Step by Step Guide: How to Use Tea Cake To Brew Pu-Erh Tea

So you are an avid drinker of tea, and recently you have been interested in trying your first Pu Erh tea. However, you might be worried that you do not know how to brew the tea properly. Well, this article is about saving your problem!

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As you may know by now, Pu Erh tea is an ancient tea that dates back to more than 2,000 years ago. The Pu Erh tea, originally from Yunnan, China, is a type of post-fermented tea produced from the leaves and stems of Camellia sinensis. Due to a long fermentation process brought about by microbes present in the leaves, Pu Erh tea offers a unique gustatory experience and a wide range of health benefits. 

It is important to remember that enjoying the taste and benefits of Pu Erh tea entails properly preparing the tea. Hence, if you have already decided to buy your very own Pu Erh Cake and are ready to brew your first Pu Erh tea, here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to ensure that you do it right the first time around! 

What are Pu Erh Tea Cakes?

Before the specific steps are introduced to you, it is crucial to know what Pu Erh tea cake is so you can handle and brew it properly.

Pu Erh Tea in cake form is pressed tea leaves shaped in round flat discs. Pu Erh tea cakes can be subclassified into Bing or Tuocha. In most cases, the sizes of Pu Erh tea cakes vary from 3 grams to about 5 kilograms. However, most Pu Erh Tea cakes are generally sold in approximately 500 grams.


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  1. Prepare All Required Supplies and Unwrap your New Pu Erh Tea Cake

    Now that you know what a Pu Erh Tea cake is, you are now ready for the steps to prepare your first Pu Erh tea. 

    The first thing you should do is prepare all the needed materials to brew your Pu Erh tea. These supplies include tea tools such as a tea knife, tea pitcher, tea table, teacups, tea mugs, boiling water, and tea filters. You can also utilize Gaiwan or Yixing teapots. Gaiwan is the conventional Chinese tea brewing vessel composed of three elements, including the bowl, the lid, and the sauce. On the other hand, Yixing is a teapot made of hand-made clay. 

  2. Break the Pu Erh Tea Cake

    Brewing Pu Erh tea pressed into cake form needs vital steps. A cake type of Pu Erh tea has conventionally been compressed into a solid, flat shape to deliver and store. With that, to start your journey in brewing your first Pu Erh tea, you must break the Pu Erh Tea cake apart first into pieces that can fit efficiently in your bowl or teapot. However, this is not as basic as it seems. Most people mindlessly break their Pu Erh tea cake which can compromise its storage, hence, possibly in time, its taste. So to properly do it, you can follow the steps below.

    The first thing you should do is prepare all the needed materials to brew your Pu Erh tea. These supplies include tea tools such as a tea knife, tea pitcher, tea table, teacups, tea mugs, boiling water, and tea filters. You can also utilize Gaiwan or Yixing teapots. Gaiwan is the conventional Chinese tea brewing vessel composed of three elements, including the bowl, the lid, and the sauce. On the other hand, Yixing is a teapot made of hand-made clay. 


    (Source: Pixabay.com)

    • For Pu Erh Tuocha, here are the steps:
      • First, you need to prepare a tea needle to isolate Pu Erh tea flakes from your Tuocha Pu Erh. To do this, you have to turn the Tuocha Pu Erh on its back to maintain the shape of the Tuocha for as long as possible to store it properly. Next, select a concave edge and insert the tea needle. You have to insert the needle through Tuocha Pu Erh, approximately 2/3 of its length. Lightly Pry the Pu Erh tea cake to loosen and decompress the tea leaves.
      • Once the first step is done, find another area in the tea cake to insert the tea needle again. Make sure that you insert the tea needle near the first insertion site. Repeat this step 3 to 4 times, ensuring that all insertion sites are close to each other.
      • By repeatedly inserting the tea needle, the Tuocha Pu Erh tea cake becomes loose so you can break off the ample amount to brew your tea.
      • Once the tea flakes from the Tuocha Pu Erh are removed, collect about 5 grams to 10 grams of it.

