Tag Archives: pu’er

Sheng (raw) puer tea

I’ve been drinking a lot of sheng (raw) puer tea lately. It all started in September, when Roman visited Maribor. I did some browsing around the tea cabinet and took out one of my most precious tea possessions – a glass jar of maocha that I’d been aging at home since 2010. An experimental batch of Slovenian-stored raw puer material – seems like a rather appropriate choice of tea for the occasion. Having consumed about a third of the supply, I decided to branch out into fresh purple shengs and, last but absolutely not least, get a taste, and then a whole cake, of real 18 year-old dry-stored sheng puer straight from Kunming, China.

lao sheng cha

Photo: laoshengcha, vintage 1996

Maocha

I bought that maocha (毛茶) in Kunming about four years ago, mainly because I wanted to have a sample of pre-sheng cake material at home, so I could show it to my Slovenian tea buddies and anyone interested in what puer tea is made from.

Essentially, maocha is a pile of non-processed tea leaves sun-dried soon after plucking. The maocha leaves take up a lot of space, so only a fraction of this tea reaches the retail markets. Most of it is sold directly to tea masters and factories, where maocha is pressed into cakes, bricks, nuggets of various shapes and sizes.

Naturally, I wasn’t going to press that maocha. Rather, I decided to age it under controlled conditions. I put the tea into a glass jar to keep away all odors. I’d stored some other tea in tightly sealed containers before, and the quality of tea always deteriorated. So I decided that I would seal the jar tightly but open it once a week to let the tea get some air.

What was the result, you might wonder? Divine! Not only did the tea preserve its pristine quality, but it also developed a few pleasantly mellow notes. My only regret was that I just had enough maocha for ten tea parties.

Zi Juan Cha

I got my first ever cake of purple beauty (紫娟茶) this spring. Roman sent it to me, so I could shoot it and put it up on TeaSpotting. I generally feel quite skeptical about traditional healing methods, so when Roman mentioned that the Chinese praise purple sheng for its anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties, I didn’t take it seriously.

However, on two occasions already, purple sheng took care of my flu by significantly reducing cold symptoms and helping me quickly restore my strength. So I’ve become a believer.

It’s quite easy to mistake purple puer for shu. Especially at first glance, viewing it from a distance. At a closer look, however, one is bound to notice the fine pattern of interwoven dark blue/green/purple wholesome leaves and buds – a sight that no shu cake can offer. The strange dark color of the leaves comes not from oxidation or any other type of processing. Dark purple is simply the natural color of the fresh leaves of the specific type of Camellia sinensis that zijuan cha is harvested from.

Steep the tea a few times though, and the purple will start receding into dark blue and deep emerald tones. Purple puer gives visually rich, savory infusions full of antioxidants and vitamins that are believed to provided great prophylactic properties with regular consumption. The taste of purple puer is rather on the sheng side, far from the earthy and walnutty flavors that artificially fermented shu puers normally feature.

Lao Sheng Cha

Raw Vintage Tea (老生茶) came to me in its original timeworn, nondescript wrapping, giving off a complex variety of earthy, slightly moldy aroma. Once I unwrapped the cake it became quite clear that I finally laid my hands on a real aged sheng, deep in its teens.

No kidding that tea was plucked and pressed back in 1996! Some sheng lovers I know were still in kindergarten when that cake came to be :).

A truly old sheng is the kind of tea that many tea lovers around the world would brew with their very best gear and a healthy share of reverence. Old shengs yield rather dark infusions from the very start. The taste of the first couple of brews is somewhere between that of sweet, freshly harvested sheng and higher-grade sylvan shu. The flavor changes considerably over consecutive steepings, depending on the tea’s origin, age, grade, and other factors.

It should be noted that, in this part of the world, teas like this are hard to come by, but just because they are rare and exotic, but also rather expensive. Do some browsing and you’ll see that 20-30 yo shengs auction for thousands of dollars per cake.

