Sheng or Raw Pu-Erh Tea Info
|Sheng (Raw) Pu-Erh Tea
or raw Pu-Erh is processed very much like a green tea, but there are
several noteworthy differences.
- The tea leaves are picked, withered to make them less brittle,
and then heat treated, usually pan fired in a relatively low temperature wok, to neutralize the enzymes
that would cause the tea leaves to oxidize.
- Next, the leaves are
traditionally dried in the sun, one of the characteristics that make Pu-Erh processing unique. If weather conditions are not favorable or a
producer wishes to speed up the drying process at the expense of
quality, however, the tea leaves are sometimes dried in large ovens using low heat.
The drying process continues until roughly 90% of the moisture has been
removed. At this point, the tea leaves are referred to as Mao Cha, or semi-finished tea.
- The Mao Cha is then sorted and separated into different
grades. Larger factories will use a blower & wind tunnel system to quickly sort the tea leaves into different sizes/grades, while small factories or family concerns will either perform this step by hand or omit it all together.
- If the finished product is to be a blend, the factory tea masters blend the leaves from different growing
regions or vintages together based on specific formulas or recipes.
- Finally, the leaves are steamed to make them pliable again and
compressed into shapes using the traditional stone molds or one of any
number of mechanized systems of molds and presses.
- The newly pressed
cakes of tea are sometimes baked in a relatively low heat oven (200-250 F) to drive out any residual moisture and prevent the formation of mold.
- Last, the finished products are stored in a low moisture environment to allow
them to dry out and begin the aging process.
produced Sheng Pu-Erh is drinkable almost immediately. When properly
steeped, it is a wonderfully aromatic, astringent, sometimes bitter,
and complex beverage. The flavors are sometimes described as a
combination of "grassy" or fresh hay characteristics, camphorous or
medicinal aspects, floral notes, and sometimes having hints of dried
Shu (Ripe) Pu-Erh Tea Production MethodPu-Erh Tea Terminology Guide