What is Pu’Er tea?
Pu’Er tea, also named “Pu’Erh” is a famous Chinese tea originating from a very ancient tradition. It is harvested from particular varieties of tea trees (Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica mostly) in natural gardens of Yunnan Province (South East China). These trees can be very old and even wild.
There are two types of Pu’Er tea: the “Seng Cha” (raw Pu’Er or green Pu'Er) and the “Shu Cha” (fermented Pu’Er also known as “red” or ”ripe” Pu’Er). A characteristic of this tea is that it mellows over the years, a bit like wine, due to the process of “post-fermentation”. Ripe Pu'er also improves with time.
There are 3 criteria conditioning the branding of “Pu’Er” tea.
- The leaves must come from the broad-leaf varietal of tea trees (Camelia Sinensis var. Assamica mainly). The tea is then harvested from three types of trees : the big trees (Da Shu), 50 years old and more, the “old trees” (Gu Shu) - some hundreds of years old - and the younger trees growing on the hillsides (Qiao Mu, Xiao Shu). We select teas from Da Shu and Gu Shu, which we consider to be the best.
- The production must be exclusive to the Mekong basin (mainly Xishuangbanna, Six Ancient Tea Mountains, Lincang area, and Simao-Pu’Er...).
- The tea leaves should be dried in the sun, not in oven, in order to obtain Mao Cha, or loose Pu'Er tea leaves.
The choice of a Pu’Er comprises of three main factors :
- The mountain (or village) of origin: each area having its own specific taste due to soil, altitude, exposure, the position in relation to rivers, and the local production methods.
- The age of the trees (see above)
- The age of the tea which, along with the area of origin, will confer raw or mature flavours to it.
Pu’Er is the name of a small town of the Yunnan Province, once a regional administrative centre and renown for its tea market. From the Tang dynasty (7th century AD) onwards, it was the meeting point of tea caravans taking tea to Tibet on the Cha Ma Gu Dao (or “Ancient Tea Horse Road”). Nowadays renamed Ning Er, this little industrial town still prides itself with being the place of origin of Pu’Er tea. The name“ Pu Er” has since been attributed to Simao, which is now the centre of a vast tea-producing area and flourishing tea-market.
In recent years the Pu’Er tea world has been evolving steadily. Small individual or family affairs, promoting their personal knowledge, are standing out from the big industrial companies.
They favour smaller harvests, artisanal production lines, and seek a personal “edge” to their tea. We have chosen to make this way of production known to a wider public and to support them by actually taking part in our “friend-producers” production line or by selecting teas originating from traditional production methods.
We are therefore truly appreciative of these many years of loyal partnership, which enable us to maintain reasonable prices for high quality teas !