Thursday, 23 July 2015

Tibetan Panzhan puerh tea

In 1980, Tibetan religious leader, Panzhan, visited the Xiaguan tea factory. He expressed the view of most Tibetans to the management that they had not tasted the real puerh tea (raw puerh tea aged in the natural way) for a very long time. He visited the factory where  cooked toucha was made. He was disappointed that only this type of  cooked toucha (Xiaguan is famous for producing toucha) was available for his people to drink. As Tibetans did not have vegetables in their diet, they had to rely heavily on puerh tea to complement their diet. They could not survive without puerh tea. They really appreciated the goodness and benefits of good old aged puerh from the past. And Tibetans have a unique way of brewing their puerh tea, the mix the tea with milk and herbs, etc.

Panzhan, a religious leader from Tibet, visiting Xiaguan factory

Xiaguan factory understood the need of the Tibetan people in their pursue of raw puerh tea. In 1981, the factory had specially made a batch of raw puerh tea just for the Tibetans. The tea was processed and compressed like a mushroom with a the brand Boyan. The tea was nicknamed the Panzhan compressed tea.

The so-called Panzhan puerh tea

The Panzhan tea was only made for the consumption of the monks in Tibet and none of the tea was available for sale to the outside world. Later there were some Panzhan compressed tea from the ware house that went to private collectors' hand. This tea was made from grade 2 tea leaves harvested from puerh tea trees. As the tea was processed as raw tea in the compressed form, the tea was solid. After more than 20 years of ageing, the tea has a deep brown colour and a very pleasant aroma.

Since this first batch of mushroome-shaped puerh ta, the factory also made several batches of the mushroom tea due to market needs in the 90s. However, the very first batch of the Panzhan tea had certain historical value apart from being good aged puerh tea.

Panzhan tea with Boyan brand

When I visited Yunnan in 2003, we were brought to a tea house to appreciate and buy tea. As the sale persons were busily introducing Chinese tea in a small room, I sneaked out (I did not like the hard sell tactics of the sales persons) and found a lot of Mushroom compressed tea on the shelves of the tea shops. The tea was very reasonably priced, not like the tea the sale persons recommended inside the room (while doing the usual tea demo/promo). Without hesitation, I cleared the mushroom-shaped tea on the shelves. When we left the tea shop, the tour guide even told me if I wanted more, he could arrange the tea to be sent to our hotel on our return to Yunnan. Amazing thing was that he could get the tea at the same price for me. I could not refuse such an offer. Hence I was able to collect over a hundred pieces of the compressed Panzhan tea.

Tea demo in tea shops in Yunnan

I had since tried some of the Panzhan tea on my return home. The tea was indeed raw puerh tea and both the aroma and taste were remarkable. That was more than 12 years ago and the taste was fresh and the fragrance was good.

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