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.
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.