On July 4th and 5th we went to a course on Pu-erh tea in Brussels.We made the trip from Brugge on train, and entered this charming table ready for some serious tasting. Our host was Olivier Schneider a French pu-erh expert now living in Yunnan. For who doesn't know much what Pu-erh is. Its a special sort of tea from tea-trees being harvested for thousands of years in the mountains of the Yunnan province in China. The first day it was all about the Hong-Kong style, Cooked or Shou Pu-erh. which was developed as you can tell in hong-kong. This Pu-erh is storaged in for a couple of years in wet storage. This is done to start the fermentation process which gives the tea its smoothness and depth in taste.After that it get put in 'dry' storage to get rid of some side effects of the wet storage. We started with a young tea that did not get a proper wet storage yet. From the first sip we could sense its bitterness and deep astringency without a lot of debth, not a favourite of ours. But it was a great starting point as we went from short to long wet storage a tea at a time. In the end its colour got deep red like the best wines, with a great aroma, one we enjoyed in over 20 slightly different steeps. The second day it was all about Taiwan style Pu-erh also called Green Pu-erh or Raw-Pu-erh. After this tea is pressed into cakes it is left to naturally fermented in a natural environment it is often considered 'vintage' after 30 years and at its best at 50. We started with a 5 year old green Pu-erh. a strong, flat aroma came at us. As we went further with teas longer in fermentation we heard the story of Vesper Chan of best tea house in Hong Kong. In 1993 he was amazed that he could buy Green Pu-erh so cheaply, so he just bought all he could. A couple of years later he got a note from his accountant that he spent a small fortune in stocking costs. But eventually he convinced customers of this amazing tea, and you don't need to worry for him. Near the end the real work commenced with a charcoal burner -great for the atmosphere-. It all went quite as he very carefully got out a bit of the real deal, over 50 years or careful fermentation. 30 steeps of wipped milk, sweetness, fruit, Hay, and much more later we were forced too stop as 6.30 was approaching the end of our session. The tea outlasted us greatly. A memory to treasure for sure.
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