and taste of the aging shu cha changes all the time. With time, shu cha will gradually get rid of the “wo dui wei” and become mellow and smooth.

If the wo dui wei stays, you can consider airing and awakening your pu erh in a yixing jar.

Tea Mountains

Pu erh of different tea mountains has different taste. Banzhang, Yiwu, Jingmai, Bingdao, Bulang, Bangdong… Famous tea mountains like these all produce Pu erh with their own distinct characteristics in taste. Banzhang tea has the most aggressive flavour; Yiwu tea is peaceful with high aroma; Jingmai tea is moderate and soft; Bingdao tea tastes crisp and sweet; Bulang tea tastes heavy; Bangdong tea has a sweet aftertaste that last very long.

Besides these 6 famous tea mountains, new contenders have appeared in the recent period. See below a map with all mountains shown:

Wild Arbor Tea and Garden Tea

Wild arbor tea are grown in the nature and tastes calm, sweet and soft. Although the aroma isn’t as strong as the garden tea, but it’s broader and deeper. The taste of wild tea is more comprehensive and smooth.

Garden tea tastes thinner and more stimulating compare to wild tea. It has a strong sweet aftertaste and a high aroma, but don't last as long as the wild arbor tea. Garden tea is classified in different grades.

The distinction between garden tea, arbor tea, and arbor tea from famous tea mounts can greatly affect the price of pu erh.

Aged Taste

Aged pu erh has a distinct taste (chen wei), also called aged aroma (chen xiang). No matter the tea is raw or ripe, after 3-5 years of appropriate storage, chen wei would be there. That’s the result of the activities of micro-organisms in the tea leaves. The older the tea gets, the stronger the chen wei is - because the gradual process of micro-organic growth. The aged taste is considered a part of the charm of pu erh as the tea will become more mellow and smooth.

It's however a common misperception that older must be better. Individual pu erh drinkers might have preferences for young, mildly aged or aged pu erh. Those who drink young pu erhs prefer the strong characteristics of fresh bitterness and astringency.

Taste Affected by Storage Conditions

In order to let the pu erh age well, in other words, to let the micro-mechanisms in tea leaves to work well, there are 3 aspects of concern: air circulation, temperature, and humidity. If any of the aspects went wrong, the tea will age badly. For example, if the storage environment was too humid, the tea would taste musty; if the air circulation was bad and if there were other smells in the room, the tea would absorb those smells too. These types of tastes/smells of the tea are called the storage taste – cang wei. Under different storage conditions, same tea can taste very different.

Sometimes pu erh tea can taste like fish which could mean that it was stored in unsanitary conditions.

Mellow and Smooth

After appropriate storage and aging of the tea, the taste of pu erh should be mellow and smooth. The liquor feels soft and silky in the mouth and the throat. Young pu erh might be smooth, but it’s rarely mellow. Experienced pu erh drinker would describe this taste of aged pu erh as “rice soup sensation”.

The Sweet Aftertaste "Hui Gan"

In Chinese, there is a term for the sweet aftertaste of tea "hui gan". If you are a tea drinker, it should be a familiar experience. Pu erh is made of the large-leaf variety from Yunnan Province which has a strong bitterness, but once the bitter sensation is gone, the sweet aftertaste appears in the mouth. Unlike other types of tea, the hui gan of pu erh is generally quite long-lasting. You can feel it down the throat rather than just on the tongue, people called it “hou yun”, means the “throat charm” of pu erh.

Hou yun and hui gan are considered important factors for good aging ability of tea cakes.

Bitterness

Normally, tea leaves from Lincang tea region have a heavy bitterness and those from Yiwu and Menghai are lighter (except for Banzhang and Bulang area). There are also variations in the bitterness. For example, Pu erh from Yiwu, Banzhang and Mengku is bitter but not sharp, and there is a balance between bitterness and astringency. Note that the bitterness is also related to the amount of tea, water temperature and the steeping time of the infusion.

Many pu erh collectors prefer to collect cakes that have a strong bitter taste, believing those cakes will age better over time. Based on our experience, cakes with good aftertaste (hui gan) and a thickness of flavour generally do better over time.

Dryness

Some pu erhs may cause dryness in the mouth. However, this shouldn't be excessive. If the dryness is unpleasant and even tightening your throat, we call this 'locked throat' in Chinese. Read this article for more info about the causes of dry mouth feel and throat feel.

