Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s a damp, drizzly day, and I can hear the cars splash by outside as I prepare my tea this morning. I’m warming myself up with a dark cup of Pu-Erh tea, called Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tuo Cha. The leaves have been interestingly mixed with a Chinese herb and then compressed into a square shape. Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. There are two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). This Pu-erh selection is of the cooked (Shou) variety. It has been mixed with an herb called Nuo Mi Xiang, which grows in China’s Yunnan province. In consulting with my colleague who speaks Chinese, Nuo Mi Xiang translates to “sticky rice fragrance”, referring to its aroma closely resembling that of sticky rice. I used two squares in my glass teapot and rinsed them for 10 seconds in boiling water first to awaken the leaf. Then I steeped for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. Cooked Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this unique tea. Compressed forms of tea have been produced in China for hundreds of years. It was the most common form transported on the ancient caravan routes because it was less susceptible to physical damage and easier to transport. The aroma is fragrant with rich earth and autumn leaves. The tea liquor, as is normal for cooked Pu-Erh teas, is the color of black coffee. The flavor is smooth and sweet, with notes of pumpernickel toast and earthy spice. I think the herb lends a unique flavor to this Pu-Erh, which I find very appealing. This tea can be steeped multiple times. Do any of you steep your Pu-Erh tea that way? The days are shortening as we approach the Winter Solstice and the holiday time. Glowing twinkle lights adorn houses in my neighborhood, chasing away that deep darkness with the promise of the light returning in longer days once again. Have a lovely two weeks and enjoy your tea!