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Category: Pu-Erh (Page 2 of 2)

Sheng Puerh only get Old and Aged

Why it is important to learn history and the basic tea theory when learning tea? It’s simple, so you can justify the information is true or false. For example,
A riped Puerh claimed older than 50 years, is it true or false?
  1. The  manually piling fermentation process to accelerate the post-fermentation flavour and taste of Riped Puerh (Shou Puerh) was successfully developed in 1975.  The technique was only mature for massive production in 1984.
  2. the post fermentation process can indeed transformed the color:
    1. Raw puerh (Sheng Puerh) becomes to dark color and the flavour becomes more intense,
    2. the color, flavour and taste of Riped Puerh are not same as aged Raw Puerh
  3. The color of leaves:
    1. Aged raw puerh (sheng puerh) will become dark grey olive green color;
    2. Riped puerh (shou puerh) is in dark brown or dark brownish copper color.
  4. The color of tea liquid:
    1. Raw puerh : in yellow series, i.e. yellowish amber, orange amber
    2. Riped puerh: Brownish red, wine red, dark red or even in liver brown

With years of storage and post fermentation, raw puerh (sheng puerh) remains as aged puerh but won’t become a riped puerh (Shou Puerh).

Gu Shu Puerh

Gu Shu 古樹 is a general term for ancient aging tea trees that are older than hundreds to thousand of year old, that normally grow in nature forest and are found on the high altitude areas. It is hard to say precisely how old these tea trees are because these trees are under protection; so people can only give an estimation based on its height and size.  In Yunnan, it has already discovered more than 1,000 acres of ancient tea trees; there are 14 estates are connected together, the cover area is about 21.21 acres.  Till now the countable discovered thousands year old ancient tea trees in Yunnan are 32 trees, it is about 43% from what have been discovered in China.

Gu Shu Pu-erh tea comprises in two different categories:

  1. Transitional cultivated type : Tea trees have been cultivated long long time ago, from few hundreds to thousands of year; basically the size of tea tree is tall and strong.
  2. Ye Sheng 野生, it short means wild tea trees that were found in between nature forest and cultivated tea plantation and its DNA is related to the cultivated tea trees. Not all wild tea trees can be processed to make tea drink because many raw tea leaves are pretty bitter.  Good quality is limited.


But Ye Shen Cha (野生茶 Pu-erh tea made from wild tea trees ) is not equivalent to Gu Shu Cha (古樹茶 Pu-erh tea made from Ancient aging tea trees), Da Shu Cha (大樹茶 Pu-erh tea made from transitional aging tea trees) or Shen Tai Ye Fang Cha (生態野放茶 Pu-erh tea made from widely cultivated aging tea trees) . Ye Shen Cha is not necessary equivalent to good quality tea.

  • Arbor type of tea trees that are divided by the age :
    • if the age of the arbor type of tea tree is younger than 100 years old, it’s called Old Tea Tree (老樹),
    • the age is between 100-300 as Big Tea Tree (大樹),
    • if it’s older than 300 years, then it is called Gu Shu (古樹)
    • The ancient cultivated arbor type of Gu Shu (栽培型古樹) , the age is more than 300 years ago and grow in a natural protected environment can produce good quality Pu-erh tea.
    • Shen Tai Ye Fang (生態野放) means these tea trees that were manually cultivated but have been abandoned for decades or few hundreds of year, the plantation is now under well organic management.
    • Ye Shen Cha (野生茶 Wild tea tree cultivar) means those tea trees that have been grown widely without being cultivated or management. Tea trees were grown from seeds, there are lots of variety.  No hair or very little hair on the young buds/leaves, the edge has less cog or none; the color of fresh raw tea leaves is in dark olive green color. There are lots of cultivars in wild tea trees, no much can be processed to make tea because of its bitter taste, the local aboriginals call it as Ku Cha (苦茶).  The wild tea contents more soap base and have mild toxic micro, can cause diarrhea. It is advised to be cautious with the consumption of this kind of Ku Cha.

