the appetizer:

The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World's Best Teas by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss, includes excerpts like Pu-erh Tea; Gallery of Pu-erh Teas; and The Perfect Cup: Specifics for Steeping Pu-erh Tea.

Cookbook Profile

The Perfect Cup
Specifics for Steeping Pu-erh Tea

by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss

Pu-erh Tea


Gaiwans and small unglazed clay teapots are the preferred vessels for steeping Pu-erh tea. In fact, they are the only vessels that tea connoisseurs in Asia use to steep this tea.

Pu-erh tea can be successfully re-infused many times.

In fact, it should be steeped this way in order to enjoy the many phases of flavor that these short infusions will deliver. Pu-erh will not be your "rushing-off-to-work-in-the-morning" quick cup of tea, but it might become your evening or weekend pursuit when drinking tea with a gathering of tealoving friends.

Pu-erh, with all of its variables of age, leaf material, and sheng or shou production styles, is not as straightforward as other teas for giving precise leaf-to-water ratios and steeping time guidelines.

Here are a few pointers to get you going; the rest of your Pu-erh tea steeping education will come with experimentation. Keep notes on the tea you steep, the optimum water temperature, the number of re-infusions, and re-infusion times, and you will find your personal assessment of the results becomes a valuable reference tool.

1. Choose a gaiwan or an unglazed clay teapot that is between 15O and 200 ml (roughly 5 ounces to 6-3/4 ounces) in size.

2. Fill the vessel one-quarter full with Pu-erh that you have broken off from a beeng cha and separated into leaves and small pieces. If you are weighing your tea, use approximately 4 to 5 grams per 100 ml of capacity. Ideally, a 150-ml pot or gaiwan will require approximately 3 tablespoons (5 to 6 grams) of tea; a 200-ml vessel will need approximately 4 tablespoons (6 to 7 grams) of tea, but you can add more or less leaf as your taste for and experience with Pu-erh expands.

3. Pu-erh needs the hottest water of any tea. Use water that is just off the boil, at 205 degrees to 210 degrees F.

4. The first pour of water is the "rinse water" for washing the leaves. Pour it on and immediately pour it off.

5. Add more hot water and steep the tea for twenty-five seconds. Drain the tea into a tea pitcher and serve. Let the tea cool for a few seconds before drinking it to better appreciate the flavor.

Here are some infusion time recommendations to get you started. When you feel like experimenting, increase steeping times by increments often and fifteen seconds until the flavor begins to diminish. Loose-leaf shou Pu-erh can be steeped like black tea, whether you are using a gaiwan, an individual tea cup or mug, or a teapot, and can be scaled up directly, whereas a good sheng Pu-erh might not scale directly.

Infusion Times
Infusion Times Infusion Number
First Rinse (rinse a second time if the tea is an old beeng cha or if it seems particularly dusty)
Second 25 seconds
Third 30 seconds
Fourth 35 seconds
Fifth 40 seconds
Sixth 45 seconds
Seventh 50 seconds
Eighth 55 seconds
Ninth 60 seconds
Tenth                           90 seconds

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This page created September 2010