Understand the very basics of Pu-erh shapes
To understand the difference, we need to start from understanding the teas were compressed into different shapes initially as a mean for convenient transportation, but not to achieve different tastes. The different pu-erh tea producing areas of Yunnan have different local traditions regarding the shapes to compress, eg Xia Guan is known to produce Tuo Cha although it also produces cakes and bricks.
With this understanding, following are some end result variations:
- If say we used exact the same crop for loose, Tuo Cha, bricks and cakes, the strength in flavour from light to strong: loose -> Tuo Cha -> cake and brick. This is largely due to the fermentation level affected by the surface areas in contact with the air and oxygen. (Loose most and cake/brick least.)
- Big manufacturers, such as Da Yi and Xia Guan, these days compress cakes using leaves/crops from different sources and ares. Some relatively cheap cakes even use lower grade leaves inside and ‘cover’ the surface with a layer of higher grade leaves for the purpose of appearing to the consumers.
- The traditional bricks are made of more proportion of twigs and tea dust than cakes or Tuo Cha.
- Regardless of the shape, all high quality Pu-erh should own up to a high quality Pu-erh’s characteristics.