When we enjoy and try to promote Pu-erh tea, it is important to establish some basic understanding before creating more confusions:

  • “Aged Pu-erh” 陳年普洱 means Pu-erh tea made from either Lao Shu (老樹) or Da Shu (大樹) or even from Ping Di (平地) that’ve been stored for long time, it can be either loose leaves, tea brick or tea cake. Can you distinguish the change of aroma and taste during the transformation? It is a surprising life-time learning.
  • Gu Shu Pu-erh” 古樹普洱 means Pu-erh tea that madefrom ancient tea trees, either from transitional cultivated tea tree or Ye Shen (Wild) tea tree cultivars. Since the growing areas of Gu Shu are spreading in pretty wide region in Yunnan, therefore, it is necessary to find out more behind the name.

3_408_244Basic check list for Pu-erh:

  1. Basic thing you need to check is:Is it a raw or ripped Pu-erh? The color, aroma and taste will reveal the truth once you have a chance to physically check on it and brew it; the change of transformation is a amazing surprisePrecise information about the growing region
  2. Is it from Ping Di (平地 lower altitude) or Gao Shan (高山 high altitude above 1000m)
  3. The quality of leaves, i.e. the single source of tea leaves or blended leaves; is it tou cha, tea cake, tea brick or loose leaves
  4. In which year it was being truly made, the condition of the wrapping paper and in-fly can reveal a lot of information already.

Like for all kind of tea, there is no better method to evaluate the tea besides checking the quality by its look (shape & color), aroma, flavor and taste.

Tea is a wonderful gift from Nature; it is a simple agricultural product but its complexity is much deeper and wider that no one can really draw the end line for exploration and learning.  The journey of tea begins from liking and appreciating tea.  Tea is a great teacher when we are willing to explore further with a opened mind and maintain a curious learning attitude.  The name or the brand is not necessary mean good quality tea, because each person might have her/his unique preferences to flavor and taste, basically what that person likes and can afford are ‘good’ tea to that person.

What is your favorite tea today?  Enjoy a peaceful tea moment.


2001 Phoenix raw Puerh toucha

Phoenix raw Puerh toucha after 12 years of aging process, it has fine woody with mint and plum flavour.




2001 Mini Tou Cha

Non-intentionally let it sat in a Yixing clay tea jar for more than 15 years.

Now it has transformed to an astonishing beauty.

Mini Tou Cha of year 2001

Mini Tou Cha of year 2001


Brewing it with a classical earth ware teapot


Color: Beautiful clarity in rich brownish red color with a golden ring.

Surprisingly smooth flavour with mild notion of astringent that accelerate the after taste of sweetness back on the tip of tongue

The 1st infusion (Left) vs. the 2nd infusion (Right)

The 1st infusion (Left) vs. the 2nd infusion (Right). The color is getting richer in the later infusions.

The dried sweetness taste does not just stay on your tonque, it further stimulate the after taste at side in mouth, feel the surprisingly stimulative taste between teeth from the back side moves to the front.


Unknown Year Aged Puerh

13619982_10208433160940139_3141231007292107262_n 13600159_10208433160980140_416541642465254233_nAccidentally discovered and bought three porcelain jars from a local antique shop, the porcelain jar is well sealed with an aged paper of “雲南普洱” (Yunnan Pu-erh) “光緒十六年” (which is in 1890).

Well, the porcelain jars are not in the top quality and the drawing clearly was rural hand works.

First of all, it is not usual to pack and sell tea in a porcelain jar, so surely it’s not meant to sell as tea. Was it a personal collection?

When I shaked the jar, I could clearly hear the crispy sounds from very dried leaves (Puerh would become drier because water content was evaporated during the natural aging process even though it’s well sealed).