For centuries in China, old shengs have been used for expensive gifts, dowry, and luxury objects. One of the things that make aged puer so valuable is that two identical cakes can develop fairly different properties if aged under different conditions (temperature, humidity, etc). A few decades ago, the demand for such tea far exceeded the supply, and fermentation techniques were developed to age puer quickly, turning it dark and earthy, in an attempt to imitate and speed up the natural aging process by dozens of times.

Any mildly experienced tea drinker will easily tell aged sheng and shu puer apart. Ask them which puer they’d rather have on their shelves, and most puer lovers will invariably opt for the old sheng, saying that it’s the real deal and a true must-have for any serious tea drinker.

I don’t believe that old sheng puer is good choice for everyday drinking though. It yields well over 10 steepings, which means that it’s perfect material for tea ceremonies and/or extensive individual and small group sessions. Old sheng is perfect for those tea lovers who want to deepen their understanding of puer tea and generally expand their knowledge of the Chinese tea drinking traditions.

Would you like some tea?

You can try all three teas mentioned above during Daoli Tea Parties – tea drinking events that Miha host in Slovenia several times a year. With the exception of maocha, all the above-mentioned puers can be ordered through TeaSpotting. Roman will personally acquire the cakes from a trusted source at the Kunming tea market and will ship to any address worldwide.

A tea story: travelling to the Nannuo mountain

高山云雾出好茶

The mighty mountain, shrouded in mist, is the place where good tea comes from.

An old saying has all it takes to describe one of the oldest tea tree mountains, a source of the finest raw tea, or maocha(1), which is used to make tea of different kinds and shapes.

Nannuo tea trip

The mountain

The Nannuo mountain(2) is located in the eastern part of Menghai County(3), about an hour drive from Jinghong(4) (approximately 30 km). It sits at an average altitude of 1,400 meters. Well known for its long history of tea growing, the mountain has gone through a series of transformations and remains a place for pilgrimage. Its trees, aged between 200-500 years old, produce some of the best puer tea. Being driven by a powerful incentive of traveling to see the groves of ancient tea trees, I’ve set my foot in Xishuangbanna(5), the heartland of puer tea production.

The trip

One morning, accompanied by an owner of a tea shop in Jinghong, we headed for a “stone village”, to meet some of the local tea farmers. Shitou village(6) is a traditional Aini-Akha(7) settlement, which peacefully rests on the side of Nannuo mountain, amid bamboo and tea groves.

Banana plantations, merging with the horizon, have given way to the rubber trees sitting straight in the rows across the hillsides. But the place we were about to explore bore not the slightest resemblance to what we’ve just seen. To find yourself in the wilderness of Xishuangbanna, you don’t need to cross hundreds of miles. A typical landscape is a rainforest with dense vegetation, where ancient tea trees feel at home. The serpent-like road, winding around the mountain, was once in a while flowing through the mystical tribal gates, decorated with sculls and pictographic inscriptions to scare away evil spirits. The Aini-Akha, indigenous people to inhabit the region for hundreds of years, is a populous ethnic group, which is spread across the south of Yunnan.

The name of the mountain comes from the Dai language(8) and is translated as “bamboo paste”, a dish made of fermented bamboo shoots. The Aini-Akha cuisine is diverse enough and worth exploring, and you can still find this on the menu. The story behind tells us about bamboo growing thick at the foot of the mountain, and cooked by the locals in many different ways. One winter a settlement on the side of the mountain was visited by a feudal lord, who was then offered a bowl of sour bamboo paste. As the story goes, he loved the taste so much that later on commanded the villagers to manufacture and pay him the tribute in this heavenly delicious appetizer.

Ancient tea trees

Upon reaching the village, scattered across the scenic landscape of Nannuo mountain, we took a hike into a nearly impenetrable thicket of ancient tea trees, which covers a territory of approximately 15,000 mu(9).

