Cha Tao

Shu Puer Cake 357g 2017

Cha Tao is an exceptionally smooth and clean handmade shu puer made using a new patented small batch ripening technique. Its high quality leaves were harvested from old growth tea trees in Cangyuan County in Lincang and yield an excellent rich and complex brew.

$98.00

5 in stock


Tea Origin
Cangyuan County, Lincang area, Pu'er City, Yunnan Province, China

Tea Bush
Yunnan Daye Quntizhong (Yunnan Large Leaf Heirloom Tea Tree), Camellia taliensis

Tea Master
Chen Keke and Li Dong

Harvest Time
April

Picking Standard
One bud, three leaves

An exceptionally smooth and clean handmade shu puer made using a new patented small batch ripening technique. Its high quality leaves were harvested from old growth tea trees in Cangyuan County in Lincang. Made from both the usual Yunnan large leaf tea plant as well as the rare ancestral Camellia taliensis trees that grow in this region (the same plant our Laoshu Dianhong is made from). An exemplary tea demonstrating the excellent rich and complex character shu puer can achieve under skilled, refined processing.

A refined new microbial ripening technique for shu puer
Three people standing beside the large pile of tea that will become shu puer.
Dr. Chen Keke (middle) instructing two tea makers on his special process for making shu puer.

Normally, making shu puer requires a very large quantity of tea leaves. Depending on the size of the batch being made, producers use 10-20 tons of leaves all piled together. Piling the leaves this way creates heat as the leaves ferment, providing an excellent growing environment for microbes of all kinds. But, this process that gives shu puer its darkness and smoothness is risky because it is difficult to control the microbial growth as the piled leaves ripen, which can create unpleasant earthy or fishy flavors. It typically requires 6 or more months.

A person in waterproof boots standing on the pile of puer tea and spraying it lightly with a hose.
Spraying the puer lightly with clean water and a special patented blend of beneficial microbes that will ripen the tea.

However, Dr. Chen Keke’s world-leading and patented new technology for ripening mao cha into shu puer produces a much cleaner and more carefully controlled flavor in the tea in a much quicker process that only takes 3 months, all while using only a few tons of leaves at a time. This way, it is easier to adjust the temperature and moisture levels in the pile and isolate the specific microbes that drive the ripening process. This unique technique involves introducing a patented blend of beneficial microbes to the leaf pile.

Stacks of dozens of petri dishes with cultures for researching the microbes used to make Sweet Dragon Ball Shu Puer.
Culturing microbes in petri dishes while researching the individual types of microbes that grow while ripening Sweet Dragon Ball Shu Puer.

With this nuanced and precise level of control of their development in the fermenting tea, tea makers can cultivate the beneficial microbes and discourage the growth of those that create unwanted flavors. This also makes it easier to avoid harboring potentially harmful mold pathogens. Using this method reduces the risk of wasting tea leaves if the ripening process goes awry. It also reduces the proportion of tea in any batch that inevitably becomes over-ripened. Furthermore, this preserves the more subtle flavors and high nutrition levels of the original leaf.

Good shu puer starts with good mao cha
A person standing on a hillside to reach the leaves on the higher branches of a large Camellia taliensis tea tree with lots of green spring leaves.
Harvesting leaves from a Camellia taliensis tree.

The spring tea leaves for this puer tea were harvested from old growth tea trees in Cangyuan County on the Chinese border with Myanmar. While many of the tea trees in this area are belong to the large leaf Camellia sinensis var. assamica tea tree variety common throughout Yunnan, some of them are Camellia taliensis, which has a softer character and less caffeine and is the ancestor of C. sinensis. People in this area will harvest from both to make this particular puer tea.

Sheng puer mao cha spread thin to dry on the floor of a large covered sunroom in Lincang in Yunnan.
Puer mao cha drying in a sunroom that protects it from the elements.

Tea makers fry fresh tea leaves by hand in the wok at about 200°C (390°F) for 8-10 minutes. After that they are kneaded into long, twisted strips by hand and then sun-dried into mao cha. Such high quality forest tea mao cha such as this is usually saved to make into sheng puer. However, advances in processing shu puer have made it possible to make shu puer in smaller batches with lower risk of wasting those excellent leaves. Makers can now use more expensive leaf material to make shu puer, with remarkable results. For the Cha Tao puer cake, the mao cha is taken to Youle in southern Yunnan, where the humid climate and clean air provide a better environment for making shu puer.

Cangyuan County’s old forest tea trees
A cluster of small tea trees on a hill, thick with new growth.
Cultivated Camellia sinensis var. assamica tea trees growing in Yunnan.

Cangyuan County borders old Pu’er City to the east and Myanmar to the west and south. The area has a long history of planting tea and as a result has plentiful old growth tea trees. The region’s forest tea tree resources stretch across borders, and the local tea-making families have a tradition of purchasing fresh tea from their neighbors across the border to make puer. Most people in Cangyuan are part of the Wa ethnic minority, a transnational ethnic group that lives partly in China and partly in Myanmar.

No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.

Cha Tao 2017 brewing guidelines

Break off a small piece from cake (learn how)

5 grams tea

12 oz 100°C (212ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

At least 5 infusions: 3, 3, 5, 8, 10 minutes