I think I first read about this on Wikipedia & since I was having trouble getting leaves off of a 100g tuocha intact due to its awkward shape. So I put a strainer in a 4-quart saucepan, lined it with just enough parchment paper to hold the tea (so the steam could get around it) & then put the tea in to steam & broke it up when it was soft & flexible enough to make it go faster. I guess it took about 30mins altogether. A proper steamer would probably be a better setup but I don't have one. Steaming seemed to be pretty effective since I could pry it apart with my hands (& pull off the layers which was cool to see), but it hardened up again & went back to normal within about 15 seconds of coming out of the steam. I guess it helped to have a cool plate to put the chunks of leaves on after breaking them up, since I didn't want to cook the leaves in any way. Is that more or less how it's done? & would this only be a good idea for everyday sort of puer or would it be good for aging also, since more leaves would be exposed to the air?
This is an interesting topic. Do you drink the tea right away after steaming or drink in a few days. How is the taste of the tea after steaming. In your past tea drinking experience, what is the difference between the tea with from dry leaves and from post-steamed leaves.
I didn't drink it right away after breaking it up, I left the leaves to cool & harden again before steeping them. From what I remember the tea is slightly milder or smoother (both green & black) after using steam to break it up, compared with not steaming it at all. I never thought to steep the leaves right away.
I found the same effect after steaming a particularly difficult tuo cha that was difficult to break up. I tried it right after the chunks cooled. The tea was definitely smoother but I don't think I'll do this any more as I don't want to risk altering an expensive tea with heat and moisture. I guess an A-B test of pre and post steaming would settle that.
After trying this out I think I agree it might not be a good idea to try this with an expensive or rare tea because it definitely changes the flavour. I only tried it because I had an everyday sort of tuocha that I had trouble breaking up because of its shape.