Pu-erh tea is fermented and can be aged for as long as decades before it comes to market. The longer it is aged, the more expensive it is. The kind I have is so-called “quick-ripened,” little discs with a dip in the middle, the tuo-cha, according to The Story of Tea, by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss, a book I have mentioned before and refer to often. The tea is steamed and then pressed into a mold, which forms the cakes described. They are then allowed to darken and age.
My tin comes with many individually wrapped tea cakes that make a single serving (a cup or mug of tea 12-16 oz.). To serve, one cake is unwrapped, rinsed with boiling water, and brewed for 4-5 minutes. Pu-erh also comes loose-leaf style, and I have one more pu-erh in my cupboard to try, which is this style. (140)
The discs smell earthy, and almost like compost, but in a good way. The discs are bowl shaped and pressed into a black round, which comes apart as it brews. When brewed the leaves are still earthy smelling and the tea is a dark, dark reddish-brown in color. The taste is flavorful and rich and smooth. The earthiness is not as prominent in the brewed cup. I drank this tea without milk because it is so smooth, and I didn’t miss the milk at all.
The last couple times I tried a pu-erh tea I didn’t like it, but I like it this time, a lot. The thing I did differently was that I brewed it in a small glass teapot, rather than directly into my cup with a gold filter. Not only did I see the transformation as the tea cake broke apart, but it seemed to make a big difference in the flavor of the tea. I might continue brewing all my tea in this way. It’s a small extra step, but if it pays off in the quality of the cup of tea, I’m willing to take it.
You can get it here: http://www.peets.com/shop/tea_detail.asp?id=1335&cid=2006