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Cha Gao

Cha Gao  translated means tea paste. However, the substance is not at all pasty and is more like a solidified rock, which dissolves in hot water. Although it is a form of instant pu-erh, it is not a low quality product. In the Qing Dynasty cha gao was produced only for the elite class. Although the production methods were mostly abandoned after the Qing Dynasty, it is slowly being revived.

Nowadays, cha gao is often associated with a cheaper form of pu-erh, because in most cases, it is not produced correctly. Cha gao shouldn't have a pungent or off-putting smell. A good cha gao is characterized by a sweet woody taste, with notes of cocoa, as well as a unique fragrance. The taste, however, is quite different from a typical shou pu-erh. 

To make cha gao tea farmers need to use already fermented sheng or otherwise shou pu-erh.

There are crucial steps to the process:

• Boiling. The tea leaves are soaked in hot water and then left to further cook on a low heat for several days. This process concludes when all the water has been boiled off, and only a thick black gooey resin is left.
• Drying. The resin is then spread out and dried until it becomes hard as a rock and slightly sticky.
• Aging. The hard resin is then aged for another year. This step is of the essence if you want to end up with a smooth tasting cha gao. Unfortunately, many retailers may skip this step to speed up the process. Cha gao that hasn't been sufficiently aged will have a funky smell and taste. Well-aged cha gao develops iconic wave-like patterns.

    About one kilogram of tea leaves is required to produce only 200 grams of cha gao.

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