About Pu-Erh Tea
Pu-Erh tea is a huge subject and is still relatively unknown in the West.
True Pu-Erh only comes from Yunnan province in southwest China, which
is where tea consumption and cultivation first started several thousand
The main points about Pu-Erh tea that differentiate it from
the other types are as follows:
- Pu-Erh teas come from large leaf
varieties of Camellia Sinensis that are native to Yunnan province. They
are botanically different from other tea varietals cultivated in China.
- Pu-Erh is sun dried, not heat dried like green teas.
- While Pu-Erh
can be produced from plants of any age, the best Pu-Erh comes from
ancient wild trees in a forest setting.
- Real Pu-Erh will change and
develop wonderful complexity with age, like a fine
Pu-Erh is sold as loose tea, but the majority of higher quality Pu-Erh
teas are compressed into many different forms, such as bricks, bird's
nests, mushrooms, melons, etc. The most typical shape, though, is the
"Bing Cha" or round disc shaped tea. There are many theories as to why
teas were first compressed into the various shapes, but the generally
accepted explanation for this phenomenon is that compression made the
finished product more compact and easier to transport. Due to its
popularity as a beverage and the medicinal values attributed to it, for
hundreds of years compressed tea was transported on horseback up over
the Himalayan border range into Tibet and eventually India, as well as
to other parts of modern day China and Mongolia. Many of the modern
land trade routes still in use throughout modern China are based on
these old tea horse roads.
Many people believe that
Pu-Erh achieves its fullest potential after aging for many years. With
age, the flavor of the tea does dramatically mellow and change. As in
the vintage wine industry, the desirability of one tea over another
after aging is really up to the consumer, although the opinions of
experts are greatly valued. Pricing in the aged segment of the Pu-Erh
tea business is typically based on the product's quality, scarcity, and
the ratings given to them by tea experts. Pu-Erh cakes that have been
stored correctly and authenticated by experts can sell for well over
$1,000 US per kilogram in today's very prosperous Asian economies!
Unfortunately for us though, properly stored authentic aged Pu-Erh is
very difficult to find, especially in the West.
There are two
types or categories of Pu-Erh that are produced. There is Sheng , which
is also referred to as raw, green, or uncooked, and Shu, which is also
referred to as ripened, cooked, or black.
Sheng (Raw) Pu-Erh Tea Production Method
Shu (Ripe) Pu-Erh Tea Production MethodPu-Erh Tea Terminology Guide