Monday, September 23, 2013

Breaking A Puerh Bing Cha ("Cake Puerh")

As with most "cake"Puerhs, the amount of tea used is rather difficult to measure since you will have to break off a part of the cake to make the tea and it is almost impossible to get exactly the amount you want. If you're someone who just kind of goes with the flow, then adjust steeping time and temperature according to the amount of tea. You can easily adapt and it will work just fine. However, most people want some kind of structure to follow, so will recommend three methods to break up the cake.
He Kai Shan "Green" Puerh - Bing Cha

Method one:  Break the cake apart by steaming 

Place the cake inside a clean muslin, food grade cloth bag. Be sure that the bag is of neutral color and doesn't have any aromatics. Gently steam until the tea begins to soften. Remove from steam and let it cool just a bit and gently break the cake apart. Let the broken leaves completely air dried before wrapping in cotton paper (again no aromatics from the paper) and keep the tea in an earthenware urn for safe keeping. This method help keeps the leaves more intact and doesn't produce so much broken powder. But some would hesitate to use this method, especially on older cakes, worrying that the steaming changes the flavor and if not dried completely, can cause mold to develop.

Method two: Puerh Knife
Bamboo Puerh Knife

Use a bamboo or wooden Puerh Knife. Gently insert the knife into the side of the cake, twist and life off the amount of tea you desire to use. This method produces more powder and broken leaves but is easy and no one has to worry about the steaming process changing the flavor or the potential to develop mold.

Method three: Break cake apart by hand

Gently break off a small piece by hand, starting from the edge of the cake and work your way in. The middle part of the cake is generally compressed harder and doesn't break off as easily as the thinner edges. But, as the cake ages, it becomes easier to break apart. Unfortunately, this method can cause more broken leaves and powders but it also the easiest way to get started.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September Successes at The Farm

This week marked the completion of another critical step toward actual production at the Tea Farm. With years of continuous infrastructure problems, it's been impossible to put plants in the ground. Broken water lines and problems with the wells, struggles to install the solar power system and the persistence of the Central Valley's hot, dry summers have been constant challenges. In previous posts we've shown how we're now harvesting the sun for power. Today we can happily announce completion of the "nursery" for our infant tea plants.

Greenhouse - Southwestern Exposure

We've replaced the original clear plastic siding with a single sheet of opaque white plastic and then a covering layer of black solar netting to further help with naturally reducing interior temps when it's 100+ outside but also keeping it cozy when the mercury drops. You can see how these layers have been strapped to the the ground with cables so that the wild winter winds can't rip it away.

Adding the new plastic covering

A cooling system of mist and fans maintains the interior humidity, providing the young tea plants with their preferred tropical climate. A complex system of fans, misters and automated monitors will keep the humidity a stable minimum of 40%.
Inside the greenhouse

Custom built hydroponic trays will soon house thousands of new cuttings.
Tea & Bamboo
Along with the tea, we're also testing strains of jasmine, bamboo and olive trees.

We now anticipate an Grand Celebration by next Fall with a BBQ and general festivities.
So, stay tuned!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Imperial Gaiwan Collection Update

You may have noticed that we recommend using gaiwan preparation for almost every tea we offer. While it may take some practice to hold properly and strain without spilling, we think that you will come to love this classic piece of teaware.

That is one reason we invest so much in providing fine gaiwans made of lovely bone china and decorated with designs inspired by the royal Chinese courts. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This is my final day at the factory. With our Yin Hao and Jasmine Pearls taking seven days to finish scenting, I simply ran out of time.  (Multiple scenting with fresh flowers every day.)

I inspected last night's pile of scented tea this morning and cupped them after the flowers are removed from the tea and I am happy with the progress. I am also smart enough to leave so the real pros in the factory can finish the work without me peering over their shoulders.


I will be on a plane back home tomorrow and the thought of an airport and 12 hours of flying sound good. There's a limit than an overweight, 57-year-old body can take . . .

Monday, July 22, 2013

Picking Fresh Jasmine Flowers

In the throes of jasmine harvest, the intense heat of summer and the humidity of monsoon season, the delicate beauty of the fragrance of this delicate white flower will be absorbed by and preserved in the tea.

A fully opened, white jasmine flower of the specific varietal used to scent tea is puffy when fully opened.

The flowers are picked by hand in the early morning hours before they open. In that way, the most intense "release" of their perfume is saved for the tea.

 I had to laugh when I discovered some stray bean plants growing in the jasmine field.