Folk Art Bingcha (380 g)


A green (sheng) pu-erh from Qian Jia Zhai in Northeastern Yunnan, harvested in 2005 and pressed into a traditional bingcha shape. The flavor is smooth and slightly earthy, with a fresh aroma of cut bamboo and a pleasantly sweet aftertaste that holds up through many infusions. It has aged well, and is excellent to drink now. The wrapping paper is a folk art design that represents the native birds and trees in local old forests.

Steep with water just under boiling (190-200 F); rinse leaves quickly before the first infusion, and enjoy multiple cups from the same leaves.

Country: China
Region: Qian Jia Zhai, Yunnan Province
Tasting Notes: smooth, fresh aroma of cut bamboo
Year of Production: 2005

Stock Status:In Stock

Product Code: PCA11


Pu-erh Teas

Famous for the strength of flavor, pu-erh (pronounced POO-er) is for the adventurous tea drinker. These teas have been made for centuries in Yunnan Province, China. Pu-erh tea is often pressed or molded into bricks or cakes, making them great for transportation, in the old days, by caravan. The name Pu-erh comes from Pu-erh city in southern Yunnan, where the tea would be collected from the surrounding regions before it was set out in caravans for export. We find that pu-erh is great to convert coffee drinkers into tea drinkers. Some pu-erhs can be as strong as espresso!

Pu-erhs difference in flavor comes from an additional step in processing. After picking the leaves, the tea maker creates a maocha, or sundried base tea. Once that's done, the tea undergoes a micro-fermentation process. Once this fermentation has been accomplished the leaves are aged, then packed or steamed and pressed into bricks or cakes. These teas also improve with age some prized pu-erh teas can be over 50 years old. There are stores throughout Asia, that specialize in selling only pu-erh teas and the range -- in style, quality, and price -- is astounding. People will pay thousands of dollars for rare pu-erh teas that are 30 years old and up.

How to brew pu-erh tea:

  1. When the bricks are extremely tightly pressed it is best to use a strong knife to carefully pry out some leaves. The technique that works best is to insert the knife into the edge of the brick and then gently twist it up and down until the leaves loosen and flake off.
  2. Add about 3-4 grams per serving of tea (the amount depends upon type of pu-erh) to your teapot or gaiwan.
  3. Add hot boiling water at a full rolling boil -- it's the only tea that should be made with boiling water.
  4. Always pre-wash the leaves with a brief 5-10 second infusion to awaken the leaves. Then pour off the liquid.
  5. Steep for 2-3 minutes. Once the tea seems ready. pour and taste it. If necessary, adjust the steeping time for a stronger taste. The Tibetans are famous for brewing their pu-erh teas overnight to make their famous Soo Jah (Yak Butter and Salt Tea).

Pu-erh teas also have a lot of medical lore surrounding them. In China they are considered beneficial for lowering cholesterol, fighting hangovers, and aiding digestion.

Pu-erh Tuocha Nuggets Pu-erh Bingcha (Frisbee-sized disc)

Puer classification:

Pu-erh tea is a post-fermented tea made from sun dried, large leaf tea plants grown and produced in areas of Yunnan Province. The process of aging the tea once made is a way to mellow and refine its flavor and character. It is made in many styles, which along with numerous production variables, can drastically affect the final result. Pu-erh tea has been savoured mainly in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Guandong province. Types of post-fermented teas are also made in other provinces in China as well as in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Japan.

The tea is made either as loose leaf or pressed into a myriad of forms. Round cakes (bingcha), rectangular bricks and an inverted birds nest shape (tuocha) are the most common. Traditionally the tea was pressed into short lengths of bamboo of various diameters and dried and stored. This method is still a speciality of the Dai people in Xishhuangbanna.

Pu-erh made before the 1970’s was made from sundried greenish tea and naturally aged. Then a technique for accelerating the process of aging and changing the character of the tea was developed.

This process is known as wo dui and involves increasing the moisture level of the tea to speed up the fermentation.

There are two main steps in pu-erh production. The first is making the base tea (mao cha), and the second is post-fermenting and often compressing it into a shape. The post-fermentation is often left out of present day green pu-erh production.

Green or Raw Pu-erh (sheng) –
Present day style – not post fermented
Old style – Post fermented by dry storage method
Both methods benefit from extended aging – it will change the color of the the tea as well as the character.

Black or Cooked Pu-erh (shou) –
Woi Doi Pu-erh- green pu-erh which is subjected to controlled levels of humidity and heat to hasten the maturation of the tea. The adjusted levels are greater than they would be otherwise. The increased moisture generates heat within the pile naturally, in the same way that freshly picked green leaves generate heat within a pile.

