|Name||Yúnnán pǔěr / 云南普洱|
|Manufacture||Not oxidized, fermented|
|Style||Open leaf and buds|
|Flavor||Smoothly sweet and lingering, deep (can be woody)|
|Aroma||Herbaceous, penetratingly floral|
|Liquor||Dark, burnt umber tinged with red-orange|
|Brewing||Numerous short infusions at 95-100°C|
Pu-erh(Puer, Po Lei or Bolay) is a variety of post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan province, China. Post-fermentation is a tea production style in which the tealeaves undergo a microbial
fermentation process after they are dried and rolled. This is a Chinese specialty and is sometimes referred to as dark tea. There are a few different provinces, each with a few regions, producing
dark teas of different varieties. Those produced in Yunnan are generally named Pu'er, referring to the name of Pu'er county which used to be a trading post for dark tea during imperial
Pu'er is available as loose leaf or in various compressed forms. There is also the differentiation of raw (green,生sheng) and ripened (cooked 熟shou) types. The shou type refers to those varieties that have gone through a proper post-fermentation process,while the sheng types are those in the process of gradual darkening through exposure to the environmental elements. Certain selections from either type can be stored for maturity before consumption.That is why some are labelled with year and region of production.
Darkening tealeaves to trade with ethnic groups at the borders has a long history in China. These crude teas were of various origins and were meant to be low cost. Darkened tea is still the major
beverage for the ethnic groups in the southwestern borders and, till the early 1990s, was the third major tea category produced by China mainly for this market segment.
There had been no standardized processing for the darkening of pu'er tea until the postwar years in the 1950s, where there was a sudden surge in demand in Hong Kong, because of the concentration of refugees from the mainland. In the 1970s, the improved process was taken back to Yunnan for further development, which has resulted in the various production styles today.
Puer, known as dark tea in Chinese , is yet another member of the 十大名茶. Allegedly, Zhu Ge Liang from the Three Kingdoms period (220-360) encouraged the Yunnan people to cultivate tea to improve their lives. A popular staple in Cantonese dim sum restaurants, Puer has had a spell of popularity outside of China due to Victoria Beckham referring to it as “the miracle skinny tea“, Time Magazine calling it “China’s Next Hot Commodity” and rapidly appreciating prices at auction houses that put the China property market to shame.
All types of pu'er tea are created from máochá (毛茶), a mostly unoxidized green tea processed from a "large leaf" variety of Camellia sinensis found in the mountains of southern Yunnan. Maocha can
undergo ripening for several months prior to being compressed to produce ripened pu'er (also commonly known as cooked pu'er), or be directly compressed to produce raw pu'er.
Summary of pu'er processingPu'er is typically made through the following steps:
- green/raw 青普: sun fixation筛青 > rolling揉捻 > sun drying晒干
- dark/ripe 熟普: sun fixation晒青 > rolling揉捻 > piling 渥堆 > sun drying晒干
- added processes: green and dark pu'er can be compress/shaped into cakes and aged.
Ripe pu'er (熟普) is produced in the same way as raw (青普), but with the addition step of wet piling (渥堆), a process similar to composting, just after fixation, prior to being dried.
The Process of Pu-erh tea production in a tea factory
|Cake(饼）||A round, flat, disc or puck-shaped tea, the size ranges from as small as 100g to as large as 5 kg or more, with 357g, 400g, and 500g being the most common. Depending on the pressing method, the edge of the disk can be rounded or perpendicular. It is also commonly known as Qīzí bǐngchá (七子饼茶, literally "seven units cake tea") because seven of the bing are packaged together at a time for sale or transport.|
|Tuo or Bowl,（沱茶）||A convex knob-shaped tea, its size ranges from 3g to 3 kg or more, with 100g, 250g and 500g being the most common. The name for tuocha is believed to have originated from the round, top-like shape of the pressed tea or from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuojiang River. In ancient times, tuocha cakes may have had holes punched through the center so they could be tied together on a rope for easy transport.|
|Brick（砖茶）||A thick rectangular block of tea, usually in 100g, 250g, 500g and 1000g sizes, Zhuancha bricks are the traditional shape used for ease of transport along the ancient tea route by horse caravans.|
|Melon, or gold melon（金瓜）||Its shape is similar to tuóchá, but larger in size, with a much thicker body decorated with pumpkin-like stripes. This shape was created for the famous "Tribute tea" (貢茶) made expressly for the Qing Dynasty emperors from the best tea leaves of Yiwu Mountain. Larger specimens of this shape are sometimes called "human-head tea" (人頭茶), due in part to its size and shape, and because in the past it was often presented in court in a similar manner to severed heads of enemies or criminals.|
Yunnan province produces the vast majority of pu'er tea. Indeed, the province is the source of the tea's name, Pu'er Hani and Yi Autonomous County. Pu'er is produced in almost every county and prefecture in the province, but the most famous pu'er areas are known as the Six Famous Tea Mountains (Chinese: 六大茶山)
These mountains are all located northeast of the Lancang River (Mekong) in relatively close proximity to one another. The mountains' names, in the Standard Chinese character pronunciation
Southwest of the river there are also six famous tea mountains that are lesser known from ancient times due to their isolation by the river.They are:
1.Mengsong Shān (勐宋山):
2.Menghai Shān (勐海山):
3.Jingmai Shān (景迈山):
4.Nánnuò Shān (南糯山):
5.Bada Shān (巴达山):
6.Yōulè Shān (攸乐山):
Other areas of YunnanMany other areas of Yunnan also produce pu'er tea. Yunnan prefectures that are major producers of pu'er include Lincang, Dehong, Simao, Xishuangbanna, and Wenshan. Other tea mountains famous in Yunnan include among others:
Bāngwēi Shān (邦崴山)
Yìwǔ Shān (易武山) :
Region is but one factor in assessing a pu'er tea, and pu'er from any region of Yunnan is as prized as any from the six famous tea mountains if it meets other criteria, such as being wild growth, hand-processed tea.
When appreciating Puer, one should pay special attention to the color of the liquor. Good Puer should have an intense reddish brown color with a layer of golden sheen, known as the “golden touch”. There should be a thin oily layer floating on top of the liquid. When it comes to the taste, one should be looking for a smooth and solid texture with slightly sweet aftertaste. Bad Puer often tastes bitter, moldy and sour.
Drinking pu'er tea is purported to reduce blood cholesterol. Pu'er tea has been shown to have antimutagenic and antimicrobial properties as well.
It is also widely believed in Chinese cultures to counteract the unpleasant effects of heavy alcohol consumption. In traditional Chinese medicine, the tea is believed to invigorate the spleen and inhibit "dampness." In the stomach, it is believed to reduce heat and "descends qi".
Pu'er tea is widely sold as a weight loss tea or used as a main ingredient in such commercially prepared tea mixtures.