Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

The appearance of pu-erh tea is closely related to the history of China. The Chinese discovered the wonderful properties of this drink several thousand years ago. Yunnan Province in the southwest of the country has been known for its tea since 1700 years ago. In one of its counties – Puer – a method was found for making the tea of ​​the same name, which is known for its thick texture, dark saturated color and cleansing properties.

Pu-erh is a post-fermented tea, considered one of the most expensive teas in the world. It is distinguished by a specific production technology: the collected leaves, processed to the level of green tea, are subjected to a microbial fermentation procedure – natural or artificial (accelerated) aging.

Post-fermented tea is tea that has undergone a process of microbial fermentation from several months to many years, usually in a humid environment and with access to oxygen. Fermentation is carried out mainly with the help of molds.

Fermentation affects the organoleptic properties of tea, it changes the smell, as a rule, softens the taste, reducing astringency and bitterness. Microorganisms can also produce metabolites that are beneficial to health.

Pu-erh tea is a drink that has a long history filled with legends. It differs from other teas in that over time it does not lose, but on the contrary, enhances the aroma and taste, like a good wine.

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

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Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea


Pu-erh production and its varieties

Making this special tea will include the following steps:

  • collection of tea leaves
  • wilting
  • curling (goal: extract as much juice from the leaves as possible)
  • fermentation (purpose: using high temperatures to accelerate the fermentation of the tea leaf)
  • drying (purpose: to stop the fermentation process)
  • pressing
  • ripening (for shen pu-erh)

The main distinguishing feature of pu-erh is the fermentation stage, which can take a different time. Microorganisms participating in it noticeably change the chemical composition and taste of tea.

Before the advent of motor transport, tea fermentation took place already in the process of long-term transportation and subsequent storage of tea, tea had time to ripen on the way to the consumer. In the second half of the 20th century, with an increase in demand and a reduction in the time of delivery of goods to the consumer, tea did not have time to ripen (ferment) to the desired degree, and therefore, in the seventies of the 20th century, the technology of artificially accelerated fermentation was developed (the tea leaf is folded into heaps, watered, after which the temperature inside the heap rises, thereby accelerating the fermentation process). So there were two main types of pu-erh:

  • sheng pu-erh (translated as "raw", "unprocessed", "green") – made according to the original technology;
  • shu pu-erh (translated as “ripe”, “processed”, “black”) is made using artificial maturation technology.

It is because of the fermentation that pu-erhs are distinguished into their group of teas. Although shu pu-erh is sometimes mistakenly considered a subspecies of black tea due to the brown color of the leaves and the dark red color of the infusion.

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

A controversial issue is the influence of the age of pu-erh on its palatability. You can often find sellers claiming that pu-erh only improves in taste over time. In reality, it depends on the technology of its production.

  • Shen pu-erhs are distinguished by the fact that you can independently control the degree of fermentation, and, accordingly, the taste of tea. This process requires considerable time: after 2-3 years of storage, the bitterness and roughness of a fresh leaf begins to leave the tea. According to connoisseurs, tea becomes unique after 10-20 years (if stored properly).
  • Shu pu-erhs do not change much during long-term storage, since the technology of their production involves rapid fermentation with its subsequent stop without a ripening stage. It is believed that over time, the so-called “taste and smell of wet heaps” disappears from shu pu-erh, which improves their characteristics.

In addition, shen pu-erhs over 40 years old are almost never found on the free market and are collectibles, and shu pu-erhs have been produced since 1973 after the invention of the necessary technology.

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea


Pu-erh pressing forms

Traditionally, pu-erh is obtained by ripening the raw material. Depending on the technology, this process takes several days. Then the resulting product can be marketed under the name "mao cha" (translated from Chinese – "raw") or undergo further ripening. In the second case, it is pressed into molds and stored under the necessary conditions. Ripening time can vary from months to decades. Tea that has passed the ripening stage is called "shen puer" (or "sheng cha", which is translated from Chinese as "raw tea").

In 1973, Kunming Tea Factory began to apply a new process of multiply accelerated fermentation. Soon, the Menghai Tea Factory Company introduced this technology and began to produce a new type of tea called "shu pu-erh" (or "shu cha", which is translated from Chinese as "mature tea"). It also began to be sold both in pressed and loose form.

And now we will give the most common forms of pressing pu-erh.


