2009 Norbu Lao Cha Tou - 250g Shu Pu-Erh Tea Brick
-Producer: Norbu Enterprises Private Label
-Materials Vintage: 2006
-Compression Date: 7/02/2009
-Growing Region: Jing Gu County, Pu-Erh Prefecture, Yunnan
I am very happy to present this new private production ripe Pu-Erh tea for Norbu Tea! Cha Tou are one of my favorite forms of Pu-Erh tea, and these little nuggets are awesome. We tasted a ton of different Cha Tou this Spring, and these from 2006 were our favorites.
The tea was fermented in late Spring, 2006 at the Jing Gu Tea factory in Pu-Erh Prefecture. The 3 years since fermentation have really mellowed out the sour “fermentationy” flavor found in most newly fermented teas. It was compressed in early July at a little factory in Kunming, where we had the bricks stored for about a month after compression. To compress these bricks, the factory has to add moisture and use some pretty serious hydraulic presses to get the Cha Tou to stick together, so the bricks needed to air out and lose some of that added moisture for a while after compression.
The flavor of this tea is quite smooth, mellow & mildly sweet. The steeped liquor is not super thick because the nuggets don’t generally unfurl too much when steeped, but the texture of the tea liquor in the mouth is full and satisfying. The amazing thing about this tea is that it can be infused so many times. In the first tasting we did after receiving these bricks, we steeped the leaves 15 times before quitting, and there was plenty left in the nuggets for more infusions. Later in the day, we decided to boil the almost spent Cha Tou loose in a kettle, which gave a different but really good flavor. These things just don’t quit…which is one of the many reasons that we love them around here.
About Lao Cha Tou:
Lao Cha Tou translates loosely as ‘Old Tea Nugget.’ Cha Tou are small nuggets of clumped-together tea leaves that are formed as a result of the heat and pressure that is generated by the piles of tea when they are undergoing fermentation. At the end of the 40-60 day fermentation process the newly fermented tea is sorted into grades based on size using impressive wind tunnel sorting machines. The nuggets are found toward the bottom of the pile usually after sorting, and are just a small portion of a batch of ripened Pu-Erh. Usually, because of this small percentage of production, many tea factories will store their Cha Tou for a few years until they accumulate enough material for a full pressing composed of a blend of several years nuggets.
Properly fermented Cha Tou like these are highly sought after because they are incredibly infusable and give a flavorful brew well beyond 15 steepings. Also, many people say that the smallest leaf & bud material make up these little nuggets, although leaf grade/size really doesn’t have much impact on the taste of the final brew in this case.