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This is a spectacular, well-aged shou pu-erh tea brick from Yunnan province in China, vintage 1996.
Shou pu-erh or so called 'cooked' pu-erh is made from Chinese oxidised tea which has been fermented for a certain period of time under special conditions, then pressed into a form (most frequently shaped as a brick or a disc) and left to mature. During this process it develops a unique taste and properties. It is called 'cooked' pu-erh, because the fermentation process is sped up by manipulating the heat and moisture levels where the tea is being processed. This makes it ready to enjoy a lot sooner than the traditional raw pu-erh (Sheng pu-erh) which is left to age and ferment naturally.
The quality and flavour improve with age, it becomes ever smoother and deeper. Vintage 1996 is a great age for shou pu-erh. It has a wonderfully velvety feel and sweet-earthy notes. The older pu-erh teas are, and of course the leaf quality also matters here, the silkier the mouth-feel and the smoother the sensation as it goes down your throat.
One of the main properties of pu-erh is its incredible digestive effect, especially effective for digesting fats. If you had a rich fatty meal or snack for example, pu-erh will help digest it and prevent the fat from overloading your system. If you drink a lot of pu-erh, it is good to have some fatty food in your day, as this tea is said to pull the fats from your body either way, from a meal or not. So as much as a lot of us think fat is bad for us, there are certain fats that we require for proper bodily function and it's just good to keep that in mind when enjoying pu-erh on a regular basis. It can be a great ally in a healthy lifestyle.
Use 1 heaped tbsp per pot (300ml) - gently separate/break the leaves from the brick with a knife or a fork. Try to leave the leaves as intact as possible as you separate them.
Add water at 95 - 100°C and rinse the leaves once (= pour water over leaves in the pot, wait 5-10 seconds, then discard this water). This is to wash away any dust that collected during storage. It is a typical step in brewing Chinese tea, but especially pu-erh.
Brew in gong fu style which consists of multiple short infusions.