Smoky Taste

Fresh leaves were supposed to be dried in the sun, but during the cloudy days, they had to be dried with firewood, which caused the smoky taste. Another reason is that firewood was used during the process of stir fixation.

Whether the smoky taste is good or not is totally subjective. Some people think the smoky taste is unpleasant; others think it actually smells good and call it the “old tobacco flavour”. There were times when such tea was actually really popular. Nowadays they're more a taste of the past.

Pu Erh Tea Preparation

Now that we've discussed the different aspects of how pu erh tea can taste, it's important to also prepare it carefully to draw out all these flavours. Watch the video below to see how pu erh is made gongfu style:



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Fri, 12 Apr 2019 19:57:47 +0000
<![CDATA[How to Make Pu erh Tea Taste Better]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/how-to-make-pu-erh-tea-taste-better.html Ok, so you’ve had an awful pu erh tea experience. The question is: “Now what?” You can throw your tea in the garbage can, or try to ‘fix’ it with this guide!

Often times, when people taste an unpleasant pu erh, they blame the quality of the raw material or poor storage. Then they give up on the tea. Yet, even seemingly bad pu erh can turn into a treasure if you deal with it the right way. Now let’s start fixing your tea.

Weird Smell

Pu erh tea can smell weird when you’re dealing with one that either very old (more than 10 years) or when it’s not properly stored (too humid, too hot). There are two things you can do to solve this:

  • If the tea is compressed, pry it into smaller chunks and store it in an tea caddy made from Yixing clay. These jars are excellent, because it protects the tea from humidity, light and temperature fluctuations, while it lets the tea ‘air’. This is a very effective method to remove the bad smell.
  • Once the tea is aired, perform two quick rinses before you steep the tea. Simply at hot water into your tea vessel and discard it in 10 seconds. Two rinses should be enough to remove the ‘bad’ layer of taste and make the tea ready for a good and tasty steep.

Below a video on how you can let tea air in a caddy:

Pu erh Tea Tastes Like Dirt

Most people who drink pu erh the first time, find it too strong. “This pu erh tea tastes like dirt!” is something you often hear from first time drinkers.

It’s important to note that there are two types of pu erh: raw & ripe. Especially with the latter type, people often complain the taste is too strong.

There’s a few things you can do:

  • Rinse once or twice before you start your first real brew. This can remove the storage flavor of ripe pu erh.
  • Reduce the brewing temperature to 90ºC: While ripe needs to be brewed at high temperatures, you can somewhat reduce the temperature to make the tea softer in taste.
  • Shorten the steeping time: Western brewing methods often use steeping times that last multiple minutes. This is fine with most Chinese teas. However, with ripe pu erh, you’ll easily get a very unpleasant, dark brew. To taste the finer notes of ripe pu erh, you should shorten the steeping time to 1 minute in a large teapot or 10-20 seconds in smaller vessels such as a gaiwan. The steeping time can then be slowly increased for subsequent brews.
  • As a last resort you could flavor your ripe pu erh with flowers or herbs. More on this in the last paragraph.
  • If the above advice still doesn’t work for you, then switch to raw pu erh teas. Raw pu erhs are less savory and intense, instead they tend to be more green, flowery and fresh, which might suit you better.

Pu erh Tea Tastes like Fish

While ripe pu erh can taste like dirt, a raw pu erh can sometimes taste fishy. There are a few ways to explain. Some raw pu erh has a vegetal seaweed taste. Some people will describe this as ‘fishy’. If this is the case, there’s nothing wrong with the tea, and you probably don’t like it. What’s also possible is that it has been badly stored. The solutions suggested above for ripe pu erh can also work for raw: prying in chunks and let it air, rinsing and playing around with temperature and steeping time.

Here's a full article on fishy tastes in tea.

You may also don’t like the bitter taste of raw pu erh. In that case, read the next paragraph.

