Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hot Buttered Tea Anyone?

This post on tea is from my good friend and research colleague, Carl Dister.

Although I enjoy a variety of unique teas, my favorite, especially in the cold months like January is Puer tea.  Most teas are made from a tea plant of the family Camellia Sinensis.  However, Puer tea is made from a genetic variant called Assamica:

This special tea comes from a village in the Yunnan Province of China called Pu’er Village.  The village has been producing this tea for centuries.  Some of the trees there today are over 500 years old!

The first time I tried Puer tea was when I was fortunate enough to visit Yunnan Province on business several years ago.  Here is the tea shop I visited that is owned by a native of Puer Village. Her family is one of the producers of the tea , and she sells it in her shop:


At her tea shop, I enjoyed a fun tea ceremony where I tried a number of Puer teas.

Puer teas are graded by both the tree they come from in the village, and the tea’s age.  Some of the very expensive teas in the shop were approaching 100 years old.  There is one particular tree in the village that people come from around the world to make sure their tea is picked specifically from that several hundred year old tree (many attribute that specific tree and its tea to a very long life span over the centuries in their families!)

The tea is typically compressed into round discs or square bricks (hence the name “brick tea” in some Chinese literature.) At the tea shop, they allowed me to press my own green puer tea:


In the Tibetan mountains, people often carry the bricks of tea in their sack, and then prepare it over fires adding butter.  This “butter tea” is apparently very helpful in cold weather to avoid health issues.  (I haven’t tried butter tea yet!)  The tea taste is very distinctive and has an earthy flavor (some joke it has a “dirt” flavor, but I think it is more of a mineral taste.)  Also, it has a tendency to suppress appetite and improve digestion.

When I visited Yunnan Province, my friend Stone Deng took me on several excursions.  Here is a photograph of Stone’s home village in the mountains of China:


 Often times, we hear only of the pollution and crowded conditions in the major cities of China, and surely that exists.  But China also has amazing areas like those near Yunnan where it is very majestic.  This is the area of a famous Chinese town called “Shangri-La”.

I hope to return again someday to visit Stone Deng, stop by his cousin’s tea shop, and visit the rope bridges while drinking butter tea from the 500 year old tree!

Here is the info on the Tea shop:

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