Sunday, May 30, 2010

Clay Tea Caddy

A tea caddy is a container or receptacle for storing tea leaves.  If you do a search on the internet, you will discover that tea caddies have been around for some time.  There are elaborate and exotic tea caddies and some of them fetch exorbitant prices during a major auction.

Tea caddies can be made from wood, metal, porcelain and in this case (see pix) from red clay.  This red clay tea caddy can be easily purchased from local chinese tea shops and comes in varying sizes.  The one I had bought can hold a 500g pu erh cake (broken up of course) easily.  This tea caddy costs me us$10.  I cleaned this caddy by brushing it under a running tap.  I then proceeded to immerse the caddy in a pot of water and boiling it for an hour.  I had to dry the caddy for a few days before use.  

I found that breaking up pu erh tea cakes and letting them air in a container for about 2 weeks make the tea taste better.  Maybe its psychological but I did find a difference in taste when I brew a tea from a newly broken up cake than a brew from the same tea 2 weeks later. I think, the pu erh cake 'breathes easily' after being separated into 20-30 pieces.

It is important to know that the tea, stored in such a clay tea caddy, is not in an airtight environment.  You must ensure that the tea caddy is kept away from strong odours and moisture.  On the other hand, those airtight tea containers are good for green teas and are also suitable to be kept in refrigerators.  I was advised by a teamaster that for teas kept in metal containers, to place a  paper lining the inside of the metal caddy before storing the tea.  A used pu erh cake wrapper can be used in this case.

I had came across a collector who keeps his pu erh tea cakes individually in brown envelopes.  Every time he wants a drink from a particular cake, he will take out the envelope, open the puerh wrapper and them used a small pick to break out enough tea for a brew.  His pu erh collection looked like a shelf of books.  

There is no right or wrong on how you store your long you keep to the fundamental principles that tea is to be kept from light, moisture and strong smells.  Nuff said.

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