breaking up a beeng - or not


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breaking up a beeng - or not

Postby drumhum » Dec 1st, '08, 13:15

I've been pondering the "best practise" when it comes to taking a few leaves from a beeng.

It seems clear to me that the best way to break up a beeng is to split the whole thing in half - as demonstrated rather elegantly by Cloud in his you-tube videos. Splitting a cake into two (or three) slices allows some pot-friendly chunks to be gathered by gently bending and loosening a thin slice. The process minimizes the chance of breaking leaves.

A whole cake is broken up this way though - what if you intend to just drink a little and store the rest?

I presume its best to store a cake intact, otherwise we'd all be breaking up cakes and storing them in bits in a bag.

If I just want to take the odd pot of tea from a cake over a period of time (ie years) I presume I'm better just hacking off a little from the edges of the cake. I can't help worrying this will lead to broken leaves and poor brews though.

So do we try and preserve the form of the cake as much as possible or do we throw caution to the wind, buy some paper bags, and get busy with our letter openers as soon as we get a new tea?
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Postby Dizzwave » Dec 1st, '08, 13:27

That's a great question, drumhum, that I've been wondering about too. Throw in another possible factor: sometimes tea tastes better when it's been aired out or broken up for a little while.
Possible case in point: a 2000 sheng brick I bought based on how much I liked the sample. Once I received the brick, the strength and flavor seemed only to be a shadow of that of the sample. I talked to the vendor and found out that the sample had been in its broken-up state for at least 7 months (and in sort of a humid environment, at that). (They were very cool about it and offered to refund it, but I think I'm just going to trust that it's the same tea, break it up, and try it again in a few months.)

Can anyone lend credibility to that story? Is it true that it makes a difference?
If so, then, yeah, I think any tea that you're going to drink at all in the next year would be worth breaking up (or at least breaking in half, like you said, drumhum).
-dave
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Postby shogun89 » Dec 1st, '08, 16:10

I just take my cake insert a knife in the side pry off about 5 grams for the brew then wrap the rest of the cake back up. As long as you are careful it will not break up the leaves much. Thats the way I've been doing it for the past year and has always worked well for me. It seems to be more a matter of preference.
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Dec 1st, '08, 18:05

Dizzwave wrote:Can anyone lend credibility to that story? Is it true that it makes a difference?
If so, then, yeah, I think any tea that you're going to drink at all in the next year would be worth breaking up (or at least breaking in half, like you said, drumhum).
-dave


I can't speak from personal experience but isn't this pretty much the reason why they make loose mao cha? I would imagine that the more surface area the tea has exposed to air and whatever else, the quicker it will age faster.

The next question that would likely come up would be, is slower ageing better than quicker ageing? (would it be better to break up or leave whole in the long run)
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Postby shogun89 » Dec 1st, '08, 18:07

PolyhymnianMuse wrote:
Dizzwave wrote:Can anyone lend credibility to that story? Is it true that it makes a difference?
If so, then, yeah, I think any tea that you're going to drink at all in the next year would be worth breaking up (or at least breaking in half, like you said, drumhum).
-dave


I can't speak from personal experience but isn't this pretty much the reason why they make loose mao cha? I would imagine that the more surface area the cake that exposed to air and whatever else it will age faster.


They say in AOT mag that they compared a 10 year old sample of a cake and maocha both of which where the same harvest and stored the same the cake was much better than the maocha.
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Postby drumhum » Dec 1st, '08, 18:33

(edit- I this was written before the last two posts appeared!)
just some more thoughts,

It seems logical that tea will be different depending on where its been "living" in the cake: surface leaves will have totally different conditions to those buried deep in the middle of the cake. They will age differently. - They look different after all!

I understand some manufacturers will put "special leaves" on the surface of a cake perhaps for appearance sake - but also for tea sake (I dunno - like a skin or seal?).

With just these two points in mind it makes sense to me that a good pot of tea will consist of leaves from all over the cake; a nice balanced collection of surface, edge and inner leaf as well as variety of size, shape and type of leaf - at least if you want your brews to be consistent for the cake. One can only achieve this if one breaks the cake up fully and properly.

When I brew up I like to throw into the pot, some single whole leaves, a block or two of compressed stuff, and perhaps some amount of "crumbs". One has less choice when just chipping away a small amount. Having a good selection of broken cake means I'm more likely to prepare my tea better. I'm less likely break leaves in my haste to brew up.

My point is, a full broken cake (probably) leads to better tea brewing.

The question is, how much does breaking a cake up, affect the aging process? How much would 10 years affect tea from a broken up cake vs an intact one? Could it be a broken cake would age quicker and more evenly? Could it be better for the tea, lead to a better drink?

I'm sure tea needs to "settle" for some time in cake form from being manufactured.

Tea in cake form makes a lot of sense of course. Cakes are robust and the tea leaf is protected in travel or piled storage. Once we have them at home though, things are different.

If the effect over time is negative then we must obviously only break a cake if we intend to drink the lot over a short period. Perhaps the key to this is to cut (bread knife?) a proportion of cake, like you would a birthday cake, to break up and drink while putting the rest in storage.

Perhaps I need to get out more and stop pondering such trivia - but I doubt it :-)[/i]
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Postby drumhum » Dec 1st, '08, 18:44

shogun89 wrote:They say in AOT mag that they compared a 10 year old sample of a cake and maocha both of which where the same harvest and stored the same the cake was much better than the maocha.


I see that as not surprising. By definition, a cake has had further processing than moacha. Maocha is bound to be more fragile too - more susceptible to adverse environments. I'd guess just a really wet weekend could mess up moacha while a cake might be less bothered. Come to think of it, that's probably a good reason to keep your cake intact for as long as possible!

And "better" in what way?
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Postby shogun89 » Dec 1st, '08, 19:28

drumhum wrote:
shogun89 wrote:They say in AOT mag that they compared a 10 year old sample of a cake and maocha both of which where the same harvest and stored the same the cake was much better than the maocha.


I see that as not surprising. By definition, a cake has had further processing than moacha. Maocha is bound to be more fragile too - more susceptible to adverse environments. I'd guess just a really wet weekend could mess up moacha while a cake might be less bothered. Come to think of it, that's probably a good reason to keep your cake intact for as long as possible!

And "better" in what way?


They described it as more complex more full and an overall better body to it where as the maocha tasted kinda flat. This just makes sense because the maocha would be exposed to the climate and would most likely be effected by it more as you stated.
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Dec 1st, '08, 19:47

shogun89 wrote:
drumhum wrote:
shogun89 wrote:They say in AOT mag that they compared a 10 year old sample of a cake and maocha both of which where the same harvest and stored the same the cake was much better than the maocha.


I see that as not surprising. By definition, a cake has had further processing than moacha. Maocha is bound to be more fragile too - more susceptible to adverse environments. I'd guess just a really wet weekend could mess up moacha while a cake might be less bothered. Come to think of it, that's probably a good reason to keep your cake intact for as long as possible!

And "better" in what way?


They described it as more complex more full and an overall better body to it where as the maocha tasted kinda flat. This just makes sense because the maocha would be exposed to the climate and would most likely be effected by it more as you stated.


Perhaps since the mao cha had more exposure it reached, and surpassed, its peak while the cake being compressed aged slower?
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