From Mao Cha to tea cake
Where does the tradition of compressing Pu’Er tea originate from ?
In the past, Pu’Er tea travelled extensively from Yunnan to Tibet with the caravans of the “Ancient Tea Horse Road” (Cha Ma Gu Dao). It was exchanged especially for salt and Tibetan horses. Compressing the tea enabled it to be transported in better conditions and to be kept longer.
The different stages of cake manufacturing
The Mao Cha is first weighed: each cake, in its traditional form, must weigh exactly 357g - or even 400g in some areas (For ex. The Six Mountains). Then the tea is placed in a cylindrical container of which the bottom is pierced with small holes, and passed through gentle steam for a few seconds. This process humidifies and softens the leaves and the Mao Cha stacks itself.
The tea is then put into a cloth sleeve and shaped into a thick cake. Then it is placed under a stone to be compacted.
The cake is then removed from the sleeve and placed in a slightly heated drying room for 2 to 3 days. This process can also be done in the sun or in the shade of a ventilated place depending on climatic conditions. This step can take up to several days. Once dry, the cakes are wrapped in paper and dated. They are then stacked by seven in a bamboo leaf casing binded together with ties (also made of bamboo). These are called “tongs”. Finally these “tongs” are grouped by dozen in bamboo woven baskets. The cakes can then begin their slow ripening and mellowing.
To see the making of the Pu’Er cakes (here our Six Mountains Tea) please follow the link :