     
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    • For Pu Erh Tea Bing, here are the steps:
      • Like Tuocha Pu Erh tea cake, prying and breaking the leaves from a Bing Pu Erh tea uses the same needle insertion process. However, you can use a tea knife in prying a Bing Pu Erh, especially since it is usually more tightly compressed than a Tuocha Pu Erh. It would help if you used the needle or knife in the backside of the Bing Pu Erh tea to maintain its original shape, permitting it to be properly stored.
      • You should look for the ideal site to insert using the tea needle or tea knife because it can be hard, especially since a Bing Pu Erh is more compressed. Do this by inserting in different areas at the backside of the Pu Erh cake.
      • When you have already landed an ideal site at the backside of the cake, start inserting your tea needle or knife into the Bing Pu Erh and shake your hands slowly to loosen the tea leaves from the cake. A bing Pu Erh takes a long time before being able to isolate your tea leaves. Hence, it is important to be even-tempered and resigned when prying on your Pu Erh cake.
      • Once the tea flakes from the Bing Pu Erh are removed, collect about 5 grams to 10 grams of it.
    • Must Remember when breaking your Pu Erh tea cake

      It would help if you remembered to take time to break your Pu Erh cake. Also, it is crucial to be wary when using a tea needle or tea knife to prevent injuring your hand while inserting. Moreover, your angle when inserting your tea needle should be perpendicular along the compressed Pu Erh tea lines. With that, never stick your tea needle straightforwardly into the top surface of the tea. Instead, you can utilize a sideways or oblique motion in the course of the Pu Erh tea leaves.

  3. Brew The Pu Erh Tea Flakes

    Today, brewing a Pu Erh tea can be done in two ways: Traditional or Chinese way and Modern or Western way.

    • Traditional or Chinese Way of Brewing

       
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      The traditional way of brewing Pu Erh involves a highly complex process. However, this brewing method is an experience for people who want to immerse themselves in the old practices of ancient China. In addition to that, the traditional way is more favored by experienced brewers and tea connoisseurs because it completes the course of drinking Pu Erh tea.

      For the traditional method, you need at least 5 grams of Pu Erh tea flakes that have been broken from Pu Erh cake. You also need a Yixing teapot and Gaiwan.

      Here is how you can brew Pu Erh tea through the traditional or Chinese way:

      1. You must warm and rinse the Gaiwan or the tea set using warm or hot water. You can pour the water into the Yixing teapot and Gaiwan. Swirl the water for a few seconds and discard it.

      2. After rinsing and warming up the tea set, you should rinse the Pu Erh tea leaves. You can do this by first placing the tea leaves in the Yixing teapot. Next, pour a small amount of hot water. It is important to remember to put ample water that covers the leaves. Swirl the warm water for a good 3 seconds and discard the water. Remember not to discard the wet Pu Erh tea leaves.

      3. Repeat rinsing of Pu Erh tea leaves once more.

      4. Once done with the rinsing of Pu Erh tea leaves, fill the Yixing teapot with hot water (about 90 degrees Celsius or 195 degrees Fahrenheit). If any bubble formations are floating in the water, remove them using the Yixing teapot lid.

      5. Cover the Yixing teapot with its lid. After covering, pour some hot water on the top of the Yixing teapot to maintain the temperature of the teapot.

      6. When the water on the lid is dry, which usually takes about 10 to 20 seconds, you can now pour the tea into Gaiwan teacups.

      7. You can brew Pu Erh tea leaves for about ten infusions or more utilizing this traditional brewing method. If you decide to do more infusions, remember to add 5 to 10 seconds more in the steeping time.