Too Bitter

With ripe pu erh, the bitterness is often smoothened out due to intensive post-fermentation in a warm and humid room. Raw pu erh haven’t undergone this process. Instead they’re stored for slow natural fermentation process that can take many years. Therefore raw pu erhs can taste bitter and here’s what you can do:

  • Store it away: often times, raw pu erhs just aren’t ready for consumption. This is the case when the tea is still very young. Store it away and let it slowly ripen. Over time, the bitterness will be reduced and the tea will become darker and sweeter. Start drinking the tea from when it’s aged for at least 3 years. Then revisit every year to see how it continues to age and transform.
  • With raw pu erh you can play even more with the temperature and steeping time than ripe pu erh. You may try temperatures between 80 to 100ºC to see what works for you. Adjust the steeping time accordingly. If steeping at full temperature results in a too bitter brew, you can try 90ºC and 80ºC. Especially at the lower range, you’ll find that it tastes like a completely different tea. It’s gonna be much softer, and it will be easier to recognize the delicate flowery and fruity notes.
  • Switch to ripe pu erh if the above doesn’t work for you. Ripe pu erhs are very smooth and thick in flavor and have hardly any bitterness. Even when they’re still very young.

Last Resort: Blend Pu Erh with Flowers & Herbs

Ok, so you’ve tried everything above, and you still can’t get accustomed to the taste. Then there’s a last resort: flavor your tea!

With flavoring it’s not like you’re gonna randomly blend it with whatever there’s in the kitchen cabinet. We’ve to find highly compatible ingredients while we still ‘keep it real’. We want the tea to be still very recognizable pu erh, but fix the parts of the flavor that you don’t like.

Don’t feel bad about it. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s oftentimes done in China. In fact, it’s an effective way to start learning to drink pu erh. Overtime, you’ll be better able to accept the base flavors and taste the unique notes of each tea. That’s when you should switch back to pure play.

  • Chrysanthemum flowers: by far the most used ingredients to blend with pu erh are chrysanthemum flowers. These flowers make a ripe pu erh taste more soothing and refreshing!
  • Fruits: dried fruits like goji and jujube are also really recommended to brew with both ripe and raw pu erh. Goji is great to give it some extra sweetness. If you like savory sour notes, dried jujube is great.
  • Nuo Mi Xiang herb: this herb has a sticky rice flavors that wonderfully smoothens out and add extra flavor to the taste of both ripe and raw pu erh. This herb isn’t readily available to buy, but you could look into pre-blended nuo mi xiang pu erh.

Below a video about blending pu erh with chrysanthemum:

If you're curious to learn more about pu erh, we recommend you to read this article: Pu erh tea taste explained.

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Fri, 02 Aug 2019 07:23:59 +0000
<![CDATA[How To Store Pu Erh Tea Properly?]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/how-to-store-pu-erh-tea.html In the past, we've published an article before about how to store loose leaf tea in general. However, not all principles of tea storage apply to pu erh tea.

Yet, this is one of the most popular tea types and it's unique due to its great 'aging potential'. With the latter we mean that its taste and aroma can develop over time as a result of gradual fermentation while it's stored away.

However, pu erh tea only ages well in appropriate environments. conditions like temperature and humidity are important factors. Pu erh should also be stored away from strong odours.

All these factors are crucial to the quality of the tea. Luckily, once you're aware of them, they aren't hard to maintain. Below a detailed guide on how to store pu erh properly.

Temperature

When it comes to fermentation speed, temperature is perhaps the most important factor. Too high temperature will accelerate the fermentation too much and make the tea go sour, while at very low temperatures there will be no fermentation at all. The good thing about pu erh is that it actually likes temperatures similar to humans.

In the best-case scenario, the temperature of the storage is based on the local environment with no deliberately man-made interference, and is maintained at 20-30 degrees Celsius all year round. If that's not the case, air-conditioner/heater should be used to regulate the temperature.

In practice, such a perfect scenario isn't realistic. However, here are a few practical tips:

  • If you're living in a hot country, you could perhaps store the pu erh in a room where the air conditioner is often turned on.
  • In contrast, if you live in a cold country, then store the pu erh in a room where heating is used. In the latter situation, make sure the tea isn't stored to close to the radiators itself. This is because the actual temperature can be much higher than the overall room temperature. In addition, temperature fluctuations are much more volatile near the heating. Microbial communities on the leaves of pu erh that are responsible for the fermentation of pu erh, and they prefer stable environments.

Humidity

A suitable humidity for pu erh storage should be between 50-75%. Humidity levels should always be considered together with the temperature. For instance, for temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius, humidity levels around 50% should be more suitable, while for temperatures close to 20 degrees Celsius you want the humidity level to be up to 75%.