Was it really is an antique tea with more than 120 years old? What was really in the jar? How was the quality? …..A series of question came to my mind that woke up my curiosity.  In the situation that the shop owner did not ask for outrageous price for these three porcelain jars and under no circumstances that I could request the shop owner to let me open the jar, so I bought them home and tried to find out the truth myself;  even if the tea inside is not good, at least I could use them to store my own Puerh tea.

A moment of truth

  • The lid of the jar was well sealed by plaster 13645231_10208455200811122_6506817283166846038_nP_20160712_16364613680394_10208455443817197_297364980211852323_o
  • The tea leaves are as expected very dried in dark black colour
  • Not having very noticeable musty or unpleasant aroma but has very mild and gentle mixture of woody plum and fruity notes
  • Brewing in an earthware teapot with almost 100°C water temperature
  • After warmed up with hot water, the mixture of woody plum and fruity notes became noticeable, again it’s gentle and mild but not unpleasant
  • The tea colour was surprisingly fine with great clarity and transparency in brownish red color
  • The flavour was matching with its dried leaves in gentle and not-aggressive or unplesant flavour, but with woody plum mixture of fruity notes
  • When poured the tea into the serving cup, could see a kind of cloud floating in tea
  • How about the taste? Well, I wish I could share this cup with you because I was joyfully surprised by its dried sweetness, rich but gentleness; easy to swallow.

Well, I have never tasted the aged Puerh that’s older than 25 years, so I do not have very solid base to identify its actual age by comparing the taste; but the gentle aroma from the dried leaves did remind me the memory of my first visit to the Meng Hai Tea Plant in Xi Shuan Ban Na, Yunnan in 2002 when the Deputy Director of the factory showed me a very old Puerh (>80 years) in their tea library.  Perhaps it was an imitation long time ago, perhaps in many experts’ point of views the jar is not a high quality antique.  But for me, it’s a joyful and imaginative tea journey of the day.


Shou Pu (Ripped Puer)

Tea is simple and yet is a such complex world that no one really know how deep and how broad it is.  When I first wanted to learn more about tea and Chinese traditional tea ceremony in Taiwan in 1985, frankly speaking my views about tea was narrowed by Taiwanese tea only. Said good-bye to my family was a hard decision but there was nothing I could explain, except “love is blind”.  But living in Belgium gave me a great opportunity to re-examine the cylindrical views about tea world that I thought I knew from a inside-out limitation to 360 degree.

At that time I could only drink the Shou Pu (the web storage Ripped Puer) imported (actually it was more like smuggling) from Hong Kong and honestly speaking I disliked that aging musty flavor and taste at that time.  The trip to Xishuangbanna in Yunan and the visit to then the ‘only’ Puer manufacturer in MengHai has opened my eyes and changed my mind completely.  I then realized, there is another ancient boundless tea world for me to discover and there are more stories to hear and to tell. 

I still remember during that visit to MengHai Tea Factory and LiMing Tea Factory, we could only visit the compressing and packing departments, but it was not allow us to visit the fermentation room for Shou Pu (Ripped Puer).  The reason then was “it’s a top secret area”.  Now a day, there are many photo’s and articles can be found about the past-secret territory.

But still there are many debates about when the production of Shou Pu was started, in 1927 or 1974? Actually there was no documentation about Shou Pu before 1974.  According to the investigation document, it was not possible to deliver the loose Ripped Puer from Yunnan to Hong Kong; one horse can only carry 50kg loose leaf tea while the horse could carry 70kgs if it’s compressed to brick or cake before 1948.  Unique geographical environment and transport conditions, therefore it decided the future of compressed tea cake to Hong Kong since 1948.  One thing we are sure is there was no documentation about Shou Puer from the historical documents in Dali, Xishuangbanna and Puer regions or manufacturing record before 1974.  Without ripped loose leaves, then there is no Ripped Puer tea cake, because once the Sheng (Raw) Puer being compressed, then it’s not possible to transform it to Ripped Puer through the artificial fermentation process any more. The cost of storaging the loose leaves is much higher if they could compress it. So the compressed Shou Pu started from Hong Kong in the 50’s.