      8. You can now drink your Pu Erh tea cup. Enjoy!

    • Modern or Western Way of Brewing

      For people who are fresh and new to drinking Pu Erh tea, the western brewing method might be appropriate for you. The modern brewing practice is the simplest way to brew Pu Erh tea. However, if following the basic principles of Pu Erh tea, this method is not recommended; some individuals still choose this way of brewing because of its comfort, simplicity, and a large amount of tea produced at the end of the process. Also, to take note, the main difference between the traditional or Chinese and Modern or Western method brewing is that the latter requires a larger amount of water and a longer brewing time.

      For the western method, you need at least 5 grams of Pu Erh tea flakes that have been broken from Pu Erh cake. Other materials you need include a large teapot, tea infuser, tea scoop, and tea kettle.


      (Source: Pixabay.com)

      To brew your Pu Erh tea following the modern or western method, listed below are the steps you can follow:

      1. Using the tea scoop, measure the correct weight of tea leaves. It is recommended to use 3 to 5 grams of Pu Erh from compressed tea cake for every 8 ounces of water.

      2. Once you measure the tea leaves, place them in a tea infuser. There are several ways to infuse your tea: you can utilize a tea kettle with an installed infuser, you can use a basket or pincer infuser, or you can also use a normal kettle.

      3. Next, you should rinse your Pu Erh tea leaves by soaking them with a small amount of hot water. Swirl the hot water for about 5 to 10 seconds, then discard the water.

      4. Heat the water until it reaches about 90 degrees Celsius or 195 degrees Fahrenheit.

      5. Once the ideal temperature has been reached, pour the hot water into the teacups and place the tea infuser with the Pu Erh tea leaves in the teacup. You must remember not to use boiling water, for it can lead to a more bitter-flavored Pu Erh tea.

      6. Generally, the steeping time of Pu Erh tea is about 2 minutes to 4 minutes. Hence, it is recommended to steep for about two minutes and then taste the tea every 30 seconds to achieve your desired tea flavor.

      7. Once your preferred flavor has been reached, you can now drink the Pu Erh tea. Enjoy!

         
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  4. Store your Pu Erh Tea Cake

    Once you are done drinking your Pu Erh tea, do not forget to store back your Pu Erh tea cake properly. You can do this by basically sealing and putting it back in its paper box or paper bag. It is important to let the cakes receive the required airflow to check the aging or fermentation process. Also, check the manufacturer’s suggested temperature and humidity to ensure you store your Pu Erh cake properly.

Bottom line: 

Now that you are familiar with the steps to properly prepare and brew your Pu Erh Tea from a compressed tea cake, you are ready to experience drinking Pu Erh. Although it may be confusing at first when preparing Pu Erh, the steps above will surely be your best guide. The best way you can experience drinking Pu Erh is by simply preparing it and learning along the way. 

So, go and prepare your own Pu Erh tea today and experience the taste and benefits of this ageless drink.

References: 

  1. PathofCha. 2019. Breaking Up A Pu-erh Cake: 5 Easy Steps. Retrieved from: https://pathofcha.com/blogs/all-about-tea/breaking-up-a-pu-erh-cake-5-easy-steps. Retrieved on 3 March 2022. 
  2. Smith Tea. 2020. Pu-Erh Brew Guide. Retrieved from: https://www.smithtea.com/pages/how-to-brew-pu-erh-tea. Retrieved on 3 March 2022. 
  3. Tea minded. 2019. How to Brew Pu Erh Tea. Retrieved from: https://teaminded.com/how-to-brew-pu-erh-tea/. Retrieved on 3 March 2022. 
  4. TeaSenz. 2019. How To Brew Pu Erh Tea. Retrieved from: https://www.teasenz.com/chinese-tea/how-to-brew-pu-erh-tea.html. Retrieved on 3 March 2022. 
  5. Yan Hou Tang. 2018. How to break up and brewing Puerh tea Cake TuoCha Brick. Retrieved from: https://blog.yanhoutang.com/how-to-break-up-and-brewing-puerh-tea-cake-tuocha-brick/. Retrieved on 3 March 2022. 

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