Tea: Going VERY deep into Puerh Tea

Tea – Deeper into Puerh Tea with Global Tea Hut

(38 things you probably didn't know about Puerh Tea)

This information was sourced through Global Tea Hut, who I consider to be one of the greatest English language resources for accurate information tea (Camellia Sinensis) – and they are awesome humans.   They have a brilliant monthly magazine you can subscribe to which comes with a lovely tea sample each month.

 

The last drop of a 2008 Shou Puerh I drank while writing this tea information blog post.

The last drop of a 2008 Shou Puerh I drank while writing this tea information blog post.

Puerh Tea Facts (38 of them!)

1) The importance of quality of the raw material (The, soil, tree and leaf) for Puerh is much higher than other teas.

2) The value of Puerh is 90% in the tree

3) Puerh tea comes from the regions Puerh, Lincang and Xishuangbanna

4) Tea is sometimes picked in one region then taken to another to be sold at a higher value, pretending it is from the higher value region

5) Puerh trees are either old growth or plantation

6) Old growth are those that are 100+ years

7) Green Puerh, known as raw or uncooked is not fermented during production or compression.

8) These sheng cakes ferment slowly, it takes 70 years to reach full fermentation. This is the traditional fermentation process of puerh.

9) Puerh can be drank at any stage and it will have different characteristics.

10) The changes in puerh happen exponentially. I.e they change a lot at the beginning and less as time goes by. (As puerh ages the rate of change decreases)

11) 70 years is considered mature because the changes slow down enough to be considered as not changing. 5 to 10 years is a big difference, 34 to 40 but after 70 it doesn’t change significantly.

Shou & Sheng Puerh Tea Facts

12) Called cooked or ripe. This is fermented to various levels before it is pressed into cakes.

13) The tea is plied, moistened and then often covered with a thermal blanket. Sometimes previously fermented tea is introduced to add certain bacteria.

14) This artificial fermentation lasts typically 45 to 60 days.

15) Older Shou was part fermented, today it is often fully fermented

16) This artificial fermentation was developed in the late 60’s and was licensed for commercial use in the 70’s 1973 is the date most books use. This was done to try to mimic the qualities of sheng sheng in less time.

17) They were not successful in mimicking sheng puerh but they did manage to create a whole new category of Puerh tea.

18) If the Shou was partially fermented it will age further but if fully fermented it tends to mellow out.

19) Sheng and Shou puerh tea processing differences:

puerh tea processing.png

20) Mao Cha is kneaded and bruised, then left to dry in the sun (early morning to late evening – midday is too hot).

21) The markings we often see on the leaves are from pressing and not packaging. They are made by special cross-woven cotton bags.

22) Steam is used to prepare the tea for compression – this is to ensure the leaves are soft and pliable but not cooked or oxidized in any way (light re-hydration).

23) Sometimes steaming is done between metal pans instead of in cloth.

24) In a non-mechanized factory, a wooden tables is placed over a hot wok full of water. The steam rises through a small hole in the center of the table. This is more difficult to prevent burning this way. it required the skill of generations to perfect this.

25) Compression was traditionally done between stone block moulds, turning the tea (in the cloth) into a ball. This is when they add the inner trademark sticker (nei fei)

26) The producer would then stand on the block, using his weight to compress it. Some of the smaller family run puerh tea factories still do it this way.

27) In the more modern factories pressing is done by a machine, and others are done by hand and lever.

28) After compression the cakes are taken out of the cotton cloths and put on wooden shelves to dry, because they are still slightly damp from the steam at this stage.

29) The tea, compression, shapes of the cake all affect the drying time – this can be hours, days or up to a week.

30) When dry the cakes are packaged. Each generation has it’s own unique style of wrapping, paper, printing, style of Chinese characters, nei fei etc. There is a whole science to wrapping. The paper is handmade and the fiber, texture and ink can be a sign of authenticity – it’s impossible to genuinely age the paper and ink.

31) Discus shaped cakes are individually wrapped in handmade paper and then buddled in 7’s. This is called a tong. 12 tongs are then packed together (84 cakes) Each tong is wrapped in bamboo bark (not leaves) to preserve freshness and protect it from the elements. Bamboo also has good energy. When bamboo trees get bigger or sprout new stems they shed skin/bark.

32) ‘New’ sheng puerh tea was originally only drank in order to check the aging process. Tea lovers as recent as 15 years ago would have considered new puerh unfinished. Now, rather than comparing young and old puerh we enjoy different ‘categories’.

