"Waiter! There is a.......nut/fruit in my tea?". Yes, that's what I found nestled in my tea cake while I was breaking up the pu erh into my tea caddy. This additional fruit, looked like a dried berry, was not suppose to be in my tea cake. Yes, my tea drinker friends have found the odd 'gift' in their tea ranging from a strand of hair, a hair clip, rice husk shells and even a fruit seed. I would like to point out such finds are not restricted to Chinese made products. It can be occasionally found in many products made around the world. I personally found a plastic spade in my American made dog food and a button in a European canned food.
Back to the 2005 CNNP ripe cake. I was told that this cake was based on the Menghai Tea factory 7572 ripe recipe. You don't see the '7572' printed on the tea wrapper but I was told it was found printed on the larger cartons.
I found this tea unique in that this tea was difficult to over-brew. Most of the ripe pu erh usually make a strong brew, especially in the 1st few infusions, when you let the tea sit in your teapot or gaiwan for more than 10 seconds. It would taste real strong and the color of the tea would be almost black in color. This 2005 CNNP pu erh is very forgiving. I like this tea strong - more leaves and longer infusion times and it did brew up a very pleasing cup of tea. I would not consider this tea to be of a 7572 recipe, maybe a wee bit. A happy tea. Maybe it's due to the dried berry in the tea cake.
I managed to lugged home 3 tea trays from my last Guangzhou trip. Chinese tea drinkers should get a tea tray when they visit Guangzhou - its cheap, you save the costs of freight if you had ordered online and you have a wider choice of trays to choose from. You will ask....why did I buy 3 tea trays? Well, to show off I have 3 tea trays, I had extra luggage space and I am deep into Chinese tea. But seriously, they are very nice to look and would make nice gifts (I can't bear to part with them).
There are many types of tea trays for sale that are used for Chinese tea brewing. They can be made from wood, bamboo, stone and even metal. Larger versions have the luxury of a hose attached to the tray where discarded tea and water is drained away by the hose to a container that is usually tied to a foot of a table.
You will observed from the above pictures that that all 3 tea trays are pretty portable, in that, you can set it on any table or flat surface and start a tea brewing session. They are usually about a foot wide (36cm) and are quite light to handle.
The 1st tray is made up of wood, where the top lid can be removed for easy cleaning. It comes with a plastic sliding tray that holds tea and discarded water easily.
The 2nd tray is a simple aluminum tea tray with a removable lid. This will outlast, in terms of life span, the rest of the other 2 tea trays shown, and is a very popular tea tray used by the older Chinese tea drinkers. You can consider making this tea tray a family heirloom as well.
The 3rd tea tray is also made from wood. It is unique in that no nails are used to assemble this tea tray. It is very well constructed with very precise and tight joints. I found this last tea tray most appealing to the eye.
Do remember to wipe down the tea tray after use. These would, especially for the wooden and bamboo tea trays, extend the life span and keep the trays in good condition.
Is the tea tray necessary in a Chinese tea brewing set up? No, you can just use a gaiwan and a couple of tea cups to enjoy a tea session. A couple of my friends use 2 large bowls. He rest a teapot in the bowl and use the other bowl to collect discarded tea and water. You can brew Chinese tea anyway you like or do it where it is practical and convenient to you.
But, I would suggest you get a tea tray. It makes tea brewing a better experience. I cannot qualify or quantify this experience........You are just deep into Chinese tea.