Outdoor humidity can be quite volatile locally and across regions. For example, in the rainy season, the humidity in east China will be higher than 75% because of the warm ocean climate. In South China, the air relative humidity will be as high as 95%.

In highly humid weather, it's not recommended to open the windows for too long, because the humidity will get higher with an open window. Why? Because indoor humidity generally tends to be lower than indoor humidity. You might want to consider the following tips:

  • When there's high humidity, the pu erh storage space should be enclosed with some moisture absorbent inside, such as quicklime and charcoal.
  • If the dampness is serious, you should use a dehumidifier.
  • Avoid storing pu erh tea on the floor. Some people put their pu erh in a carton on the floor. The problem is that floors are often more humid. When the room temperature drops, humidity in the air will turn into condensation on the floor. Therefore, even if you don't store the pu erh tea in a closet, it's better if you can find a way to store the pu erh more evaluated.

In contrast, in the dry seasons, especially the winter, the weather is often too dry. Here's what can help:

  • Consider increasing the moisture in the storage area by using a humidifier. Do not position the humidifier too close to the pu erh tea.
  • Another option is to put a 1 or 2 glasses of water near where the pu erh is stored to increase the local humidity.
  • At last, you can also temporarily store your pu erh in sealed plastic bags before the weather gets too dry. It is an easy and effective way, if the quantity of the tea is small.

Odours

Pu erh tea storage should be odour-free. A separate storage environment is ideal to ensure no odour intrusion. In reality, it's hard to decide a full room to just storing pu erh. However, make sure pu erh isn't stored too close to:

  • kitchens
  • bathrooms
  • any other area with significant odours from soap, detergents to herbs and dried fruits.

Air Circulation

While many loose leaf teas are better of sealed in airtight containers, this isn't the case for pu erh. The microbes that allow tea to ferment need fresh air to breath. By simply opening the windows once a day, fresh air will come in while any potential bad odours move away.

Packaging

When opening a pu erh, it's always important to remember to preserve the original packaging. Carton boxes and bamboo & paper wrappers are all designed to regulate humidity and protect the tea. If you don't have the original packaging anymore, you can alternatively look for wooden boxes, kraft paper bags or cotton wrappers.

Store Together, but Separate Shou & Sheng

It's a good idea to store pu erh as much as possible together. By doing this the aromas of each piece of pu erh will intensify one another. However, make sure to store shou en sheng pu erhs separated from each other since they've very different aroma characteristics.

Shelf Life

Given that you've purchased well processed, good quality pu erh, and given that it's stored with care, pu erh tea should last many years and develop excellent aromas. In fact, there are still vintage pu erhs available on the market from many decades ago that tea enthusiasts would die for.

Keep in mind that some pu erhs might have a strong 'storage flavour' when stored away for very long or improperly. In such a case, you can store it in a Yixing tea caddy to let it air.

Conclusion

Pu erh that ages under correct storage conditions shows its fine characters: the slow but steady fermentation retains the aroma of the tea itself and gives a nice gloss to the tea leaves. The bitterness and the astringency will gradually fade away. The taste of the tea becomes more harmonious. It’s not just the longevity of the tea that counts, but also the vitality!

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Wed, 10 Apr 2019 10:00:46 +0000
<![CDATA[Pu Erh Tea Blend Versus Single Origin]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/pu-erh-tea-blend-versus-single-origin.html When buying pu erh tea, some people care whether the tea is a blend of leaves or single origin tea. There's a lot of negative perception on the word 'blend' amongst tea lovers. The common belief is that low quality leaves are blended, while good tea is pure. However, blends aren't necessary bad. Big brands like Xiaguan and Dayi both offer pu erh that are mostly blended. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of pu erh blends versus pure pu erh.

Pu Erh Tea Blend Versus Single Origin

Pure and single origin defined

There are lots of buzz words in the pu erh industry such as the name of famous mountains. The word 'pure' is also one of these buzz words. Though it sounds beautiful there's also a lot of misunderstanding created by this term. Should the tea leaves be from the same region? or even the same tree? Should it be picked around the same time? And does it matter if the leaves are in different grades? There's simply no official definition of pure tea and it all depends on how far you want to go.

In theory, pure tea could also be poor quality. Leaves from a low quality tea garden are all from one place are 'pure', but it won't produce good tea.

