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New Release of Cha Tou Ripe Pu-erh Tea 2015

[2017.02.24] Posted By

We purchased Cha Tou 2015 when we visited Yunnan in 2016. This tea was produced in the village located about 50km away from the Myanmar border. The tea was grown with the natural farming method which no pesticide or fertilizer is used.

Even after the compression we still can observe the Cha Tou

Cha Tou is the lumps of tea produced by microorganism during tea fermentation

Cha Tou means “the head of tea” in both Chinese and Japanese. Technically, Cha Tou is the lumps of tealeaf coagulated during the fermentation due to the polysaccharide produced by the microorganism. There is no oxygen inside Cha Tou. Because of this fact, it undergoes very unique maturation during the process.

The lump formed during fermentation is called Cha Tou

Small Cha Tou is on the right and the big Cha Tou is on this side.

Small Cha Tou

Small Cha Tou

There are two types of Cha Tou: the big Cha Tou and the small Cha Tou. Sometimes the tea manufacturer even classifies it into three categories. They may have mini Cha Tou as well. We used big Cha Tou for our earlier lineup, the Cha Tou Ripe Pu-erh 2012. However, we selected small Cha Tou for 2015 crop. The size of the small Cha Tou is about 1cm or slightly bigger.

It is extremely rare to make ripe pu-erh tea from spring tea

The majority of the ripe pu-erh tea is produced after blending all batches of tea collected in late spring, summer and autumn tea. The manufacturer conducts blending in order to even out the price and the overall quality. This is the typical production style of ripe pu-erh tea in big factory with mass production scale.
In other words, it’s extremely rare to find ripe pu-erh tea produced from only spring tealeaf in commercial tea market. If you have ever tried the ripe pu-erh tea produced from the spring crop, there is a huge difference in quality compared to the blended tea. The spring tea gives a mellow and silky soft drinking sensation with long lasting sweetish aftertaste.
Our tea is always from the spring crop. Every year we visit the tea manufacturer in early spring to look for the spring tea.

Ripe pu-erh tea was invented in 1970s. It has a very short history as compared to the raw pu-erh tea that has more than 700 years of history. However, in oversea market, a lot of people associate ripe pu-erh tea as the “pu-erh tea”. The ripe pu-erh tea is produced by the microbiological fermentation. During the fermentation, the substance that gives astringency such as EGCg is being oxidized and decomposed.
If tea is produced from early spring crop, regardless of raw or ripe pu-erh tea there is no astringency. On the other hand, if raw pu-erh tea is produced from summer tea, it gives strong astringency. However, once the summer tea is fermented into the ripe pu-erh tea, it gives no astringency thanks to the reason mentioned above. Consequently, summer tea-based ripe pu-erh tea is well accepted and often more famous than raw pu-erh tea in oversea market.

Earthy smell is due to the failure of process management

Many people commented that ripe pu-erh tea tends to give earthy flavor like old furniture smell or soil. This type of smell is called camphor smell that gives impression like traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, this smell is developed if ripe pu-erh tea is not produced in a proper manner. It is due to the failure in fermentation.

There are a number of microorganisms that involves in the fermentation of ripe pu-erh tea. Usually the anaerobic and aerobic bacteria actively involved in the initial stage and subsequently it is taken placed by the yeast and mold. However, if too much water is being applied, tea leaves are over wet and there is insufficient oxygen. As a result, anaerobic bacteria dominate the fermentation and it will produce substances that give unpleasant smell.
We never purchase tea once we detect camphor smell. Unfortunately, a lot of pu-erh teas are poorly made and gives earthy smell. That is the reason why a lot of people have negative impression with ripe pu-erh tea. The well-produced ripe pu-erh tea gives sweet dry-fruity flavor.

Aging further enhances the flavor of Cha Tou

The Cha Tou is giving a mild sweet fruity flavor even if tea is still fresh.
However, the best timing to drink this tea is after being kept for a few years (if tea is kept in warmer climate. In case the tea is kept under cooler environment, the maturation will takes longer period of time).
It develops very unique and complex flavor like dried dates with a hint of raisin note.

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