Pu-erh knife – permission to improvise

Pu-erh is often stored in a form of a brick, puck or cake, which is tight pressed while drying. There are historic reasons for this. During ancient times, transportation was difficult in China. Chinese tea was in high demand in the Western world. So, pressing the tea into a condense form made it easier to travel. The same method is still used today.
If you’ve ever bought a brick, puck or a cake of Pu-erh, you’ll know it’s next to impossible to make tea out of it as is. You need to first loosen the leaves. That can be easier said than done, though. You need to make sure not to break the tea leaves when making them loose. Loosening Pu-erh tea can be an interesting activity. It helps to have a Zen-like mood, as carefully chipping the leaves out requires a fair amount of patience. It is almost like negotiating with the tea – you need to feel it’s character to get the best results.
This is where a Pu-erh knife comes to the rescue. It looks like a paper knife – slim with sharp edges and a pointy tip. The shape of the knife makes it easier to cut through the gaps between the leaves.
The various styles and materials of a Pu-erh knife can be confusing. Some can also be rather pricey due to the materials used. Such materials can be precious metals such as silver and gold for example.
How can one choose a proper Pu-erh knife then?
We will cover that another time, but here’s an easier solution for you for now. Don’t buy one. Instead, look for alternatives.
Editor’s note: if you are a ceremonial drinker, you can just browse through the rest of the article and smile. I respect tea, yet I also want to share tips on how to enjoy it in a convenient way.
So, what can be alternatives to Pu-erh knife?
My personal favorite is a flat head screwdriver. Yes, you heard me correct – a screwdriver. It is very easy to find and won’t break the bank. It also works as a great ice breaker during a tea party. Whenever I do any tea demonstrations, I always have my screwdriver with me. The moment I pull it out and start chiseling my Pu-erh, it always brings out bursts of laughter in the audience. The laughs are then followed by lots of curious questions. Everyone enjoys the sessions and are surprised that a tea “ceremony” can be so easy-going.
Another option is a traditional butter knife. The shape is suitable for entering those gaps between the leaves. And it isn’t too sharp to get you hurt, in case it accidentally slips. Some experienced Pu-erh drinkers also use old scissors, an awl or pliers.
It doesn’t matter what’s your tool of choice as long as you take it slow and enjoy the process. Any quick movement can cause accidents and/or break the leaves. Safety first!

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