KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Pu’er tea has always been a prized commodity but one particular brand is so highly valued that even Harrods in London is carrying it: Malaysian aged pu’er from Teaspec.
These teas are the fruits of decades of careful curation by Teaspec, a Malaysian family business led by pu’er tea advocate Carole Tan.
The couple’s family was first introduced to pu’er tea entirely by happen-stance. Tan says, “It was the late 1970s and my mother-in-law, a tea enthusiast, travelled to China and Hong Kong where she came upon a community of others who shared her passion. It was here that her fellow travellers introduced her to pu’er, thus beginning a love affair with all of their nuances in flavours and aroma.”
Named after the city of Pu’er, pu’er is a particular type of fermented tea produced specifically in China’s Yunnan province.
Now you’d think such a specific geography or terroir would severely limit the tea’s flavour but the real magic happens after the leaves have been plucked and dried.
Pu’er tea is processed in such way that encourages microbial fermentation and oxidation of the leaves.
This ageing or maturing procedure is what helps develop flavour notes in pu’er that are dramatically more different than other teas, earning it die-hard followers rather than casual fans.
According to Tan, the medicinal benefits of pu’er tea have been recognised for years. She says, “Pu’er has enjoyed popularity in many countries including France since the 1970s — in the pharmacy of all places! – with even French hospitals having conducted studies to prove its efficacy. My mother-in-law started drinking the tea to regulate her own cholesterol levels.”
As Tan’s mother-in-law began bringing stacks of pu’er back home — to better ensure a steady supply of the beneficial tea for the family — so did her collection grow steadily with the passing decades.
Just like fine wine, their precious family pu’er developed in flavour, colour and consistency over time. This increased their value to pu’er aficionados and collectors, naturally.
Tan shares that their family collection includes top quality pu’er teas; many of these are limited edition teas and can’t be found anywhere else.
She adds, “Tea stored in Malaysia matures differently and this creates a better taste and experience compared to the same tea stored elsewhere by others.” (Tea afficianados know that Malaysia has the best climate for storing tea; not too dry and not too humid. Perfect.)
This extraordinary pu’er collection was curated to feature a wide variety of different vintages and different blends within those vintages, so as to provide a wide array of nose-to-taste experiences.
While initially meant as a legacy for their family’s children and grandchildren, Tan felt it was important to share it with others too.
She recalls, “As our love of pu’er tea grew, we began sharing our collection with friends and families as gifts. We created Teaspec in 2015 as a way to introduce tea enthusiasts to pu’er tea that has remained an open secret among Chinese people.”
Teaspec’s product line includes pu’er tea cakes, tuo (dome-shaped tea piles) and loose teas. The latter comes with delightful names such as Raw Dazzle (raw pu’er) and Ripe Marvel (ripe pu’er).
They even have smaller-sized mini tuo meant for travellers. Besides teas in colourful, elegant packaging, Teaspec also has a range of Lazy Pour glass teapots.
One of Teaspec’s primary goals is to educate others on how to properly use, brew and store the tea so as to get the most enjoyment out of it.
Tan says, “We named our company Teaspec because we hold our teas to a higher standard of quality and workmanship. Pu’er tea is coveted worldwide as an expensive tea and collector’s item. It is not meant to be simply drunk but to be part of an experience that is best shared with friends and loved ones. We envision connoisseurs savouring the tastes and notes that pu’er has to offer.”
A group of curious tea drinkers had, in fact, participated recently in a pu’er tea appreciation event at Snackfood Bangsar.
The little tea party was a collaboration between Teaspec and Snackfood, with an array of Malaysian aged pu’er being showcased and paired with food (local snacks, naturally, to continue the Malaysian theme).
Participants were shown the proper way to handle and prepare the tea for brewing. For many, it was their first time seeing, much less handling, a pu’er tea cake.
Tan is cognizant of the fact that, in most people’s minds, these unique looking tea cakes do not resemble the traditionally held view of tea. Hence Teaspec’s role as advocates, rather than tea merchants.
She explains, “Some cultures tell fortunes with tea leaves. Teaspec tells stories. Each of our teas has a tale to spin – a history and provenance. We want to spread these stories and acquaint the world with reliable information and products so that they understand our quality and the passion we have for tea.”
And that is what Tan wittily considers their family “guaran-tea” – that not only is Malaysian aged pu’er one of the most sought after pu’er teas in the world, but that their customers will be able to taste the tea’s history and one family’s passion for it in every cup.
Where to find Teaspec: Snackfood and Jasons Food Hall (Malaysia), Como Dempsey (Singapore), Harrods (London) and Amazon Prime (US/UK)
17A, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily 11am-8pm
Tel: 03-2201 7513