Pancake or Flapjack (Bing cha)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Tea in the form of a round, flat disc or hockey puck. Sizes range from 100 grams to 5 kilograms or more, with 357 grams, 400 grams, and 500 grams being the most common. The most popular among pancakes are two varieties: “Qi zi bing cha” (translated as “Seven pancakes of tea”), since these “pancakes” are packed in 7 pieces, and “Qiao mu bing cha” (translated as “Pancakes from raw materials with large tea trees).


Nest or Chalice (To cha)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Tea in the form of a nest or bowl. The size varies from 3 grams to 3 kilograms or more, the most common: 100 grams, 250 grams, 500 grams. The name "To cha" comes from the name of concave weights for weights, which were used in China in the old days.


Brick (Zhuan Cha)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Tea in the form of a brick, usually weighing 100 grams, 250 grams, 500 grams and 1000 grams. Brick is one of the oldest forms of pressing, which is associated with the convenience of transportation on horseback in trade caravans.


Square (fang cha)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

An even square of tea, usually weighing 100 or 200 grams, with hieroglyphs embossed on the surface.


Mushroom (Jin cha)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Literally from Chinese, "Jin cha" is translated as "pressed tea", but the shape of the pressing outwardly resembles the shape of a mushroom, for which this tea got its name. This form of tea was mainly produced for Tibetan consumers and is usually found in 250 gram or 300 gram weights.


Gourd or Golden gourd (Jin gua)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

A shape similar in appearance to that of "To cha" but larger, thicker, and decorated with gourd-like stripes on the outside. This form was created for the famous "Tea for offerings to the Emperor". This tea was made for the emperors of the Qing Dynasty from the finest raw materials from Yiwu Mountain. Tea of ​​this pressing is large and is called "tea in the form of a human head."


Dragon Ball (Long Chu)

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

It is a small ball or roll tea, convenient for single use. Typically, the balls contain 5 to 10 grams of compressed material.


Pu-erh preparation

There are several ways to prepare pu-erh. For brewing, on average, take 4 grams of tea per 150 ml of water.

You can find recommendations for pre-rinsing and / or roasting pu-erh before brewing. Washing removes dust, and roasting provides disinfection, since long-term storage of pu-erh makes it possible for microorganisms to develop in it. Very fast rinsing with boiling water is possible – in this case, both dust removal and disinfection are ensured. In any case, pu-erh in the form of a pressed "pancake" crumbles before brewing, and sometimes even rubbed more finely.

Actually, brewing (in a teapot or gaiwan) takes place quite traditionally – pu-erh is poured with hot water with a temperature close to boiling. By the time of infusion, options are also possible.

It is often recommended to infuse the first brew (the first two brews) of tea for just a few seconds, then immediately drain the infusion, and when brewing again, increase the exposure by 1-2 seconds each time. In this mode, pu-erh can withstand, depending on age and quality, from 5 to 10 brews.

There are lovers of brewing tea with a long exposure – up to several minutes. In this case, re-brewing is possible no more than 1-2 times, and the resulting infusion has a more pronounced taste.

Also, pu-erh can be brewed according to the “Lu Yu method” (this is the Chinese “tea sage”, who convened the first ever treatise on tea and tea drinking in the 8th century). To brew tea, use a glass container for water and soft water. Lu Yu recommends drinking tea after all the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of the vessel.

It is customary to consume pu-erh in small portions in order to appreciate not only the taste, but also the aftertaste.

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea

Interesting facts about pu-erh tea


Fake pu-erh teas

  • It is believed that the quality of pu-erh improves over the years. However, the vast majority of old pu-erh (shen pu-erh) on the market is counterfeit (including industrial), that is, the declared age does not correspond to reality.

    Real old pu-erh can be roughly divided into "rural" (those that "stale" by chance), and those that collectors (mostly Taiwanese) keep deliberately. Factory production of old pu-erh does not exist.

    The cost of real old pu-erhs is calculated in thousands of dollars per briquette at Taiwanese auctions, and their number in the world is in kilograms.

  • The expensive "white pu-erh" is a cleverly crafted marketing sham. After all, according to the technological tea nomenclature, “white pu-erh” does not exist. White tea and pu-erh, in a sense, are antipodes. Most often, "white pu-erh" in our market is called pressed low-grade white tea.