Blending pu erh is all about the art of mixing different types of loose leaves to get a more balanced end result. Blending, when done well, can also give the resulting tea a more layered flavour.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pure Pu Erh Tea

Advantages:

  1. Obvious and highly recognisable character. There's a higher chance you'll either like it a lot or hate it, which is a lot of fun for tea connoisseurs who're looking for an adventure.
  2. Shape and size of the leaves are consistent and good looking.
  3. Easier to predict, anticipate and control aging.
  4. Uniform colour.

Disadvantages:

  1. Flavour might not be as layered, compared to a well blended pu erh.
  2. Every year's taste might be influenced by weather conditions.
  3. Prices can fluctuate a lot dependant on harvest quality and quantity.
  4. More expensive, and harder to buy because there are a lot of fakes in the market.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Pu Erh Tea

Advantages:

  1. For manufacturers blended teas can be produced in larger quantity.
  2. Prices are more stable.
  3. Stable flavour year on year.
  4. The flavour is more liked by the majority of pu erh drinkers.
  5. When blended well, the resulting tea can achieve high price-quality ratio.
  6. There are endless ways to blend different teas allowing the producer to create new and unique teas.

Disadvantages:

  1. Blending good teas require skill and quantity.
  2. The appearance of a blended pu erh looks less consistent.

Different ways to blend pu erh

There are different ways to blend pu erh tea leaves. The tea master can experience by blending leaves from different:

  • Seasons: for example mixing Autumn and Spring pu erh together.
  • Cultivars: to enhance the flavour
  • Trees: for example to mix leaves from young trees with old trees.
  • Grades: this is often to reduce the cost of coordinating quality.
  • Years: this makes the tea stable in taste.
  • Fermentation levels
  • Mountains

So is pure or blended pu erh tea better?

There's no correct answer to this. There are tea lovers who're so fascinated with the real stuff that they're always in pursuit of pure tea from only one region or even a single ancient tree. Others are in love with the continuous improvement of blended teas and see this as another alternative form of art. It has its own matching charm.

Our recommendation is to start out with buying blended teas first. Use the experience of drinking those as a benchmark to compare more unique pure, single-origin teas.

Please note that in this article we only discuss the blending of different pu erh teas. In practice, pu erh leaves might also be blended with different herbs such as Chrysanthemum and rose flowers. Also a special kind of herb is used to create rice flavour pu erhs, which is called nuo mi xiang.

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Sat, 10 Nov 2018 11:14:44 +0000
<![CDATA[The 2007 Pu erh Tea Market Crash: The Boom And Bust Revisited]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/2007-pu-erh-tea-market-crash-boom-bust-crisis-recession.html For China’s Pu erh tea market, the Spring of 2007 was more like a cold hard winter with unexpected blizzards. After an acute rise, Pu erh price dropped shockingly fast, followed by a long recession. The Pu erh craze that lasted a few years came to an abrupt end.

Now 10 years later, most of us have forgotten or not experienced what happened back then. Let’s take a look back at this chaotic period of time.

The Pu erh Market Crash of Spring 2007

Guangzhou’s Fangcun wholesale tea market was by far the biggest tea market in China. The majority of the pu erh tea trading was done there by 2007. From 2006 to Spring 2007, traders witnessed the drastic change of pu erh tea price.

We used to need 3 buckets of water to make tea for customers to taste, but suddenly it was less than half of a bucket. A tea trader in Pu'er city

The Boom

For example, the price of a “Dayi 7542” cake went up from 4,000 Yuan (580 USD today) per wholesale carton (15 kg) in 2006 to more than 8,000 Yuan, soon reached 12,000, then 18,000. The price was even raised 3 times a day. The peak was at 22,000 Yuan (3200 USD today), which is almost 5 times more than the original price.

The unprecedented market circumstances brought in high returns for tea traders, and many of them became millionaires. Their expensive new cars replaced bicycles and motorcycles, all parked outside of the tea market.

“At least ten million people in China were involved in the Pu erh craze.” said one insider we interviewed. Some people even sold their houses to invest in aged tea cakes. “We all believed that you simply won’t lose money. The price is going up non-stop.” But a suddenly a turn occurred.

Limited Supply

With the sudden increase in demand for pu erh tea, the problem of supply became apparent. While in a normal year, there's around 20.000 to 30.000 kilograms of demand, suddenly the demand increased to 100.000 kg in 2006. With such a pressure, some farmers rushed to deliver resulting in badly processed tea flushing the market. A common problem was that some pu erh weren't sun-dried properly, affecting their taste and aging potential.

