I’m so excited to share today’s Tuesday Tea with you because 1.) it has a delicious, complex flavor profile, and 2.) it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Whether you’re spending the holiday with your honey or rockin’ the day solo, do yourself a favor and splurge a titch on the gift that is Ohio Tea Co.’s Sticky Rice Puer. Even the packaging is elegant with a picture of heart-shaped sticky rice on a delicately flowered plate. But what’s inside the packet is the best part.
Sidenote: Apparently, there are several different spellings of pu’er, puer, pu’ehr, but so far, they’ve all been pronounced the same way. A tea sommelier or knowledgeable tea shop owner/staff member will know what you’re looking for.
Never having tried puer, I started with a one-ounce package and was pleasantly surprised when the staff weighed out a generous quantity of gold foil-wrapped tea pucks. They’re classy and adorable at the same time, kind of like a tiny tea treasure.
Sidenote: My puer is approximately ¾” in diameter, and while research has revealed that the larger offerings of puer are called a “cake,” mine are tiny, so I’m calling them pucks, probably much to the horror of tea and/or puer aficionados everywhere.
Per instructions printed on the packet, I heated my water to 212° F for brewing. While the water heated, I wondered how much the now unwrapped puer puck lovingly placed in my small tea ball would expand during the brewing process. After three minutes (also per instruction), I can report that the entire small tea ball was full of puer.
I had a feeling the tea would expand quite a bit, so I took a chance that first brewing and used an insulated mug that held two cups of water. I was rewarded with a deep mahogany tea with an aroma exactly like sticky rice. It smelled delicious, but as good as it smelled, the flavor was even more of a thrill.
As expected, sticky rice was the initial taste on my palate, but then this amazing tea progressed through a multi-faceted change from first sip through swallow to lingering flavor on my tongue. I can only describe it as rich and earthy with fresh and mellow mushroom notes, sweet and light tobacco, and enduring sticky rice. I was in love with this tea.
Sidenote: Don’t talk yourself out of this tea if you’ve had a bad experience with actual mushrooms or convinced yourself that you don’t care for them without even having tried them.
Next, I experimented. Step one was to see if I could obtain a satisfactory second brewing out of all that lovely tea. Yes, it’s possible with the same quantity of water but for an additional two minutes of brewing for a total of five. In this case, the sticky rice flavor took a back seat to the other flavors but was present after swallowing. Still delicious, just a changeup in delivery of taste.
Step two involved heating four cups of water to 212° F and brewing for five minutes with my puer puck in my large tea ball. This was optimal in flavor and color, but I learned that I need to keep the second half of my tea in an insulted mug or thermos so it stays hot. Although, I will say that puer drinks quite nicely when cool. So far, I haven’t experienced any bitterness with longer brewing or resting times.
For step three, I acted upon something one of the ladies at Ohio Tea Co. mentioned, and I tried my puer (brewed by Step Two directions) but added sugar and cream after brewing. I used whipping cream because why not go all the way with splurging? I stirred in raw sugar and warmed my cream so that it didn’t reduce the temperature of my puer.
I don’t normally drink tea with cream or sugar, and, in my opinion, the puer doesn’t require either, but oh . . . my . . . gosh . . . talk about delicious. I know I’ve called other teas “dessert in a cup,” but cream and sugar turn Sticky Rice Puer into rice pudding in your mug. I kid you not—the sweet rice flavor bursts through, the creaminess accentuates the tea, and all is right with the world when one consumes it this way.
But wait–there’s more! Sprinkle a little cinnamon across the top of your creamed and sugared Sticky Rice Puer, and you’re in Heaven. The other flavors are present in a much more subtle way, so I suggest building up to cream, sugar, and cinnamon in your Sticky Rice Puer so that you, too, can decide which brewing works best for you. Although, I won’t be surprised if, like me, you fall in love with this tea in every version presented here.
In closing, there is much about puer that one can research. My goal was to simply introduce you to puer, if you haven’t already tried it, and spark your interest in learning more about it for yourself. Now I must hasten to Ohio Tea Co. for more Sticky Rice Puer before everyone reading this post scoops it up.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried puer and how you enjoy drinking it. I look forward to hearing from you.