NaNoTeaMo, Day 2: “Waiter! There Are Crab’s Feet in My Puerh!”
Some of you may have noticed that I whored out a certain podcast today. Mainly because I was co-hosting it. The awesome TJ Williams of World Tea Podcast invited me on to discuss one of my favorite subjects – weird teas. Heck, I devoted most of this blog to that very subject. Together, we decided to countdown some of the weirdest we ever encountered. Click the picture, and give it a listen. I’ll wait.
All done? Nifty, wasn’t it?
One of the teas – or rather, tisanes – TJ listed off was an herb called pángxiè jiǎo, which literally translated to “crab’s feet”.
It was a parasitic species of plant related to mistletoe. (Ironic, eh?) The plant twined its way around tea plants and formed a rather forceful symbiotic relationship with them, sucking some of their nutrients. The Chinese cultivated the herb, and used it as a tisane of sorts. But not like I originally thought.
TJ actually gifted me some crab’s feet at World Tea Expo this year.
One day over the summer, I brewed it up by itself . . . and tasted straight death. Well, not entirely “death”, more like a sickly fungal sensation that precedes death. It honestly reminded me of brewing dried saw palmetto , which I one time did for prostate health and . . . y’know what? Forget I said anything.
It wasn’t until the day we recorded the podcast together that TJ informed me that I was brewing it wrong. The strange herb wasn’t supposed to be brewed by itself, rather blended with sheng (raw) puerh. To make it taste more – I guess – aged. Specifically, blended with the spent leaves after three gongfu’d infusions. What an odd prospect!
That knowledge finally burrowed,the night [of this write-up] I decided to give this combination a good science-ing . . . and I had just the shitty sheng puerh to try it with. No, I will not say what kind. It’s kinda like the Voldemort of puerhs, saying its name gives it power.
While it seemed like it could’ve been a good sheng, there was a whole lot of astringency that stayed with each infusion. Anything added to it would be an improvement, even an herb that tasted like prostate health. (This is not coming out right at all.)
I brewed up three infusions first. Each at thirty seconds. Heck, I even drank ‘em. The things I do for tea-science.
[Gulp.] Oh god, that was horrible.
Then, I added about a half-teaspoon of those sickly-looking li’l parasite branches to the puerh leaves. After that, wincing to myself, I braved a fourth infusion of about one minute, and prayed for a quick death.
My lips were greeted with . . . a really pleasant-tasting puerh. Dear lord, it worked!? The herb smoothed out the puerh’s astringency and gave it an added layer of something. I don’t think I’d call it medicinal, rather pleasantly herbaceous. As if I was tasting a tea tree forest. Like . . . the entire forced, melted down to a liquid extract.
Good goin’, you li’l parasite herb, you. I suppose you get to live in my collection for a little while longer. Just stay away from my good puerh.