As I’ve probably mentioned before, my favorite variety of tea is pu-erh. A traditional form of fermented black tea hailing from Yunnan, China, pu-erh is hand or foot rolled and dried before undergoing microbial fermentation and oxidation. Tuocha (沱茶) is pu-erh that has been compressed into a bowl or bird’s nest shape. It’s believed Tuocha took it’s name from the ancient trade route to the Tuo River and that the center is indented because in those days a hole would have been punched all the way through the tea cake to carry them on a string. The Rishi tuo-cha image below makes the tea cake look larger than it really is, so I included one that gives a better sense of scale and to show how tuo-cha are usually sold wrapped.
Today I’m drinking Rishi‘s organic Pu-erh Tuo Cha. This is the first time I’ve actually gone through the process of making pu-erh tuocha in the office (it’s a pretty slow day to say the least). Tuocha need to be smashed apart (I generally use a matcha wisk for this at home but i’m just using a plastic fork in this case) and agitated during the 5 minute steep in order to get the tea leaves to unravel. Rishi is also one of my favorite tea vendors and they often do an incredible job with their loose leaf teas. This tuocha is no exception, though I’m not sure if i’d place it at the top tier for their stuff. It smells like a deep, greeny forest and actually sort of tastes like what’s under the forest… That is to say, it tastes a lot like dirt. There is a faint hint of mocha, but it’s very earthy and peety like topsoil. I don’t think this flavor is for everyone, I myself love it, but one way to make it more palatable that a lot of tea vendors try is to add different kinds of chocolate to the mix as this often results in an almost brownie-like taste and texture. I don’t think that’s really necessary because you lose the true rounded flavor and aroma that makes pu-erh so special and, well, unpalatable. xD
8 hours and three steeps later, it’s still beautiful!