All About Tea Stuffed Tangerines (Chen Pi)

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

Most commonly, chen pi (citrus peel) is associated with pu-erh or aged white teas. It is no wonder why particularly post-fermented, and aged teas go best with the dried citrus peel. Aside from tea, its use is widespread in Chinese medicine. Many people choose to drink chen pi tea precisely because of the benefits it brings, according to Chinese medicine. 


chen pi pu erh


The Power of Chen Pi, According To Chinese Medicine 

Aged citrus peels are known to aid digestion, dry up mucus, and reduce nausea.

It is also one of the best sources of vitamin C. Thus, it is often used to boost the immune system, preventing viruses and infections. 


The practice of using citrus peels in traditional Chinese medicine originated from the Song Dynasty and has lasted for over seven hundred years. Chen pi reached popularity and was commonly used through the Ming and Qing Dynasties.


chinese medicine and tea


For hundreds of years, the most common use of chen pi has been for upset stomachs, indigestion, and wet coughs (just like pu-erh!). On the other hand, particularly green citrus peels have been used to relieve pain. 

 Aging the orange peel is an essential step in getting the most benefits out of it. According to Chinese medicine, simply drying orange peels the way we might at home in the wintertime won’t work. The citrus peel is dried and aged for a prolonged period of time to get its utmost benefits. The peel that turns black from aging is considered to have the most potency, thus the most benefits. 


Chen Pi Tea

The first records of chen pi tea are unknown, however, experts believe that stuffing tea into citrus peek for aging has been done in China for thousands of years, even before the first written accounts. 


Well-aged citrus peels are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine practices and can often cost more than its pu-erh equivalent! 


aged chen pi pu erh



How Is Chen Pi Tea Made?

The process of making tea stuffed citruses is not as easy as it may seem. Not only is it labor-intensive, but it also requires time and skill.


Here is the step-by-step process:


  1. a small hole is made in the rind of the top of the citrus fruit
  2. using special pliers, the pulp is carefully removed from the rind (this is the hardest step, which requires well-trained and skillful workers with experience)
  3. after the peel has been well separated from the fruit, it gets stuffed with the pu-erh tea:
    - the pu-erh gets tossed over the opening of the citrus fruit, gradually filling the fruit
    - the tea is stuffed and pressed carefully, to avoid breaking the gentle citrus peel
    - chen pi tea with small cracks is still commonly sold and is perfectly fine, however perfect whole chen pi demands a much higher price; this requires much skill from the tea masters
  4. the tea-stuffed chen pi is then dried using one of the conventional methods:
    oven-dried, sun-dried, or dried in a specially heated room
    - the drying of the tea-stuffed citruses requires the most skill from the tea masters. Improper drying methods might result in a ruined product or a tea that is too bitter and sharp. The perfect chen pi tea should be smooth with a lingering sweetness. 
  5. finally, the citruses are carefully wrapped and sold


How To Brew Chen Pi Tea

  1. empty out the contents of the chen pi
  2. crush up the citrus peel into small bits using your hands
  3. measure 6 grams tea and 2 grams of the peel
  4. follow gong fu brewing instructions, or western brewing instructions; taking into account the type of tea you are brewing
  5. enjoy the robust taste of the tea, the pleasant fragrance of the tangerine, and the wonderful health benefits to come! 


Here is another way to brew it: