SARAH MUSGRAVE, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2007
THE SIP: PU-ERH SILVER TIPS TEA 2004
The price: $8.50 for 25 grams (five big pots' worth), or $75 for a full 225-gram brick.
The smell: What would waft up if you opened a cellar door you had discovered among some dry and half-overgrown ruins.
The look: Unlike other teas, pu-erh comes in brick form, a tradition that came from transporting it by mule from China for trade with Tibet.
The taste: You can get several infusions out of one pot, each quite different, as the various compounds are released from the leaves. Earthy, underground, mysterious. Moss dappled by sunlight. Scattered flowers. At the risk of sounding even cheesier, I'll just say it tastes like nature.
The story: Produced in limited quantities in Yunnan, southwest China, pu-erh continues one of the oldest forms of tea-making to survive today.
In its truest artisanal form, the leaves are picked by hill people from 700-year-old trees high in the misty mountains, then left to dry, pressed into bricks, and aged for about 10 years.
Much like wines, these teas have become highly collectible in recent years, inspiring talk of terroir and tradition, and fetching high prices.
The source: Top-of-the-line tea trader Camellia Sinensis (now with a second shop at 7010 Casgrain St., 514-271-4002) has started its own pu-erh cellar, with a yearly reserve that's aged on site.
The twist: Recently returned from Yunnan with the spring line, Kevin Gascoyne and Jasmin Desharnais of Camellia Sinensis will present a behind-the-scenes peek at the pu-erh scene and share a taste of this unusual product at a workshop on Saturday, June 9, at Jean Talon Market. For details, visit camelliasinensis. com.
Send suggestions to slmusgrave@ gmail.com.
?The Gazette (Montreal) 2007