The Bust

Since April 2007, at least 70% of the tea traders of the Fangcun tea market were in deep trouble. Price of the same label Dayi 7542 label dropped down to 8,000 Yuan per carton from it’s 22.000 peak.

At ‘Tea Source Square’ in Pu erh city, owners of the tea shops complained that business has been very slow. “We used to need 3 buckets of water to make tea for customers to taste, but suddenly it was less than half of a bucket,” one merchant remembered.

“It was scary,” said one tea trader from Zhuhai, “it all happened too fast, so much just changed within a mere 3 days! One day it was 22,000 Yuan per piece, the second morning it went down to 15,000, then 12000 in the afternoon. When I woke up on the third day, the price already fell to 9,500 Yuan.”

Why Pu erh?

How did the Pu erh market flourish so fast and how did it suddenly collapse? The 2007 crash wasn't in fact the first. There were two waves of surging popularity of Pu erh cakes before. One was in Hong Kong after 1950; the other was in Taiwan after 1995. In 1999, the Pu erh market in Taiwan crashed. The speculators from Hong Kong and Taiwan shifted their focus to Mainland China. But why Pu erh?

1. It’s Unique and Scarce

Pu erh is made of sun-dried large-leaf tea leaves that are only produced within a certain area of Yunnan province. The final product is often compressed in different shapes, of which the round disc shapes ('cakes') are the most popular. The unique terroir of the hilly lands along the Langcang river gives Pu erh its own charm, especially the Pu erh that is made of leaves from old wild trees.

Unlike black tea and green tea, it’s a tea type from China that’s particularly hard to copy in other provinces or anywhere in the world. You needed the unique environmental and soil conditions of Yunnan to produce a real Pu erh.

This created the perception of uniqueness and most important: scarcity.

2. Long-Term Storage, Improving Taste

Instead of fighting a war on rot, aging tea is a tactical response. Given that tea had to be transported on food in the past, people couldn't beat nature, so they joined it by simply let microbes on pu erh tea to have their own way. Like with cheese, cheese, beer, wine and whiskey, tea can also develop flavours that are deeper and more complex than fresh versions.

Unlike other teas, Pu erh is known for its aged aroma that develops over time. Tea lovers tend to love the aroma of aged cakes more relative to newer ones. The cakes don't go bad and as they're compressed, they require not much space to store.

As time passes, some cakes will become more rare and are thus highly sought after by collectors, increasing the price. Some tea lovers can't be bothered with storing tea for years until they love the taste. These people are naturally willing to pay more for an well aged tea for direct consumption.

3. Cultural Value, Historical Relevance

Pu erh also has a historical and cultural relevance. It was the tea that was being transported on the ancient Tea Horse Trade route, and it was a tribute tea during the Qing dynasty. This created this nostalgic and exclusive image that other teas couldn't enjoy.

4. Low Production Cost

Pu erh was cheap relative to other tea types before the hype. It’s was a hidden gem at the border area of China. The manufacturers, traders and consumers of the aged tea couldn't imagined the peak prices that materialised in 2007. Back in the early 2000s, you could get 10 kilos of Pu erh for the price of just one kilo of oolong.

Pu erh was not yet popular in Mainland China at that time. Tea traders (speculators) from Hong Kong and Taiwan recruited many people to purchase aged Pu erh from tea factories and tea shops in the cities and villages of Yunnan. The price was surprisingly low, especially in the remote villages. For the first couple of years, the purchasing price was no more than 10 Yuan per kilo, which is less than 1.50 USD today. The people on the job got paid 1 Yuan for each tea cake purchased. In the next paragraph will discuss more how these traders controlled the market and managed to ramp up the prices in the retail market.

All of these are good reasons why the speculators chose to buy and trade Pu erh.

Tea Traders & Market Control

Pu erh tea traders made a careful plan for purchasing and distributing the teas. These where companies that moved tea at unimaginable scale. Some say they purchased at least 70% of all the pu erh produced by the factories.

Control of the Industry

Buying up aged Pu erh stored wasn’t enough. The speculators were aiming for the long run. Eventually business men from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Guangdong started to get involved in the acquisition and reorganisation of tea factories in Yunnan.

