If it Looks Like Chocolate and Smells Like Chocolate…
A note on the language of this post:
Teasenz classifies this tea bar as ripe (“shou”) “pu’erh.” I’ve found that the spellings tend to vary slightly depending on the speaker’s region and native language. I tend to refer to the tea as either “pu’er” or “puer,” as I don’t believe the ‘h’ is necessary on the end. I also tend to say “shu” （熟）instead of “shou” for similar reasons. Just as an FYI, “pu’er” in Chinese is “普洱,” and is pronounced the same both in Mandarin and in English.
I’m obsessed with the packaging of Teasenz’s Mini Pu’erh Tea Bar. The tea comes in the shape of a chocolate bar wrapped in eco-friendly kraft paper and stored in an unbleached cardboard box. I took several pictures because the packaging was so cute.
I had so much fun tasting Teasenz’s Mini Pu’erh Tea Bar. Each square portion weighs about 8 grams, so even though I usually only brew about 3-5 grams of ripe pu’er at a time, I decided to first brew and entire square in a 100ml gaiwan. The tea had a very slight fish smell which I found concerning, but the stronger scent was of soil. In general, I find that ripe pu’er smells more like soil than anything else. It was raining heavily in my city when the tea arrived; I figured that influenced the scent. When I warmed the gaiwan and placed the square inside, the fish smell gave way to a deeper, earthy smell. I poured boiling water (100C) over the leaves, closed the gaiwan and allowed the tea to brew for about 45 seconds. I poured this brew into the fairness pitcher and repeated the process. Once the tea had been rinsed, I poured the rinse water down the drain. Due to the processing methods of ripe pu’er, it’s important to rinse the tea at least once, and preferably two or three times to wash away any impurities and to open up the leaves.
After I’d finished rinsing the tea, I once again filled the gaiwan and allowed the tea to brew for 30 seconds. The resulting brew was absolutely awful. It was too concentrated for my taste. The color of the tea liquor was wonderfully red-brown– my mom described the color as “brandy,” but I don’t know what brandy looks like so I’ll take her word for it. The tea tasted just like it smelled, but it was bitter. I will admit, though, that the tea was incredibly smooth. It had a thick mouth feel and coated the tongue beautifully. If it weren’t for the bitter bite, this strong brew of the tea would have been wonderful. I actually gave the tea to my parents because I couldn’t finish it, and both of them enjoyed it immensely. My mother put a little bit of French vanilla creamer in it (she puts creamer in almost all coffees and teas) and my father drank the tea straight. He raved about the flavor and feeling.
Because I don’t normally drink such strong pu’er, I decided to experiment further with this tea bar. I have a gaiwan that probably has about a 200ml capacity. I place the entire square in the larger gaiwan and put about 3 grams of tea into a standard 100ml gaiwan. I used boiling water for both and repeated the rinse process I used during the first brewing, then I brewed the tea normally. I noticed and immediate difference between the two fairness pitchers. The pitcher that contained the brew from the larger gaiwan appeared darker than the tea in the smaller gaiwan. Both brews were only slightly lighter than the first brew, though I was brewing in a different room at a different time of day, which may have affected my perception.
I found the brew from the larger gaiwan to be nearly as unpalatable as the first brew, but when I tasted the tea from the smaller gaiwan, which contained a slightly thinner brew, I started to detect hints of fruit. I’ve only ever tasted one ripe pu’er that I actually enjoyed, but that tea also had fruity and floral notes. I’ve found that ripe pu’er can be incredibly complex, but it has to be brewed the right way. The kind of pu’er one finds in a Chinese restaurant is usually so watered down the flavor is almost undetectable, so I’m in the process of finding a happy medium.
The brewing instructions on the tea bar package suggest using a teapot, but there is no indication how large the tea pot should be. I’m going to use the largest teapot I have (it holds something like 6 or 8 cups of tea) and see how that turns out. I’m also going to try using even less tea (1-2 grams) in a standard gaiwan to see how that affects the flavor. I definitely think the Teasenz Tea Bar is promising, and for people who regularly drink pu’er, I bet the tea is delicious. I, however, still need to find a flavor balance that works for me. As I write this, I’m still thinking of how comfortable the tea felt on my tongue. If only all teas had such a wonderful, velvety texture. As you’ll discover as I post more Teasenz reviews, Teasenz delivers tea of phenomenal quality. With a $5 flat-rate shipping fee WORLDWIDE (up to 2Kg) and very reasonably prices, I can definitely see myself ordering more Teasenz in the future.