 

Bonus Tea info

33) ‘Antique age’ tea was produced prior to the formation of Communicat China and is from before 1949. Around this time Puerh tea was just another commodity alongside rice, and other agriculture products. Often these teas were not wrapped because at the time it was considered too costly. Now some cakes are worth more than a hundred of thousand dollars.

34) Song Ping Hao and Tong Qing Hao are two legendary tea families.

35) In 1949 “New China” was established and the central government declared that all agriculture belonged to the people. At this time the tea industry was handed over to the local government. This closed the family run, private businesses (1950’s) and the Antique Era came to an end.

36) The Masterpiece Era began with the creation of the state-run factories, like Menghai.

37) “Chine Tea Corporation, Yunnan Branch” was created and trademarked in 1951. This now the famous “8-Zhong Tea” character that is stamped in the center of all cakes from the Masterpiece and later, Seven Sons eras.

38) Luncang in Yunann is known as the birthplace of Tea.

 

Bibliography:

Global Tea Hut. September. 2014 Special Puerh Edition.

This information on Tea was sourced from Global Tea Hut who I consider to be one of the greatest English resources for high integrity information on tea.

Tea: The Basics

– Tea has been used as medicine for thousands of years

– If your tea is not organic or known to be from a wild and clean source it is almost guaranteed to have been grown in fertilisers and pesticides – this is bad for you and your environment

– Organic tea is a base level option tea (never non-organic) and if you can find wild, living tea choose that

– Tea is more than just a warm beverage, unless it’s just a warm beverage

– All tea comes from one tree, Camellia Sinensis (*)

– Sitting in silence drinking tea for a few moments each morning is a kind of meditation that can calm and direct your mind before you take on the day

– Tea for many is a meditation and way of calming, healing and feeling the inherent connection we have with this planet (unless it’s non-organic tea then it’s just hypocrisy. More on that in this blog post

– British tea is not black tea in China, it’s red tea.

 

Tea time!

When I ‘officially’ started out on the Rich Eats world travel extravaganza I was more focused on fat burning and vanity than holistic health and wellbeing. Well, tea was a HUGE part of this shift. In this article we are going to find out how tea is so much more than a dried and ground up leaf in a cup of hot water…

Tea is medicine (living tea that is…)

As well as the innate physical healing properties of tea, the X factor comes when we stop and think about what it stands for. Taking a moment out of the day to shut up, sit, think through the leaf to the mountain, to the sun energy growing the 500, 1000 even 2000+ year old tree, and how that tree is nourished by some of the cleanest water on the planet; it breathes the purest air and is a living part of a mountain ecology. As you sit and think about how one tree gives its leaves once per year and one family go to the tree to retrieve its gifts and guide them through this journey before being ready for your bowl (or cup), there is no deadline, no bill, or car that needs fixing… stress disappears and the feeling of peace and connection re-emerges. That is healing.

The tea ceremony – shhhhh…

When I arrived in LA I’d already had a taste of the real deal… teas from wild trees that is. t was at a tea bar in London where she first ‘spoke’ to me; unfortunately that great place no longer exists. (More about ‘talking tea’ here.)

With this knowledge of a tea world outside chemically grown bagged powders, there was no turning back, and like experiencing world travel outside the packaged holiday resort, that all inclusive convenience will never taste or feel the same. Back to LA, I found the tea world in Venice Beach, invited in.

The tea ceremony is about feeling the ever present connection with each other and nature, it is about drinking a healing medicine, allowing the qi energy to work its magic through your body and soul, letting go of judgement, the material man-made world disappears, financial status disintegrates into that which it is – just a number, in the ceremony we acknowledge and feel each other as equal living beings.

There is silence, sometimes hours (it’s a rarity in this day and age to sit with another person in silence and just feel), sometimes people cry from the emotions that are released (maybe that’s the tea working its magic), we engage in conversation (sometimes about tea, or whatever comes up), and as a wise Chinese Emperor once never said: it’s a moment to shut up and be.

Thinking bigger, choosing organic (foods as well as tea) is not about saving the planet but about preserving our place on this blue and green rock.

A nice interview with tea master Wu De… Watch it to find out more about this beautiful leaf!:

 

I want to give a big shout out to my amigo Colin who travels to Taiwan to meet the families and farmers who look after the living trees trees and process the leaves. He has an amazing company Living Tea and is my first port of call for everything tea!! Legend!! Thanks mate!