Smoke - leaf? processing? aging?


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Smoke - leaf? processing? aging?

Postby expatCanuck » Dec 30th, '08, 12:41

Greetings -

I've very much enjoyed some pu-erh teas with smoky/tobacco notes, tho' I find Lapsang Souchong (LS) to be, for the most part, vile. Too over the top. Perhaps I've just not found a good source.

My reading indicates that LS smells/tastes smoky because of its processing.

I was wondering whether the smoky notes in some pu-erhs is likely a result of processing, aging, the leaves chosen, some combination of the foregoing, or something else entirely.

Learned wisdom welcome.

Thanks.

- Richard
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Postby Proinsias » Dec 30th, '08, 12:45

I think it's inner city exhaust fumes:

http://shanghaiist.com/2008/11/27/video ... _resol.php
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Re: Smoke - leaf? processing? aging?

Postby thanks » Dec 30th, '08, 12:47

expatCanuck wrote:Greetings -

I've very much enjoyed some pu-erh teas with smoky/tobacco notes, tho' I find Lapsang Souchong (LS) to be, for the most part, vile. Too over the top. Perhaps I've just not found a good source.

My reading indicates that LS smells/tastes smoky because of its processing.

I was wondering whether the smoky notes in some pu-erhs is likely a result of processing, aging, the leaves chosen, some combination of the foregoing, or something else entirely.

Learned wisdom welcome.

Thanks.

- Richard


I've always wondered about this myself, and from my readings of things online it seems to be during the drying process after picking the leaf. Pu'er is supposed to be sun-dried normally, but the weather is not always nice so they artificially dry it with the help of fire- which explains the smoke. Tea leaves are almost like sponges of moisture and aromas so it would explain why this smoke stays for decades sometimes.

Anyway that's my take from my own few readings on the subject. I'd love to hear some more experienced teachatters confirm this or provide the real answer.
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Postby puerhking » Dec 30th, '08, 13:01

Its my understanding that this can occur during the sha qing process as the leaf is exposed to heat and possibly smoke.
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Postby expatCanuck » Dec 30th, '08, 13:32

puerhking wrote:Its my understanding that this can occur during the sha qing process as the leaf is exposed to heat and possibly smoke.

sha qing?


[Edit - Ahh - kill green / killing out. Gotta love Google.]
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Postby vibrantdragon » Dec 30th, '08, 14:49

Hi,
The green leaves are heat treated in an oven to stop the enzymes from converting the leaves into black tea. This step should not give it a smoking flavor, all leaves should have the same treatment. I guess a wood fire vs a gas fire could be used, so maybe at this step. Normally, this is fairly hot maybe ~250C for a short time. Next, it varies depending upon weather it is cooked vs raw tea.

Cooked tea is not really heated, but the pile of leaves are wet down and let set in large piles; the fermentation reaction does create a lot of heat. They watch and adjust the size of the piles to adjust the heat. Different heat levels will encourage the growth of different fungi strains in the piles. After 50 or so days the changes stop and the piles cool down.
Raw tea really has very little done to it. The green leaves after heat treating are just kept dry till they are pressed into the shape they will be sold in. During this time the leaves natural pick up the fungi needed to convert them into Pu'er.

I will ask one of my friends that make Pu'er next time i speak what they do if they want the smoky flavor.
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Postby puerhking » Dec 30th, '08, 15:15

Not all leaves are processed in an oven though in large factories they probably are. Scott specifies on his puerhs whether or not they used a wok and did the sha qing by hand. This presumably...has an effect on flavor.
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Postby Salsero » Dec 30th, '08, 15:16

vibrantdragon wrote: I will ask one of my friends that make Pu'er next time i speak what they do if they want the smoky flavor.
Please do. I have long wondered about this. I like to think the smoke taste is just part of the tea, but I don't know.
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Postby puerhking » Dec 30th, '08, 15:25

vibrantdragon wrote:Hi,

Cooked tea is not really heated, but the pile of leaves are wet down and let set in large piles; the fermentation reaction does create a lot of heat. They watch and adjust the size of the piles to adjust the heat. Different heat levels will encourage the growth of different fungi strains in the piles. After 50 or so days the changes stop and the piles cool down.
Raw tea really has very little done to it. The green leaves after heat treating are just kept dry till they are pressed into the shape they will be sold in. During this time the leaves natural pick up the fungi needed to convert them into Pu'er.