One “recipe” is as follows:
Pile the tea and spray it with water until the moisture level is 20-30%.
After 6-7 days turn the pile (temp 60-70 C) for the first time.
After 6-7 days turn the pile (50-60 C) for the second time.
After another 6-7 days turn the pile (40-50 C) for the final time.
Solar drying (1 day)
Another “recipe” lengthens the wo doi process to 50-60 days.

Aspergillus is the main bacteria present which helps to transform the leaf in a very complex chemical change.

Heat is produced when the leaf is piled - similar to what makes barns catch fire after being filled with freshly made hay bales.

After several fermentations (turning the piles of tea and letting them sit for weeks at a time) the tea may be compressed or left loose. The tea to be compressed is weighed, steamed, and pressed. This is one reason that areas like Hong Kong and Taiwan which have a very humid climate have been considered good places to store pu-erh and indeed, a considerable amount is still hoarded there to drink in the future.

“Artificial wet storage” is similar to woi doi except instead of a more delicate “ hastening the natural process” it is a much more abrupt process of drenching the leaf to make the final product appear more mature and aged than it actually is. This is the process by which the “fake pu-erh” is made.

The production process goes like this:
(with many differences according to the factory or the tea maker).
The the middle of the day is the best time of day for picking the leaf – between 9am and 3pm so that the morning dew has long since evaporated and some sun has been on the leaves for optimal moisture content.

The leaves are large, from the Assamica varietal and should be neither the youngest or the thicker, older ones.

After picking, the leaf should be carried in a bamboo basket which allows some ventilation instead the common airtight plastic bag which promotes heat, premature oxidation, and darkening of the leaves. The difference is often dependant on whether the plucker is paid by the hour (takes more care) or by the weight of the leaf (less careful pick).

The leaf is pan roasted (130-145 deg C, 5-10 minutes) and then rolled for 15-30 minutes. The leaf is then sun dried to stabilize the oxidation process (moisture content is about 5%) and also to encourage the complex fermentation process that Pu-erh is known for.

This leaf is sometimes processed by the company that employs the pickers but is often sold at this point in the marketplace. The buyer has to judge the quality by examining the leaves at different layers and by understanding where the leaves come from and whether they were blended with leaves from different areas.

The next step is to blend different lots of the raw material together so that the factory will have then right amount of raw material to make their final production goal.

The leaf is sorted and often the smaller buds will be saved to make special cakes or to put on the outside of the compressed cakes for appearance. Sometimes a very low grade of broken tea will be used on the inside and the outside will be beautiful young buds.

The tea is now either pressed right away in the case of the modern” green” puer or aged for some time as with a traditional style “green” or “black” puerh.

The steaming process is important for the quality of the final product in the case of the compressed pu-erhs.

The leaf is now brittle (6-8% moisture) and handling is of the utmost importance. If the worker is in a hurry (usually the case), the leaves will be broken and they won’ t be aligned mainly in one direction.

The time and pressure involved in the compressing will determine how the cake will continue its aging process. If it is pressed into a very hard shape it will not change much over time as the air and organic compounds won’ t be able to work inside. The tea is first weighed, then steamed and put into a cloth bag. This is tightened after the tea is gathered into one corner. This damp steamed cloth bag full of tea is then placed into the press. The cake is either left in the bag until it cools slightly or removed right away (not great as the cake may still be too soft). Either way the cakes are then placed onto racks to slowly air dry. In these days of increased production and the loss of our most precious commodity, time, these are dried in a high temperature room or oven to make room for the next batch.

After drying the cakes are typically wrapped in bamboo leaves that must be also carefully procured. The moisture content is important; if they are too wet they will damage the paper that the tea is wrapped in and make the local environment to damp for the tea and if they are too dry the leaves will be too brittle and will be unsuitable for wrapping the cakes. They are then wrapped with bamboo ties in lots (of 9 cakes for example). During the 70s, 80’ s, and 90’ s metal wire was used instead of the bamboo.

The aroma should be clear and natural and the infused tea shouldn’t be to black, it should be a deep red tone depending on the method of production and length of aging.

  • Start with your favorite spring or filtered water. Do a quick rinse to preheat the teaware and awaken the leaves. Use a large strainer basket to allow the leaves to open and release their flavor.
  • Temperature: 212 F (boiling) Time: 2-3 minutes
    Amount: 3g / 6 oz serving = 1 tablespoon
  • Play with the amount of tea, the water temperature, and steeping time to re-steep - rely on taste, not color. Get to know the tea! Try it gong-fu style - use a lot of leaf and short steeps for multiple infusions.
  • For more about brewing tea, visit our Brewing Notes page.

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