The truth is that the image of an ancient tea tree, looming large in my imagination, was utterly different from what it turned out to be in reality. Not the size of the redwood trees, these humble giants can barely overgrow a human. However, the so-called “King of the Ancient Tea Trees”(10), which makes a famous tourist attraction, is aged at over 800 years old and estimated 14.7 meters high.

Unlike the conventional tea hedges(11) which make up an average plantation, tea trees in Nannuo are left to grow freely in their natural form, with minimum pruning to encourage new leaf growth. The tea trees are treated completely organically, which is easily seen with the naked eye: the leaves appear to be home to insects and parasitic plants, none of which would survive pesticides very well. The plants include the rare species of “crab’s claw”(12) and Dendrobium(13), which serve as raw material for a number of medicines used in traditional Chinese medicine. You may as well find them present within some herbal teas.

Harvesting tea

Being cultivated in line with hundreds of years of local farming tradition, the average tree produces about three kilograms of tea leaves per year. At the same time, tea trees which make up a hedge style plantation, harvested regularly to maintain a “hedge” shape, would give several times as much as that. New growth is generally harvested every 20 days, the harvest season starting as early as April and lasting through the late November.

The number of harvests per year may vary from place to place, however when a tea tree is given more time to recover, there is a better chance of getting high quality product. Such ancient tea trees produce the tea that can attract a very high market price, which far exceeds the price of the average plantation tea. Being extremely valuable, they provide the major source of income for the locals.

The harvesting of tea in the region begins in the period of Three Kingdoms (220-280). Hundreds of years later the mountain became a house for Bulang(14) minority people, who developed the cultivation technology. Later the harvesting tradition was taken over by Aini-Akha minority, which settles across the mountain until now.

Nowadays a famous region of tea production, back in the time of Qing dynasty plantations already covering the area of 15000 mu were giving more than 300 tons of tea leaves per year. The raw tea was then transported to the places like Menghai and Yiwu(15) for the further processing. Much of the tea was later exported to the neighboring countries, at the same time being widely consumed domestically. By the time of the late Qing dynasty, and the early republic, due to the social and political unrest which has significantly weakened the country’s economy, the tea market became unstable and dependent. Tea production has gradually declined until its rebirth in the second half of the last century(16). Yet it was only thirty years from now when some Chinese tea experts advised removing the ancient tea trees of Nannuo mountain and replacing them with conventional tea hedges or rubber trees…

At the end of the day we were resting at the house of one of the local tea growers. At last we could slake our thirst with a nice cup of raw puer tea, a universally favorite beverage in the region. The Nannuo mountain has so much to say, and one more time it was heard.

Photo gallery

Glossary

  1. Raw tea毛茶 [mao cha] – the tea that has been dry fried in a tea wok, then rolled and dried
  2. The Nannuo mountain南糯山 [nan nuo shan] – a famous tea tree mountain in Menghai County, Xishuangbanna
  3. Menghai County 勐海县 [meng hai xian] – a county in Xishuangbanna
  4. Jinghong 景洪 – a city on the south of Yunnan, the capital of Xishuangbanna
  5. Xishuangbanna 西双版纳 – an autonomous prefecture in the south of Yunnan province
  6. Shitou village 石头寨 [shi tou zhai]
  7. Aini-Akha ethnic minority 爱昵族 [ai ni zu]
  8. Dai ethnic minority 傣族 [dai zu]
  9. 1亩 [mu] = 614.4 m²
  10. “King of the Ancient Tea Trees” 古茶树王 [gu cha shu wang]
  11. Conventional tea hedges 台地茶 [tai di cha]
  12. “Crab’s claw” 螃蟹脚 [pang xie jiao] – medicinal herb which grows on the tea trees
  13. Dendrobium 石斛 [shi hu] – a type of orchid used in traditional Chinese medicine
  14. Bulang ethnic minority 布郎族 [bu lang zu]
  15. Yiwu 易武 [yi wu] – an ancient town in Mengla County, Xishuangbanna.

This post was writen by Alesia – Daoli Teaspotting Russia Project Manager.

If you fancy buying some fresh tea, Roman is in Kunming, waiting to personally fulfill your order!

