Brewing Puerh Tea with the Clever Coffee Dripper January 05 2014
In my previous life I was a very passionate coffee fanatic. You can read about the great conversion and how I came to discover and love puerh tea here: http://crimsonlotustea.com/blogs/puerh/10505421-what-is-puerh One of the residual reminders of this past life is a great abundance of coffee paraphernalia tucked into remote corners of my house. I have more fancy coffee making paraphernalia than I really know what to do with. Today I decided to see if I can reuse some of these unused tools for making puerh tea.
One coffee brewing device that I was particularly fond of was the Clever Coffee Dripper from Sweet Maria's. This device offers an improvement on the pour over coffee brewing method. There is a trap door in the bottom that releases the brew when you place the device over a cup. This allows you to keep the coffee and water in contact for as long as you want. When the time is right you place it over your cup and the brew releases into the cup finishing the brewing process. It works quite well and makes a fantastic cup of coffee; but how would it do with puerh?
I am in love with ritual and process. The gongfu style of brewing tea resonates deeply within me. Every aspect of brewing tea gongfu style is one that I appreciate. More than that though, you are given a great amount of control over all aspects of the tea brewing process. You control the amount of leaf, the temperature of the water, the amount of water, and the length of brewing time. The typical brewing vessel, the yixing teapot, is one that when used properly can enhance the flavor of the tea.
Gongfu style brewing I feel offers the best possibility for making a truly great cup of tea; puerh or otherwise. Since I've started this business and began proselytizing puerh to whoever will listen I’ve learned a lot. One thing I’ve found is that many people want to be able to brew puerh tea at home but do not have the tools needed. We created Puerh Starter Sets for just that reason. For $100 you get everything you need to start brewing puerh tea gongfu style. It's a really great bargain, but I realize it's not for everyone. I've been looking for easier ways to let people brew puerh tea in their homes. Comparing the benefits of the Clever Coffee Dripper system versus gongfu there are a lot of similarities. Gongfu wins on ritual hands down, but the Clever Coffee Dripper wins on efficiency and ease of use. Both systems allow a great deal of control over temperature, water, and brew time.
I decided to do this test with a very delicious Shou Puerh that we sell. This CPTR "Paka" is pretty young, but quite delicious. It's a 2011 and won awards in Yunnan. I really like it. Because of the volume of the Clever Coffee Dripper I went with a full 10 grams of puerh leaf. I broke open the cake as much as possible to let the water get to the leaves quicker. I decided to use my Hario Buono stainless steel kettle because it allows a very precise stream of water that is handy when used in a pour-over style setup like the Clever Coffee Dripper. I used the Brew-Rite #4 cone-style coffee filters.
Step 1: Warm the brewing vessels and wet the filter. For this I leave the Clever Coffee Dripper on the cup and pour the boiling water straight through. The water helps remove any taste that might be in the coffee filter.
Step 2: Add the puerh tea leaves into the filter cone.
Step 3: Do a quick wash. This is s typical first step for brewing puerh. It helps to clean the leaves and also open them up to get ready for brewing. I did this while the Clever Coffee Dripper was off the cup to let the water and leaves be in full contact. I did this with boiling water for about 5 seconds. Then I placed the Clever Coffee Dripper onto the cup to drain off. This wash was discarded.
Step 4: This is the brew! (you get to drink this one) Because the Clever Coffee Dripper has a much larger volume than a gaiwan or Yixing pot I went with an extended brew time. These leaves are generous and brewing gongfu style they only need around 10s for the first steeping. I decided to go for a 30s first brew. I poured the boiling water directly into the Clever Coffee Dripper and tried to get a nice swirl going to stir up the leaves. I covered the brew, waited 15s, uncovered it and stirred the leaves, then covered it again to keep it hot until 30s was up. Then I put the Clever Coffee Dripper over my cup to drain the brew and finish the steep.
That's all it takes. It's pretty simple.
The liquor is quite dark and shows how much the leaves have to offer.
The flavor and aroma are quite rich. The flavor is full bodied, smooth, and delectable. The filter used in the Clever Coffee Dripper keeps out most microscopic leaf particle. I feel this is a disadvantage as I believe this adds body to a cup of puerh. The lack of leaf particulate isn't a bad thing though. The resulting liquor is very clean and straightforward. It's delicious and easily drinkable.
I decided to see how many brews I could get out of these leaves using this method. I've been using close to the full amount of water the Clever Coffee Dripper can hold, which is about 10oz. I did a second steep at one minute. Each subsequent steep I added a minute. I leave the Clever Coffee Dripper covered to help keep the heat in. At each minute I uncovered it and stirred the leaves for a couple seconds, then I covered it and waited another minute. I repeated this process until the desired time was up. I stopped doing this after 5 steepings. I can't drink anymore! At 4 steepings the brew was still dark and flavorful. At 5 steepings the liquor had a deep amber hue, but was not as dark as earlier. I'm constantly impressed with what quality puerh leaves have to offer. If you used the Clever Coffee Dripper and brewed with half as much water you would have something that was much closer volume-wise to a yixing teapot. You could easily get 10 steepings using quality puerh leaves.
One of the pluses I see is also a downside. This can brew a lot of puerh quickly. If you use too much water you'll get too much to drink. It's similar to the problem of brewing a whole pot of coffee for just yourself. Brewing gongfu style gives you very small easily consumed cups of tea. You brew only what you can consume in the moment. When you want more you brew a little bit more. You rarely brew more than you can drink. If you don't drink all that you brew you're tempted to toss it into the microwave to get it hot again, then it's too hot and you wait for it too cool, then you don't drink it fast enough and you have to re-heat it in the microwave, and repeat. My aunt has burned out many a microwave doing just this with her coffee; true story.
Clever Coffee Dripper Puerh Brewing Pros:
- Ease of use.
- Makes high volume of brew.
- Great for larger groups of people.
- Ease of cleanup.
Clever Coffee Dripper Puerh Brewing Cons:
- Lack of ritual experience.
- Greater volume means it might get cold before you can drink it all.
- No puerh leaf particulate.
- No enhanced flavor benefit from Yixing clay.
TLDR; The Clever Coffee Dripper can be used to easily brew puerh tea. Brewing gongfu style will still give you the best experience, both ritualistically and flavor wise. However, the Clever Coffee Dripper has a place amongst the tools of the modern puerh adventurer.
All images © Crimson Lotus Tea 2014