Tuo-cha Pu-erh is a special aged tea that comes out of China. Many varieties of pu-erh are produced and it is a particular speciality of Yunnan Province.
Pu-erh tea undergoes a special production process, during which the tea leaves are dried and rolled after which they undergo secondary microbial fermentation and oxidation. This processing means that it is incorrect to label pu-erh a type of black tea and it fits within the separate dark teas category. The tea is most commonly pressed into various shapes (domes, disks, bricks, etc) and the gradual fermentation and maturation process continues further during storage. The shaped pu-erh tea can be stored in order to mature the tea and let it develop more flavour, very much like maturing a good bottle of wine.
The term Tuo-cha refers to the shape of this tea – which is in a bowl or nest shape. In terms of size, a tuo-cha can range from 3g up to 3kg. The origin of the term Tuo-cha is unclear but most likely refers to either the shape of this tea or to the traditional shipping route for this tea along the Tuo River.
This Tuo-cha Pu-erh makes a great introduction to the world of pu-erh teas both in flavour and convenience. It comes in very neat individually wrapped small dome-shaped cakes that are around 4 to 5 grams in weight. This makes them ideal for brewing a small teapot – just use one cake per roughly 500ml. If you would like to make less tea in one go, simply split one of the cakes in half. You should remove the white paper wrapper before you brew this tea! This Tuo-cha Pu-erh tea is classed as a ‘ripe pu-erh’ or ‘Shu Cha’ (熟茶), which means that it has undergone accelerated fermentation in order to speed up the ageing process and improve flavour.
Tuo-cha Pu-erh tea comes in small cakes that are tightly pressed together black leaves with golden tips. The brewed liquor has a pleasant but a slightly unusual fragrance, which has definite notes of smoke and peat. The flavour is very well balanced and not too earthy, which can be a common predominant taste amongst dark teas. On the tongue there is a neat balance of wood, fruit, smoke, earth, with particular notes of peat and prune. This is a very satisfying drink and a great introduction to pu-erh as it is very well balanced and enjoyable.
This tea is best brewed with water at 95°C for around 3 minutes. Feel free to experiment with re-brewing the tea leaves more than once. Remember to remove the paper wrapper and it is also best taken without milk or sugar.