How to make a puer tea cake

Have you ever tried to eat a tea cake? This may seem a hard task at first. Until you learn how to cook it. This is not a description of puer production process! If you feel puzzled, here is the answer: we simply use tea to make what I call a true puer cake.

Tea cake detail
For this particular cake I used Imperial Blend, but any puer you fancy would do.

What are the health benefits of puer tea?

Since long ago puer tea was famous for its medicinal properties. Being recognized as the most consumed tea worldwide, for hundreds of years puer has had a place in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. The healing powers of this tea have always been praised by TCM practitioners. Since both foods and medicines come from natural plants, there is no definite difference between them. Thus in traditional Chinese herbalism, puer tea is considered to open the meridians and be beneficial to ‘blood cleansing’ and digestion. Puer has also been used to treat a number of other conditions.

One of the most fascinating teas in the world, puer represents a perfect combination of vitamins and essential minerals. It is also believed to be a source of vital energy. As a part of a healthy diet, drinking pu-erh on a daily basis brings immediate benefits. It is widely acknowledged that pu-erh may lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and increase metabolism. In recent years, studies investigating health benefits of puer tea have also shown healing effects on oxidative stress, blood sugar and the bacterial flora of the intestines. Drinking puer reduces the risk of cancer. The fact that this tea has an effect on body weight remains a disputable topic. Though there are researches who believe drinking pu-erh may cause a certain weight loss by helping to increase the speed of digestion.

Why use puer tea for cooking?

If you consider yourself a tea aficionado and want every moment of your life to be a part of unique tea experience, there is a solution. The fact that tea itself may be used for cooking considerably expands the area of its usage. Having learned a couple of useful “tea recipes”, you can not only nourish your passion for tea, but satisfy hunger in a less poetic way. To all the questions which may ever give you trouble the prompt and single answer still seems to be: “Go have some tea”. Though it is not specified whether you should drink it or not.

Cooking a puer tea cake

A Chinese proverb says: “Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.” What if we combine the notions of tea and food and put it on a dinner plate? Or in a baking pan, to be more exact?

The basic ingredients:

  • 500g flour
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 cup puer tea
  • 3 tablespoons jam
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dried fruits/nuts/whatever you like – unlimited

As you may see the list contains no products of animal origin. Therefore a tea cake seems to be a perfect solution for those who keep to a vegan or vegetarian diet.

The cooking process itself is so simple you can do it with closed eyes. All you have to do is to mix all the ingredients. I mixed all the dry ingredients first, adding tea, blueberry jam and vegetable oil afterwards. In fact you can use any other type of tea, though puer remains the best choice, which is proved by my own experience. It is better to use a sourish jam and add a little of sugar, or honey instead of jam – in this case you add no sugar at all. If everything is done right, the dough has a consistency of Greek yoghurt. Dried fruits and nuts which are additional ingredients will help you to make the cake the healthiest meal of a day. I sliced up some dates, dried apricots and prunes. About 2/3 was mixed with dough, and the rest I used to decorate the cake after it was done.

After the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Butter the base of a round cake pan. Then pour the mixture into prepared pan and bake for 30-45 minutes. Well done! What you need to do next is to take a glass of fresh carrot juice – this is exactly what I did – and enjoy your puer tea cake.

A few photo’s from my culinary experience

This post was writen by Alesia – Daoli Russia Project Manager. Among her recent discoveries – handmade Puer&Honey soap. Stay tuned!

What I wish I knew about puer ten years ago

There are two kinds of puer tea: shu (ripe, cooked, heavily fermented) and sheng (raw, slightly fermented).

The main difference between the two types is that shu puers undergo an extensive (several months to a year) fermentation process, whereas sheng puers are fermented slightly, for a much shorter period of time.

