The art of brewing lies at the core of understanding tea. You must experiment with leaf quantity, temperature, brewing vessel, water, you must smell the leaf, taste, look at the color of the brew, and handle the wet leaves. Be with the tea, listen to it, sit with it. This will teach you more than any master or book. Make it your own experience, let the tea teach you.
the importance of pot size or gaiwan- puerh teas brew similar to oolongs. It is important to not use too big a pot, puerh likes intense heat in the belly of a pot. Small yixing pots or glass pots are ideal for 100-150ml. of water. (for the 5 gram sample size) Gaiwans can also be used, but again keep the water volume within the above dimensions. Always remember that any instuctions you get are merely guidelines. Brewing tea is constantly new experience, so try to find the best volume to bring out the fullest quality on the particualr day you are drinking. This is how making tea will become an art form.
handling tea- tea is alive, sacred and so should be treated with respect. When handling leaf ones hands should be clean, the environment made clean and ones intent should be of gratitude. You will find that treating tea "ritually" will give your sessions more potency and create an environment in which others feel something special.
When opening a new puerh cake or tou, the first cut into the cake is very important. One should perform this action with great care, attention and gratitude. This is very important and will effect the vibration of the tea.
heat- .Many puerhs need close to boiling water to bring out the flavors in the leaf. This is especially true of earlier and later brews. In the first case to help "awaken" and open up the slumbering leaf and in the second case to help release oils deep in the leaf as the strength of the tea fades. It is good to bring the water just to boil; over-cooking the water will force oxygen and chi out of the water creating a much flatter flavor profile. The oxygen helps give the water a dimensionality which will allow flavors and qi to expand in the mouth. After the first brew you can let your water cool a little (180-190C), you will find that as the water cools a bit you will be able to experience more subtle flavors and textures. Boiling water often masks these elements
The art of tea is not however about strict rules. With each new cake, one should experiment with different temperatures during different stages of the steeping cycles to see what best draws the flavor and character out of the leaf. This also applies to steeping times.
Brewing tip: if using boiling water allow the tea to cool a bit in the cup before drinking, you will get a fuller taste.
steeping times: (for a 100-150 ml pot) 20- 30 seconds for first steeping, 15-30 seconds for next few steepings. Last steepings may require 30-90 seconds to draw the last oils out of the leaf. These are very general times. After you get used to brewing puerhs you will know the color range of well steeped puerh and you can check your steepings by examining the liquor color. There are many more specific technical descriptions of brewing puerh on the web : see the pu-erh.net blog. (My goal is only to point you in the right experimental direction.)
warming tea ware- The tea ware should be rinsed with hot water first. This is both for ritual and functional reasons. The ritual reason is to purify the tea ware used during the session. Each time we drink tea it is a special event, so we acknowledge this sacredness by cleaning everything with the purifying element of water. The functional aspect is that we are going from pot to tea ocean (pitcher) to cup and we don't want to loose all the heat of the tea in this process.
effects of different brewing materials, clay, glass, new antique. Each different kind of material used in tea ware has its own qualities and vibration. Yixing clay is earthy and elemental, glass is very clean and a good conductor of aroma, porcelain is very pure and elegant. Each type of material we brew or drink out of will effect the way we experience tea and its flavors. It is good to experiment with different materials until you find the ones that match the teas you are drinking. For puerhs, any of these materials can be used but there will probably be one in particular which will really bring out the best qualities of the tea you are drinking.
tea sample size: For one or two people, using a 100-150ml. pot, 4- 5 grams is an average sample size. Of course it may vary with a particualr tea but as you gain more experience you will get a good feel of how much tea to use. It is important when breaking a cake, brick or tou up that you break up the leaf as little as possible, as badly broken or dusty leaf crumbs can make the tea bitter. Try to cut puerh along the natural horizontal striated layers of the cake or brick. This can be done with a small knife wedged between layers or occasionally with the hands. For toucha, it is a little difficult to break into the cake gracefully, but after a small piece is out it is easier to break off in layers.
aroma- the aromas in puerh can be quite varied, special and sometimes intoxicating. When learning puerhs it is suggested that you smell the leaves in the pot after each steeping to see how the fragrance evolves. One can also use an aroma cup for this, although it is a richer experience to smell the wet leaf directly after decanting the tea. For myself, smelling puerh has become as rich and powerful part of the experience as the actual drinking.
the water- spring water is preferable. Experiment using different spring and tap waters to find one that allows the flavor of the tea to open up to the fullest. I encourage you to do this so that you can really experience the way in which water effects the quality of the tea and the feeling you get from drinking it. Experimenting for yourself, is "The Art of Tea" , it is a way to discover and know for yourself what tea is about.
making tea for others: tea is a powerful way to create harmony between people and beauty in the environment. You are bringing together Heaven, Earth, Water, Men and Women, and Spirit into a cup. Making tea for someone is an offering and a gesture of service, beauty and gratitude for their presence. It is a powerful way to "be" with people. Often during tea sessions people get into a state of openness and being where no one is talking. everyone is simply sitting in their own being and feeling the connection with others at the table in silence.
"The essence of Tea Ceremony is to awaken people first to themselves, then to their surroundings, and then to the infinite."
thanks for visiting the site,
Paul Rosenberg. tea monk (tea drunk)Portland, Oregon.
17th C. Bronze Monk, Tibet, with Puerh Cakes
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Heavens Teas: Sacred Teas
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