Puer tea in your luggage, cellar, or teapot.

Newsletter Archive Aug. 5, 2022

Two wrapped cakes of puer tea are held above a pile of other puer teas on a wooden table.

We’re featuring all Puer cakes this weekend. That includes two fresh offerings: the newly restocked Cha Tao (Aged Old Tree) cake and the Jinggu Sheng Xiao Fangzhuan (Little Sheng Jinggu Brick) 2013.

As the lore goes, compressed cakes of puer tea came to be in the days of old, when tea needed to be packed and transported on horseback across thick forests and tall mountains. Space-efficient and sturdy for travel, a compact biscuit was the way to move your tea leaves.

Those same qualities still come in handy today, especially during the summer travel season.

You’ll find Zhuping always keeps a small cake of shu puer in her luggage, ready to soothe travel fatigue or upset stomach. It’s also just something nice and easy to enjoy along the way. Those luggage cakes have come to the rescue on countless sourcing trips, long drives, and layovers.

A person seated at a small workbench stacked high with finished small puer cakes, one by one wrapping them in paper and placing them on a wooden rack nearby.
Wrapping finished puer cakes in paper. Small 200g cakes like this have become more popular.

Even if you’re not taking your tea on a journey, a compressed tea that conveniently stacks is still pretty handy. This is especially helpful if you’ve amassed a collection of teas that you’ve stored to age. Whether your cellar of tea (or in Andrew’s case, a cardboard box in a closet) is kept as a gift to your future self, a hedge against uncertainty, or a pure Epicurean curiosity, the reasons to have stash of leaves are hard to resist.

You might also prefer compressed tea because of the unique way its flavor changes over time. Compressed and loose leaf puer teas do age differently.

In our experience, cakes tend to age slower, but retain concentrated flavors over the years. In the first several years of a cake’s storage, the strength and aromatic qualities of younger tea still shows up as the flavors of storage develop. Loose leaf tea ages quicker, but its flavors can become less distinct.

Four puer cakes on stands laid out on the heavy wooden counter of the tea table at the front of the tea shop.

Some suggestions

With regard to this weekend’s features, we’d like to suggest three highlights that are good to travel with, good to age, or good to simply split off a chonk and enjoy right now.

The Cha Tao 2020 cake is a champion in an unassuming package. Using tea maker Chen Keke’s proprietary small-batch shu puer ripening technique, the excellent leaves from old-growth Assamica and Camellia taliensis trees yield smooth, clean and exceptionally lively flavors for Shu puer.

If you’d like to keep something to age, consider a cake from the uncommon origin of Xiaohuzhai. Already a dynamic mix of forest flavors, we’re looking forward to a few more years of age that will enhance that complexity. An exciting one to taste as the years go by.

If you’d like something to take and drink with abandon, consider the Little Sheng Jinggu Brick — it’s the same as our old Little Shu Jinggu Brick (more of those on the way soon, too), just processed as a sheng instead of a shu puer. Nonetheless, this chocolate-bar shaped little cake surprised us with the smoothness and sweetness of flavor it’s developed over its 9 years of aging. It’s developed an unexpectedly dark character and brews up rich and deep and the color of apricots.