Shu puer - chatou and cakes

Puer tea @ Kunming tea market: neatly pressed cakes, loose sheng, and lumpy chatou of shupu

Puer production process

Shu and sheng puers are both derived from maocha (毛茶), which essentially, refers to sun-dried tea leaves. The dried leaves can be stored as raw material or used immediately for production. To make sheng puer, maocha is steamed and pressed into cakes, bricks, nests, and other shapes. Some people sell it in loose form too. Maocha can also be soaked in water for about a week in order to kickstart the natural fermentation. Sheng puer buds and leaves keep their distinctive greenish color. This tea is ready for immediate consumption or aging.

The process of making shu puer is quite different. Large tea leaves and buds are heaped together in a large room or container. Once a certain amount of water is added to the pile, the room temperature is increased and changed accordingly to adjust the fermentation process. The thermophile (i.e. heat-loving) microorganisms then begin to work their magic on tea by changing its color, texture, and chemical composition.

Grades of puer

Once the fermentation process is over, tea is sent through special sieves that separate the freshly fermented mass into tea of various categories: gongting, extra, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. Traditionally, there are no 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades to make differentiation easier. What determines the class of tea? In the case of shu puer it is primarily the size and shape of tea buds and leaves. Gongting, for instance, is supposed to be buds only with each bud averaging 1-1.5 cm (half an inch) in length. Extra class is 50-60% buds and 40-50% leaves. First grade puer is approximately 30% buds and 70% leaves. Third grade has leaves that are larger in size and the bud content is accidental. Fifth and seventh grades are entirely made up of leaves, the main difference being in size, thickness, and texture of tea material used.

When I heard about the puer making process, my first question was why different grades of puer are not fermented separately. First of all, that would make the price of tea much higher, since leaves would have to be separated manually prior to fermentation, which is possible physically, but unviable economically. The second reason is that buds fermented separately from large leaves may not obtain the desired taste and aromatic qualities. In other words, the chemistry involved in the fermentation process requires the enzymes contained in both buds and leaves to produce good quality tea.

Why press puer tea

Both sheng and shu types of puer can be sold in loose form, but it has become common practice to press puer into cakes and nuggets of various shapes and sizes. Cakes are much easier to store and transport than crates or bags of dry leaves. Pressed teas also keep their taste and fragrance for much longer periods of time. However, during the pressing process, a lot of leaves get damaged. This is particularly true for smaller nuggets that have a relatively high proportion of fragmented and virtually no undamaged leaves. However, these changes are purely cosmetic in nature, i.e. having zero effect on the taste and quality of pressed puer.

Chinese law requires tea manufacturers to mark their cakes with the year in which the tea was pressed, rather than when it was processed. The tea inside a cake that was pressed, say, two years ago could actually be older than that. Tea traders may or may not want to share this information with you, but they usually do if you ask specifically. Whether or not their answer reflects the reality is a mixture of luck and guanxi (Chinese word for rapport).

To age or not to age

In fact, one of the most common questions asked about puers is how old they are. There is a common belief that the older puer is, the better its taste, aroma, and health benefits. To make the long story short, this assumption is generally true, but only if the tea is stored properly.

Sometimes puer is made with the focus on quality and not the taste. For instance, a tea manufacturer may wish to create an unblended, spring-harvest, buds-only cake of gongting shu puer. Sounds amazing, right? Not necessarily. If consumed within a year or two after production, this tea may not have some of the taste, aroma, and brewability qualities that a tea connoisseur might expect to observe. However, let it age properly for a few years, and you are very likely to get a cake of excellent-tasting puer that can be brewed up to ten times.

Conversely, the very same tea manufacturer may decide to create a blended, half leaves and half buds, moderately rough-looking cake of shupu (shu puer). Some people might say that the manufacturer is trying to save money. Others would complement his desire to make tea that tastes reasonably well the year it is pressed. Who is in the right here is a rhetorical question, so I’m going to leave it unanswered.

Some personal thoughts

Let’s not forget that tea is made for drinking, not for storage or aging. I like to think about it this way: would I buy a car that I need to work on at home for a while before I can drive it safely and comfortably? Probably not, unless it’s a bargain or something. The same rationale applies to tea. Why buy tea that I don’t like the moment I am sampling it at the shop or market? I just buy the tea that I like and feel happy that it has an insanely long shelf life.

