Since the weather had been pretty mild & nearly spring-like since the beginning of January, I was thinking of taking less wintery teas out of their hibernation. But snow came yesterday afternoon, & with it, cold. So I decided to forget about drinking oolong teas, & to talk about a tea that has been puzzling me for a long time : ripened pu-erh tea in a mandarin orange.
The mandarin orange I have comes from a French teaseller that sells organic teas only : Evol Tea.
Ming, the Chinese teaman, very kindly told me how to brew this unusual tea, & its properties.
After unwrapping the fruit, one finds a tiny greenish-brownish ball, hard & dry, the size of a big marble.
How is it made ? With which tea ?
A tangerine (a Chinese fruit) is emptied from its flesh, & only the skin is kept. This container is then stuffed with 3-year old loose pu-erh tea, the dark fermented tea from Yunnan. It is finally left to age for one more year.
But Nanook, you keep telling us you want to have nothing to do with flavored teas ?!
True, & I don’t think I am too much sidetracked, since this tea is not sprayed with artificial flavors : it is combined with tangerine skin. The flavor comes from the citrus skin only, since the tea alone doesn’t taste like it.
Moreover, it is a very old recipe. Why not trying what has been made for a long time in the very country where tea was born ?
The name alone makes me dream. Books are not the only storytellers, are they ?
Special properties & health benefits.
Surprise : while drinking it, I felt that it was soothening for my throat. After some quick research, I learnt that, in traditional Chinese medecine, dried & aged tangerine skin is used to heal sore throat !
As for pu-erh tea, it is very commonly used in China to help digest after a generous meal.
How to brew it.
In a gaiwan, one third of a tangerine (nearly 4 gr, skin & tea) for 10 cl boiling water.
A gaiwan, THE absolutely necessary tool to travel the tea world.
Beware ! When the tangerine is cut, loose tea scatters. The dry skin is, of course, hard & brittle. Use a cutting board or a tray. Leftover tea & skin can then be re-wrapped in the paper.
First brew : a few seconds, only to rinse the leaves. This water is discarded.
Second brew : 1 minute.
Next brews : several minutes, & one can even drink directly from the gaiwan, with the leaves left inside. No bitterness.
I could brew it 5 times !
So, what does it taste like ?
The taste evolves over the successive brews. Most interesting & most surprising, is the growing taste of the tangerine, while the leathery & earthy notes of the pu-erh go backward.
I think this tea could help people rebuked by plain ripened pu-erh discover this tea family.
First brew – the second one actually, since the first one is only used to rinse the leaves : pu-erh, pu-erh, pu-erh (humus, leather, & so on). Then what is the point of storing tea leaves in a fruit, if it does not taste like this fruit at all… One more booby catcher ?
But… over the brews, the tangerine flavor grows, faintly at first, before more & more asserting itself, until stealing the show from the tea ! Unless tea itself withdraws to let the tangerine express its talent…
After 4 or 5 brews in a gaiwan, (10 cl water, 4 gr tea & leaves), partners are dancing a very nice waltz.
Tea is the backdrop, the tangerine skin astringence is felt a long time in the mouth, but tea sweetness balances it.
Tangerine sourness & pu-erh sweetness make a harmonious blend.
Strength & delicacy, sweetness & sourness… a beautiful couple !
Conclusion : With which book ? For which season ?
Which readings ? I would pick Chinese literature, stories that take place in the countryside, or poetry. Right now, no title, no author come to my mind, but I will keep exploring this amazing world.
Which seasons ? Or, rather, which weather ? Cold, a bit damp but with the sun right behind the clouds. For cold days, to comfort oneself when one can’t go for a walk in the woods.
For winter, the citrus season.
Because one wants a comforting session.
At nighttime. I drank some at night, & I had no trouble falling asleep. Tangerine has a soothing effect.
I have to go, my kettle is whistling & my book is calling…