I will ask one of my friends that make Pu'er next time i speak what they do if they want the smoky flavor.


It is also my understanding that shu or cooked puerh is processed the same way as sheng. They are both created from mao cha so the oxidation is stopped by the cha qing process. For shu the mao cha is then subjected to moisture and allowed to ferment....which creates its own heat which keeps the process rolling.
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Postby vibrantdragon » Dec 30th, '08, 18:59

Yes, both are heated to stop the oxidation of the enzymes.

The heat treated leaves are than dry stored till they are used to make the tea. They might keep the leaves 1, 6 months or even 2 years until they are pressed to make the raw tea cakes or till they are fermented to make the cooked tea.

One of my friends just pressed cakes out of his leaves that he picked and heat treated back in the early spring. Once they are heat treated they can be stored for a while.
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Postby beecrofter » Dec 30th, '08, 19:05

Bad weather means artificial heat , good weather means sunshine.
Any farmer is on a tight enough margin to pick free sunshine first, but it rains often in the mountains. The cheaper the fuel source the more smoke, compare pine straw and twigs vs charcoal. The smoke imo is not a healthy ingrediant, smoke in general is a proven carcinogen.
So it boils down to this " The Doctor said it would kill me- but he didn't say when."
Don't feel guilty pouring the first 3 even 4 infusions down the drain, some of these teas are stellar in the later pours.
In the grand scale of behavior choices that have impact upon our health I'd say this one was a wash because the benefits of tea just might balance out any risks.
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Re: Smoke - leaf? processing? aging?

Postby Jim Liu » Dec 30th, '08, 21:33

thanks wrote: I've always wondered about this myself, and from my readings of things online it seems to be during the drying process after picking the leaf. Pu'er is supposed to be sun-dried normally, but the weather is not always nice so they artificially dry it with the help of fire- which explains the smoke. Tea leaves are almost like sponges of moisture and aromas so it would explain why this smoke stays for decades sometimes.


This is officially a correct answer to the question.

If you have been in the tea mountains and villages, you would have seen it the first hand. During these raining days the un-dried maocha was placed in a large bamboo made basket, and placed on the 2nd floor of the tea farmer's house built with wood, bamboo and straw. Now the tea farmers are doing their cooking with tree stems and straws, the heavy smoke can be smelled a mile away. Guess what happened to the maocha?
Last edited by Jim Liu on Dec 30th, '08, 21:37, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby tenuki » Dec 30th, '08, 21:36

It's from driving trucks over the leaves repeatedly in order for the exhaust to cure/dry them. Don't worry, the smoke flavor will mellow into sweetness, and you can't taste the lead so that's not an issue...
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Postby hop_goblin » Dec 31st, '08, 19:16

Smoke is considered a acceptable defect generally as a consequence to the methods some of the post mentioned.
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Postby vibrantdragon » Jan 2nd, '09, 02:25

I just spoke with my Tea master and he said that the smoky flavor typical comes from small shops that hand heat the Mao Cha during late Spring and Autumn leaves. That time of the year is rainy so during one of the drying steps they use sunshine to dry the leaves and that might take several days during this time of year. They take the leaves home and spread them out at night or during rain in their in their houses. These people live in one room houses out in the mountain areas and they smoke tobacco as well as poppies and they cook in their houses with open fires. The smokes mixes with the leaves making that smoky flavor. At this time of year the Shai Qing Mao Cha does not have so much Shai (time in the sunshine).
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