In the time of cultural revolution, there was no direct communication between Hong Kong and Mainland China.  But still soon the State-Own company learnt about how Hong Kong was able to accelerate the fermentation by using the artificial fermentation process, so they ordered the tea factory in Xia Guan to begin the experiment of using the artificial fermentation process for the exportation. That began the life of Shou Pu.

How is the quality of artificial fermented Shou Pu is decided both by the piling techniques and the storage time, and of course not to forget how the quality of the tea base lays the foundation to the aging process.  The advantage of Sheng (Raw) Pu is its solid natural flavor and the surprising transformation during the storage, there is a special flavor and taste from the natural aging process; but the down side is the natural transformation takes time.  On the other hand, Shou Pu allow us to enjoy the mellow flavor and taste in about 5 years and above; but its down side is tea leaves were damaged during the piling-fermentation process and it often is not suitable to store for too long.

So my learning journey about Puer began in 2002.  Did I make mistakes in selecting and buying Puer tea? Of course, it’s necessary.  Otherwise I could have another learning block if it’s not because of those stupid decision I made.  Since I don’t have very deep pocket, so I couldn’t afford to buy those ‘trendy fashion aged or antique Puer’, so I decide to get old together with my tea and enjoy the surprising journey of transformation together.  It is like a friend said It is not possible to achieve the perfection state in anything on his/her own. The ancient world of Puer tea definitely is another domain where there is anyone can hardly master its knowledge perfectly.  Will I still make mistakes in Puer tea? Of course, the chance is big; but it won’t stop me from learning and enjoying the relearning.



Puerh is Red Tea? Hei Cha!

P_20160520_120851All those years, I’ve tried not too ‘critical’ to other tea ‘sommeliers’ or ‘traders’, but I was once again shocked by the information about Puerh tea from a Dutch web shop that my student Jess relayed to me by email which kept me awoke that I think it is necessary to point out some fundamental mistakes:

  • First of all, since the name of Black Tea was used for Chinese Red Tea (紅茶), so now we can call Chinese Hei Cha (黑茶, literally mean Black Tea in Chinese) to Dark Tea. Puerh is in the category of Hei Cha (Dark Tea) but not Red Tea (Black Tea).
  • But there is something unique about Hei Cha, because there are Sheng (生 means raw, green, not-full fermented) and Shou (熟 means ripped, full fermented), but one thing in common is these considered as ‘living and drinkable antique’, the flavor and taste are transformed according to the difference in post-fermentation process and the later storage.
  • The brewing of Puerh is similar but again different from the brewing of other sort of tea
  • The flavor and taste of Puerh from lower altitude vs. high altitude, bush-type vs. tree-type  and the age of tea tree, from loose leaves to tea cake, etc. create a lot of diverse flavour and taste in Puerh
  • Indeed the taste of Puerh is very smooth and gentle, especially those aged Puerh; but it shouldn’t be flat and boring, on the contrary it should be the first taste of smoothness, then with gentle after-taste that  give your mouth a full body of faste afterwards with the closure of kind of sweetness on your tongue. Different post fermentation process and the period of time can influence the flavor of Puerh, some will develop a kind of earlthy woody note, but good quality Puerh, even Shou Puerh, won’t give a rotten rot flavor and struggling with the swallowing.

Out of curiosity, so I decided to pay a visit to that web shop as well and surprisingly have found more chaotic and unthinkable mistakes, here I just simply point out two Taiwan Oolong as example:

  • Formosa Fine Oolong :

in the description, they introduced it as Black tea, then further it wrote, it’s semi-fermented tea.  So is it a Oolong or black tea?  Oolong is Oolong but not black tea. There are heavy fermented Oolong, but it is still Oolong but not black tea because the flavor and taste are not on the same parameters; certainly there are some strict and important evaluation parameters to define ‘fine’ Oolong tea.

