; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Puerh Crock Fermentation Report--Final ;

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Puerh Crock Fermentation Report--Final

Day 35
When I wet down the tea on day 39 using Last Thoughts brew, I noted dark syrup drips from the fermenting tea leaves. You could see this in the above photo from day 35 on my last report. I just don't feel this tea has anywhere left to go. It has changed over to shou puerh. 

So, I dried the tea in the sun for 5 afternoons. From my reading, shou is either dried quickly in a hot dryer or is allowed to dry in the sun until <20% humidity remains in the tea. We have incredibly dry weather at the moment so drying the tea is not a problem. I am surprised how the fermenting odors left the tea. Now it smells like nothing, except maybe like minerals, graphite. The tea is dark brown with some nice Cha Tou.

Sun-drying my shou
Now that the tea has dried out, I have transferred it to a vintage stoneware vessel. The tea must rest for 6 months to remove any funk, reduce any bacteria to baseline, and to bring forward any flavor in the leaf out as the fermenting smells decrease. Will all this occur? I don't know, sometime in mid-September I can find out whether this tea is worth drinking. In the meantime, I brewed up a quick cup to check the color.

Single steep of the shou leaf.  (10 March 2015)
This seems like a nice brown to me, I only used a few grams. You can see the tea is somewhat cloudy. Shou can take years to completely clarify. The leftover leaves show they have more to give.

I used maybe a bit over a teaspoon of dried leaf.
I tasted the brew twice and spit. The only flavor I can detect at this point is a minerally taste. I smell a slightly fruity scent but it doesn't translate into the cup. Since this is gushu and dashu base, either the sweet will return with time or I killed it. Could go either way, this leaf tasted rather mild to me when I started. I can now appreciate why summer tea and a more bitter tea yields a strong flavor shou.

"Before" photo of the tea, what a change eh? (25 Jan. 2015)
 The purpose of this experiment was to show the fermentation process in vintage American crock ware, and the potential of crock ware for storage in a very dry North American climate. I changed sheng over to heavily fermented shou in 35-40 days by wetting the tea and covering with a wooden lid. Occasionally I put the crock on a warm radiator for a day or two at a time to increase the heat. I turned the tea on an average of every two days. 

The amount of time needed to change the tea is similar to the time needed for sauerkraut, a traditional food produced in crock ware in my cold climate for Vitamin C supplementation. Sauerkraut is a necessary food in cold northern latitudes when fruits are unavailable. The only other substantial source of this vitamin in North American winters is whale skin. Due to refrigeration, we have lost knowledge of crock fermentation and food storage. The crocks are now found in barns, garages and antique shops. I believe this type of storage is a viable method for storing and fermenting puerh tea without using plastic wrap or plastic-lined refrigerators. I need more crocks for my growing tea collection.

Until then, I will look forward to mid-September when I can give my shou a good tasting. Hopefully a good rest over the summer will bring out more flavors and clarify the brew. Come autumn, I also plan to steam this batch and press it into a brick, or beeng shape. I need to figure out what to use as a weight, and that will determine the final shape.

Requiescat in Pace.


  1. Interesting experiment; unfortunate that it didn't yield much flavor!

    Also, I'd point you towards animal products as a source of pretty much all vitamins, depending on what animal and what product. C may be tricky, though I know it's present in goat and lamb livers in good concentration.


    1. Well the jury is still out on flavor because shou has to rest for a time, it is never moved to market immediately. When I wrote about Vitamin C I was referring to more than 100 years ago, traditional native and settler diets. Do you know that people can starve eating rabbits and venison? Also, a goat is more valuable for milk than meat unless you can afford to buy another goat after you eat your current one. ;)

    2. I was aware of rabbit starvation, but I don't believe I've seen it mentioned in regards to venison. Deer is pretty lean, though, so it isn't terribly surprising. At least, the deer around here in MD are lean. You are much further north, so perhaps fattier animals are available; elk or moose or the like. The time context is pretty important though. You are correct in she-goats being more important for milk. Depending on herd size you could cull off the rams bit by bit, but my exposure to goats is limited to only a few.

      Either way, homemade kraut best kraut.

      Best of luck on the rested tea turning out well!


    3. I think venison is missing some amino acids, though I believe if you supplement venison and rabbit with cow's milk butter you are probably okay. Otherwise, fish would be the way to go. I'm a bit too far south for moose and elk, however people have elk farms here and I can buy elk venison locally as well as buffalo and deer.

      I agree on sauerkraut though I prefer to buy it at this stage. I would prefer homemade pickles though. When buying sauerkraut the main thing I look for is no added vinegar. That means the kraut has been washed of its natural brine which defeats the purpose.