Breaking a pu'erh brick vs. grinding matcha
I know the two are not too similar, but it’s a question that popped into my head when reading about the importance of properly loosening a pu’erh brick. I’ve gathered that if done improperly (meaning actually ripping the leaves apart), the broken leaves will be “cooked” by the hot water more easily, and the compounds within the tea will be broken up, making the tea bitter. I understand this pretty completely.
However, with this logic, I’m trying to figure out why matcha, which is as “broken-up” as you can make the leaf due to its powdered state, can still not taste bitter and can contain such high levels of beneficial compounds.
I’m still learning lots about tea—maybe some experts here can help me figure this one out.
Matcha is prepared with much cooler water, this is the main reason. Also matcha is shade grown and steamed, instead of roasted or pan-fried, lending to it’s delicate sweet taste. Because Puerh is a truely fermented(decomposing) tea, boiling water is used to kill the bacteria/fungi that are still present, and to fully extract it’s flavor. I would tend to think ground puerh brewed at matcha temps wouldn’t be bitter(astringent)per se, but maybe just kinda nasty like pond water! Also the beneficial compounds are different in these types. More EGCG and vitamins in green tea, more enzymes and probiotics in puerh. As an interesting side note, the Japanese learned grinding their tea from the Chinese, who used to do the same until brick tea was banned(it was being used as currency and, hence, being heavily adulterated). The Chinese emperor forced the market to convert to loose tea, which lead to the development of various oxidation procedures – creating the different shades of oolong and black teas. Puerh is a return to this method, but with an emphasis on aging and fermentation.