  • Formosa Oolong Thing Dong (Jade Oolong):

Jade Oolong is also known as Cui Yu in Chinese Pinyin, so what does it mean “Thing Dong”??  again is it a black or oolong?  Indeed high mountain Oolong often is very light fermented, but how can black tea be non-fermented? Withering and fermentation processes are necessary for Oolong, so how can it be non-fermented?

I don’t question they treasure tea or not, but based on how they classify the tea category on their web site, I wonder how much they really know about tea.  Frankly speaking, I have no idea where they learnt about  tea but I would be very shamed if I were their teacher. There are simply TOO MUCH unthinkable mistakes that I really do not know how to correct them.  The discovery from this web shop who mistook the Puerh as ‘red tea’ gave me a speechless evening.

One can’t distinguish the quality and the value of tea until s/he is willing to give her/himself a chance to taste the tea with an open mind for a life-time learning with tea.  The learning starts from getting the fundamental information right as much as possible.

1999 Raw Puerh (7542) from Menghai Tea Factory

Appropriate storage methods and conditions are extremely important for tea, especially for raw Puerh (Sheng Pu 生普).

1999 7542 Sheng Pu from Menghai Tea Factory

Why raw Puerh (Sheng Pu) is so attractive to many tea lovers? Well, the answer is quite straight forwards and simple:
  • it has charming refreshing mixture of grassy, woody, flora, nuts and/or fruity flavour and it tastes sweet !
  • Indeed the woody note would become more intense and the color of tea liquor is getting more richer with the aging but still it would be very charming on the tip of tongue and easy & pleasant to swallow into throat.
  • Each Sheng Pu spears out amazing transformation story during the natural post-fermentation aging process.  It is a drinkable antique, the older the better.
This is an old Puerh (7542 raw Puerh of 1999 according to the wrapping paper), unfortunately it apparently has been stored in a wet and humid fermentation conditions that it confused me with the flavour and taste from ripe Puerh.   It was my first time tasted the wet-storaged raw Puerh; it certainly gave me a chance to re-assert the dry-post-fermentation approach for my own Puerh collections.
For this questionable Raw Puerh (Sheng Pu), I would suggest the following:
  • wash it twice instead of once
  • Shorten the infusion time from the first few infusions
  • Drink it at the suitable temperature, i.e.. 45-60 Celsius
  • Store it with the original paper in a air-flow environment, hopefully the time in dried storage manner can further evaporate the notions of strong earthy and rotten wood flavor and spicy taste.
7542 is a very famous blending receipt from Menghai Tea Factory.  After checking with some Puerh experts in China and Taiwan, I understand the well aged Raw Puerh can be very expensive and often are more than what I can afford.  Therefore, personally I like the idea of taking my own responsibility for the storage based on what I can afford and getting old together with my tea, instead of shopping the high priced already ‘aged’ tea.
For those who have problem with stomach should avoid drinking the freshly made Sheng Pu, too much and/or too strong. Remember, tea is only healthy if you were willing to listen to your own body.

2013 Yin Kong Que


Kong Que in English is Peacock.  Yin Kong Que is a raw Puerh made from solar dired big leaf tea trees from Yin Kong Que mountain region which is one of famous tea mountain.

The minorities who live in that region adore peacock for her elegant and beauty, that’s why they name the mountain as Kong Que Shan  where is known as “the Home of Peacock” in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan.

The average age of tea tree: 100-300 years, situated on +/- 1600mt. Area.

The tea cake was compressed in 2013 and has been stored in air-flow dried warehouse.

The color of this tea cake has interesting colors like peacock opens her tail screen.  The tea has very interesting mellow smoke with the mixture of green and woody notes; it taste sweet, the mild astringent flavor and taste demonstrate its strength on your lips and teeth.


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