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