Question: We are currently enjoying our loose Pu-erh tea both raw and ripened as a lighter refreshing alternative to Oolong tea in the warmer weather. We are keen to try the traditional cakes of Pu-erh but seek your advice as to whether we should start with the Pu-erh mini tuocha (raw) and the Pu-erh mini tuocha (ripened), or whether we should start with Pu-erh tea petite raw cake (100g) and Pu-erh Tuocha Ripened (100g).
Answer: Pu-erh tea was originally made into cakes to facilitate its transportation and post-fermentation. I personally prefer the traditional cakes, therefore would recommend the 100g petite cake and Tuocha. The mini Tuocha (and loose pu-erh tea) however has an advantage of being smaller volume and convenient to preparare.
Question: I have also read your Pu-erh tea preparation and storage guide.
Does the "quickly and thoroughly rinse the tea without soaking" advice apply to the loose tea as well, or only to the cakes?
I have been preparing the loose Pu-erh the same way I prepare Oolong, Dragon Well, Yellow and White teas and have not experienced the "tea colour being too dark (like soy source) and take on a medicinal like flavor."
Answer: This is very much an experiment and improve process. Rinsing is strongly recommended as pu-erh tea is an aged tea and has normally been stored for a long period regardless if it is in the loose, tuocha or cake form. Both raw and ripened teas have a potential to be quite strong if brewed for longer than what is needed. Only reduce the brewing time or the tea leaf volume used when you find your tea brew to be too strong.