Bamboo and camellia sinensis assamica trees co-exist in the vast and wild highlands of Yunnan. Out of bamboo, some 50+ ethnic minorities in Yunnan make a lot of materials that relates to tea from its production to preservation and preparation. For instance, 7 teas cakes are placed in bamboo leaves for ageing.
Dai people from Xishuangbanna also “cook” tea in fresh bamboo sticks. Interestingly, the process is very similar to how they prepare bamboo rice. According to this source, the fresh leaves (another source suggested steamed maocha) are placed inside the bamboo. Then the bamboo tubes are put on an open fire and are baked and rotated regularly for even exposure to heat. After a while, the tubes are opened. Then the leaves inside are squeezed in so that more fresh leaves can be added. The process is repeated until the tea inside is baked, and there is no room to accommodate more leaves. According to the same source, the freshly baked tea tastes the best as it carries the bamboo flavour.
This tea was from 2006. It had been aged for 14 years by the time I drank it, and it was sweet. This type of tea is not very common, but some retailers do source it. Almost all of them talk about a ‘bamboo sweetness’ as for the tasting profile of bamboo tube tea. I interpreted it as fruity sweetness, but maybe this is because I am yet to learn the flavours of bamboo.
When I posted about this tea on Instagram, @tearoomstories asked me if it is still pu-erh after being roasted in a bamboo tube. Not sure how to answer! A shu pu-erh goes through pile fermentation and baking, and it is still called pu-erh. Through the roasting process, the leaves are not exposed to heat directly but only through the bamboo. So, it is difficult to say they are roasted, maybe they still have enzymes which mean post-fermentation can still occur. I tend to believe that.
Does anybody know more?
Type: Pu-erh (Dark)
Origin: Xishuangbanna, Yunnan
Harvest time: Summer 2006
Leaf colour: Tones of brown (I think the grey stains are part of bamboo)
Liquor colour: Dark amber
Tea aroma: Fruity and earthy
Tea taste: Thick but mellow with fruit (or bamboo) sweetness
Steeping/brewing: Place 6 g of this tea in a teapot and add about 100 ml water at around 100°C. Rinse after 20 sec. Steep for 20 seconds for the second time and increase the consecutive steeping time by 10. You can re-steep this tea multiple times. Shelf-life: Can be aged.