Reaching Into the Universe

Pu-erh of the moment

Mandarin pu-erhI've been getting the Mandarin Pu-erh lately when I go to Samovar. I haven't seen it on the menu lately but, when asked, they've had it.

Pu-erh is an aged, fermented tea. It's one of the only kinds of tea that get better with age. Very old pu-erhs can command prices in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars per pound. It's also great for the digestion, according to my acupuncturist, probably because of the fermentation. Did I mention it's delicious?

The mandarin pu-erh is aged inside a mandarin. You can see the empty mandarin at the bottom middle of the photo. Pieces of the mandarin peel can be torn off and placed in the brew pot, adding citrus notes to the resulting tea.

The presentation is also fun and more of a production than some of the other teas. After bringing the tray out, the server first scrapes the tea out of the mandarin into the pot using a special tool. The tea is rinsed once with the hot water, then offered to each person at the table to smell. The first serving is brewed without mandarin peel so you can taste it on its own. Then you are invited to add mandarin peel to the brew pot to taste.

Samovar is one of those rare businesses in which I feel like I'm enjoying, rather than compromising, my humanity by patronizing, and the mandarin pu-erh is my current favorite tea. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

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