ZeroZen said

How to loosen a very hard pressed aged Sheng?

Most of the cakes I have are quite easy to be loosen. But I got one brick that is hard as a stone. Every time I try to break something apart with my Pu-knife I nearly stab myself every time. I am lucky it didn’t happen sofar. This is really a dusty situation because it is nearly impossible for me to break apart bigger pieces or non-broken stuff. Most of the stuff that comes off is very small and dusty. So I wonder if there is a certain technique I haven’t accomplished sofar that works with hard compressed Pu!

19 Replies
TeaLife.HK said

Steam it!

mrmopar said

Bricks and XG’s very tight compression! I feel with ya. If you do steam just be sure to DRY it completely before you put it away.

TeaLife.HK said

I’ve never steamed a tea apart myself (no need to) but yes, good point. Gotta dry it out again after steaming it apart!

One guy in a discussion of the same point said that he hit it with a hammer. For some reason that really cracks me up. It reminds me of a friend paraphrasing Nietzsche: if you want to find out if something is strong then hit it with a hammer (not what he said, directly, but along those lines).

Steaming is the answer that tends to come up, but it does seem odd, getting tea wet that you plan to put back in storage. I think I’d go with using tools first, breaking out the vice-grips, clamps, and wood chisels if necessary. People have also mentioned that you wouldn’t want to use any devices on it that you wouldn’t for food, which makes sense, but I think I’d be ok with alternating between using tools for replacing brake discs and breaking apart highly compressed pu’er.

TeaLife.HK said

I have used a hammer and it works great!

andresito said

I suppose its similar to steaming tea to press it initially. Some cakes are aged as loose maocha then steamed/pressed into cakes. If its not over-steamed, and if its dried properly, yes it changes the tea that was never steamed but I don’t see it being detrimental.

For example

AllanK said
ZeroZen said

AllanK that tool looks really great. To bad it is only available via Taobao – if you aren’t from China you can only buy it via agent. With the hammer – hm I am not sure – something about it feels not right! I mean doesn’t this method in the end creates a lot of dusty and broken stuff again? And do you use the Hammer directly on the cake or is there something between it – a towel or a small piece of wood or so?

AllanK said

There is always the option to buy an awl or a chisel. But if you buy either of these be careful not to get cut. I have a custom made awl that I bought on EBay. It even looks like a tea tool but that was not it’s expected purpose.

TeaLife.HK said

When I used a hammer a few hard strikes shattered the tuo, but it was traditional storage tea and had loosened up already. An awl or needle-like pick would work well

AllanK said

I have used two different Taobao Agents, Taobao Focus and Taobao Tube I think was the other one. In any case only Taobao Focus is still in operation. However, King Tea also now has a Taobao Agent service. I have a pair of those pliers and they work on fairly tough bricks.

I have a sheng brick, and used a pu er knife and a hammer. It worked. But yes, bricks can be like solid rock.

Nefarious said

I use a pu-erh pick mostly but occasionally I resort to a short pointy tool on my Swiss Army knife – I find it better to break off material using a drilling and levering motion without stabbing my hands

VoirenTea said

One very hard compressed cake I hand-drilled holes through it in a row with a pointy tool and then snapped along the weak spot.

I’ve had a few iron cakes that I’ve broken up with an oyster knife working outward from the beenghole. An oyster knife has a pointy tip that’s bent slightly upward to slide under the shell and pry upward on the abductor. I’ve had success opening the cake by pretending I’m shucking an oyster.

Found this old topic that is my exact question! Any fresh answers? How does one “steam” a hard-pressed cake without brewing the surface leaves in condensation?

AJ said

I think a lot of people regard steaming as a last resort because the condensation obviously removes some of the flavour. But if you’re allowing that condensation to dry down on the leaf again rather than drain away, you’re not technically ‘losing’ anything.

This is how I’ve steamed cakes apart in the past: take a “tea sock” (google ‘em—but any cheese cloth/muslin/fabric coffee filter will do, especially if it’s attached to a ring). Preferably one that fits over the rim of a coffee carafe or other large, insulated receptacle for hot beverages (thermos, etcetera). Warm your thermos/carafe, then fill it part way with boiled water. Make sure that the fill-line is well below where the sock hangs into the container. Put your cake in (obviously this only works for 100g or smaller cakes unless you’ve got a larger holder; you might have to break it up into very large chunks first, otherwise).

Make sure that the sock/cake doesn’t touch the water, then set the lid on top and let sit for a day. I took it out, worked free any large chunks I could with my fingers, to expose the still-dry insides. I then removed the outer moistened steamed-apart leaves to dry, refilled the carafe with fresh boiled water, and replaced the still-compressed parts. Repeat until I was satisfied with the pieces I’d gotten. Everything was set out on papertowel on a tray and left to dry for a day.

I found I didn’t lose anything significant in the taste, although I know puerh drinkers more diehard than me have noted it.

Thank you for the ideas and the encouragement, AJ!

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