Famous tea hills were assigned to different groups of traders for the collection of tea leaves. For instance, tea leaves from Yiwu hill were mainly collected by Taiwanese traders. Cakes made from tea leaves from famous mountains fetched a better price.

Commercialisation

Having secured, big traders started to successfully promote Pu erh in 2005. From its health benefits to its cultural significance, all aspects of Pu erh were advertised on all types of media: TV programs, books, magazines, speeches, and websites.

Since 1993, Yunnan’s city of Simao held the “Pu erh Festival” event once every two years. When traders started to promote Pu erh, this Festival become on of the biggest commercial events in China.

Academically, the sellers sponsored research institutions to investigate the health benefits. They also carefully managed its relations with local authorities to get their support on developing the industry.

As a result the Pu erh industry’s status changed from an "important industry" to a fundamental "pillar industry", and then latest upgraded to highest status of "first pillar industry”. It became so important that the name of the city, Simao, was officially changed to Pu erh in 2007.

Price Fixing

In order to raise the prices and maximise profit, many methods, including unethical ones, were used.

Tea traders paid the tea factories a certain money to be distributors. There was a secret agreement between them: tier 1 distributor earned 4,000 Yuan profit per piece, tier 2 distributor earned 10,000 Yuan per piece. This way, a piece of Pu erh with a factory price of 5,000 Yuan would cost 19,000 Yuan when it reached the market.

Auctions

For high-end teas, auctions was the preferred method to go. In 2004, 3 grams of rare Pu erh from Qing dynasty was sold for 12,000 Yuan or 4,000 Yuan per gram. At Shenzhen Tea Exposition 2007, a high-end tea cake labeled “Jingxiu Chazu” (499g) was sold for 400,000 Yuan, this set a new record for fresh tea.

Yet, some auctions were arranged. Fake bidders participated. They didn’t want the tea; they were just there to raise the prices.

Like a stock market, many people set foot in the Pu erh market because they saw that the rapid rise of prices. Pu erh was regarded as a instrument to store value like gold. Some even considered it as an antique, that would become more and more valuable.

During 2006 and the start of 2007, many individual investors flooded the Pu erh market. As they didn’t want to miss the boat, everyone was stocking Pu erh. During such a market bull, no one could see a market crash coming.

From Restricting Supply to Oversupply

The quantity of the tea and the timing of distribution were strictly controlled for maximum profit and to make sure that the prices increased gradually. The distributors made a false scene of scarcity of the product by only selling a small amount of the tea at first. They waited until the price went up high, and then quietly released a big amount of the tea.

But in 2007, more people started to produce tea and many trading companies started to get involved in pu erh. As a consequence, a great deal of Pu erh went into the market. The prices finally started to go down, resulting in investors panic. The price didn’t skyrocket further as they believed and suddenly the product wasn’t rare anymore.

They started to get rid of their tea at lower prices, but no one wanted the hot potatoes at this point. Speculators already sold out their inventory two months before the market collapse. As the bubble burst, the Pu erh market crashed, and the late entrants went down with it.

Conclusion

Like with commodities, stock markets and other financial products, the prices of pu erh tea can be volatile at some times. Unlike other agricultural products, the boom and bust of the pu erh tea market in 2007 wasn’t so much determined by failed harvest or the traditional Pu erh price factors. It was simply a craze that reached a certain tipping point that everyone felt the need to store some cakes.

Will such a market boom and bust repeat itself? No one knows. At least, we know that the market isn’t as much controlled today by a few large trading companies. This encourages more competition and thus lower prices. Traders are also have less power today due to the eCommerce boom, allowing farmers to sell their tea direct to the end consumer. Thus, cutting out layers of middle men.

At Teasenz, we hope that Pu erh will stay affordable for as long as possible. Our goal is to introduce this wonderful tea worldwide. While it’s highly popular in China, most of the people outside of China has yet to discover.

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Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:27:07 +0000
<![CDATA[New 2017 Dayi Small Pu Erh Tea Cakes: 7542 & 7572 Recipes]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/new-dayi-small-7542-7572-pu-erh-tea.html Our two popular Dayi cakes where sold out in the recent weeks and unfortunately the Menghai Factory couldn't offer them at a reasonable price anymore. As it's always the case with pu erh cakes, prices tend to increase year on year. We regret that we didn't stock more! Luckily, we managed to launch two new cakes from 2017, based on the same Dayi recipes (7542 and 7572).

