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Old 24-04-2009, 05:52 PM posted to rec.food.drink.tea
Dominic T. Dominic T. is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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Default Cracking the vase

On Apr 24, 9:41*am, dogma_i Vz wrote:
Spring has arrived in Boston, and with it (if you'll forgive a little
synaesthesia) a refulgence of aroma in the larder where most of my
Pu-erh lives.

Appropriate technology department...Lots of talk on various lists about
tools and techniques for deconstructing tightly compressed Pu-erh cakes.
I've found that just storing most examples for a year or two in
conditions of varying temperature and humidity loosens them up quite a
bit. However, I also make frequent use of the two tools described in
this post on Mr. Petro's site:

http://pu-erh.net/phpBB/nfphpbb/view...ighlight=dogma

(If that doesn't work, just go to the Forums page and search the term
"dissection" - it's that word's only appearance.)

I would stress that in my opinion, the success of these tools is
critically dependent on their shortness. This allows the application of
a great deal of force while maintaining good control, with nil risk of
injury. (I was inspired to try this by experience with engraving tools,
which work the same way.) The detailed finish of the blade tips also
seems to help: a moderately (not extremely) sharp edge, buffed to a
mirror finish.

When people ask about tools for breaking up an entire cake into chunks
that can then more easily be further divided, I sometimes suggest an
arbor press:

http://images.google.com/images?&q=arbor+press

These are readily available at used-tool stores, and are quite adaptable
in all sorts of ways. They are also fairly clunky. I've tried an antique
book press (used to collect them); only the largest and heaviest models
could deliver the needed force.

More convenient for the kitchen might be a gear puller:

http://images.google.com/images?&q=gear+puller

These are small, light, cheap (under $20 new), and surprisingly
powerful. I haven't actually confirmed the approach, since my gear
puller seems to have gone walkabout. But perhaps some automobile
enthusiast here would like to try. If anyone wants to buy one for the
purpose, be aware that both two- and three-jaw versions are available.
For square cakes, a two-jaw version would be preferable. Also, many have
hooks that are too short to grip the rounded edge of a tuocha, so check
that first.

Other recommendations, if someone wants to try: pick one with a
fine-pitch screw, which makes it easier to generate a lot of force; and
wipe off any loose oil to avoid contaminating the cake.

Hope this is useful to somebody out there.

-DM


I have two favored tools, one is a beautiful wooden-handled oyster
knife that is very stout and the handle has quite a bit of flare at
the knife end which almost eliminates any chance of slippage, the
other is an old letter opener which I have used for almost every
household task known to man except for opening a letter. It has a long
thin blade but is made of a very heavy metal and some sort of gold-
colored exterior which doesn't appear to be simple plating as it has
never worn off. It has a sharp pointed tip and the blade itself is
flat on one side and comes to a raised point on the other (a flattish
triangle profile). The thin, extra-pointy blade with the half-raised
profile splits through very heavily compressed tea amazingly well.

I never thought of the stubby flat head screwdriver idea, good one!
The mental image of struggling with an antique book press was worth
the price of admission

- Dominic