Better Packaging

The new cakes come with an additional carton box, making it much more looking like a 'finished' product compared to just the traditional wrapper. The boxes are nicely sealed with a sticker to make sure you're the first person opening it. It's great as a gift as well!

dayi 7572 tea cake - 7542 pu erh cake

Authenticity Seal

We always liked the Dayi authenticity seal on the back of the wrapper. It not only keeps the cake tight, but based on our experience it's pretty hard to copy by people who sell fake cakes. Believe us, there's a lot of fakes out there.

It's seriously hard to know when a cake is real or not. Yet, when you own a real one, you can simply compare the label to easily identify the fake ones. Certain parts of the label turn out to be quite hard to copy such as the dotted line below the large Chinese characters. We can't really demonstrate this right now, since we obviously don't stock the fake ones. However, we'll do a comparison blog when we get our hands on a fake.

Size

The traditional 357g cake isn't for everyone, except for hard core pu erh collectors. Cakes of such size are pricey especially if good leaves are used. That's why the factory decided to introduce these smaller cakes of just 150 grams. Sounds like a pretty ideal size, isn't it?

Top Quality Leaves

Both cakes consist of top grade leaves and are neatly compressed in perfectly round cakes. The compression is tight, but it's still easy to pry of leaves for a wonderful brewing session. See the pics below.

Raw 7542 Dayi Pu Erh Cake

The leaves appear 'fatty' with promising potential as it ages over time. It steeps a bright yellow orange liquor with a mix of fruity and flowery notes.

menghai dayi 7542 tea cake

Ripe 7572 Dayi Pu Erh Cake

The appearance is characterised by a wonderful colour palette of gold and black. The wet-piling has been perfectly controlled to not avoid over fermentation, allowing it further naturally age. However, those who love a young ripe pu erh, this cake is the one.

menghai dayi 7542 tea cake


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Mon, 15 May 2017 15:56:23 +0000
<![CDATA[What is Sticky Rice Pu Erh Tea (Nuo Mi Xiang Cha)]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/what-is-sticky-rice-pu-erh-tea-nuo-mi-xiang-cha.html 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”.

nuo mi xiang nen ye Semnostachya Menglaensis

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.

Production Process

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.

The Taste

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!

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Wed, 12 Dec 2018 08:21:32 +0000
<![CDATA[Tea History: What Is 'Border Sales Tea' (Bian Xiao Cha)? ]]> https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/border-sales-tea.html There's a tea term known as 'border sales tea' or 'bian xiao cha' (边销茶) which basically describes teas that are sold to neighbouring regions near Yunnan.

These blocks has been a staple product for many decades among Tibetan minority groups and often used to drink pure or used to make fresh yak butter tea. Even today, Tibetan tribes love this tea. The blocks are broken apart in smaller chunks and boiled in hot water.

The Xiaguan tea factory also produces these teas in bricks, sold under their sub-brand called 'Bao Yan Pai' (宝焰牌). This literally meaning 'treasure flame brand'. We've got our hands on two of them; one shou and one sheng block. 

In this blog post we’re reviewing both!

Sheng (raw) tea brick

sheng tea brick

Starting with the Sheng brick with can see that it comes with a beautiful carton box with in the inside a brick packed inside a paper wrapper. Once removing the wrapper, we can see that brick’s material isn’t very consistent with many broken leaves. Not strange, knowing that this tea is boiled and used to make yak butter tea. You really don't need premium leaves for that.

raw tea block

The raw materials might be not premium, but never the less, we really love this product because of it’s historic value. And in fact, the flavour is actually surprisingly good, as the more broken leaves allow it ripen much faster in comparison to full leaves.

sheng raw tea brick tea block

In the video below we're brewing this brick with a side handle teapot. Check it out!


Shou (ripe) tea brick

shou tea brick

Looking at the ripe boa yan zhuang, we can see that it’s pretty heavily fermented through wet-piling. The flavor is therefore super mellow and the resulting tea soup is very dark. It's a very accessible shou pu erh as most of them are, but if you’re familiar with shou pu erhs, you can imagine it's also perfect for a strong yak butter tea.All in all, these bricks are inferior in quality compared to some pu erh made from better leaves and with some more complexity in flavor. However, these block teas can be great as a daily drinker. And because of their historical value, you might want to own at least one of them!

shou tea block

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Sat, 02 Feb 2019 07:59:30 +0000