While it is certainly true that properly aged puer tea is likely to reveal some hidden properties, it is important to remember that a great deal of the tea-aging paradigm is the result of the puer investment bubble that captivated China about a decade ago. That bubble burst in 2007, leaving scores of thousands of Yunnan farmers and tea brokers poor, but its ripple effects in form of multiple myths and legends regarding scientifically confirmed and imaginary properties of puer are still affecting the way people think about this tea in the whole world.

In fact, tea aficionados like myself are partly responsible for perpetuation of such myths. Whenever I go to a shop that sells puer tea, I often ask about the age of cakes that take my fancy. I know that it’s silly, but I simply can’t help it. It’s a great conversation starter, especially when dealing with people who speak a dialect of Chinese that I’m not familiar with. I’m fully aware that by asking this question, I reveal the level at which my choices can be manipulated. Fortunately, I’ve been exposed to tea culture long enough to rely on my palate, and not eyes or ears.

Understanding tea

Tea is the world’s most popular beverage. It is grown in forty countries, so the differences in classification and terminology can sometimes get confusing. Daoli only sources Chinese teas. So, for purpose of authenticity, Daoli collection reflects the current understanding of tea in mainland China.

Green tea

What is tea?

People often assume that different plants are used to produce green, black, wulong, and other kinds of tea. Actually, all teas come from the same evergreen tropical plant of the Camellia family. What determines the shape and flavor of tea is the way in which it is processed. Contrastingly, various herbal and fruit infusions (rose hip, mint, chamomile, lemon, etc) do not contain any tea leaves and therefore have nothing to do with tea in its original sense.

The tea

The word “tea” comes from Chinese language. China is famous for its numerous dialects that vary greatly in pronunciation but share the same writing system. In Cantonese and Mandarin, the word is pronounced as cha (soft /ʧ/), whereas in Taiwan and China’s southern regions, it was pronounced as tê (harder /t/). The ancient and original way of saying tea was 梌 (tú) or 茶 (tú), and, while it evolved to cha in some regions, it changed its form but kept its original pronunciation in others. This is why the word “tea” in most modern languages tends to either sound like cha, caj or tea, tee.

About the tea plant

Tea plant thrives in warm and humid climate, growing best in light, mildly acidic, and dry soil. Although it can grow at any altitude from 0 to over 2000 meters above sea level, it benefits greatly from growing on mountain slopes where the water always moves downward, washing the plant roots rather than drowning them. Tea propagates naturally by shedding seeds on the ground. Modern farming, however, often involves transplanting and grafting techniques in order to speed up the process. Commonly, tea plants are trimmed on regular basis and kept in form of bushes, which makes tea much easier to harvest. If left untended, however, the tea plant can reach up to 15 meters in height.

The harvest

Four to five years must pass before the plant can be harvested for leaves and buds. In some regions, tea buds can be harvested every seven days, while in others it only happens several times a year. Traditionally, tea was always picked by hand, because that is the only way to ensure the leaves’ integrity. Some countries tried to implement machine harvesting of tea. This made the life of farmers easier, but had negative impact on the quality of tea, causing decline in production. In China tea harvesting is still predominantly done by hands. Skilled tea-pickers can collect around thirty kilograms of tea per day, which can later be converted into about eight kilograms of dry tea at the processing factories.

Making tea

Tea processing simply means turning fresh tea leaves and buds into the final dry product ready for storage, transportation, and consumption. Tea processing  can be as sophisticated as wine making. The factors that determine the look and taste of tea include place of origin, time of harvesting, drying methods, degree of oxidation and fermentation. As a result, you get white, green, black, yellow, wulong, aged, flavored teas, and so on. There are forty tea-growing countries and each one of them has its own traditions, which is why today there are roughly 1,500 different kinds of tea that all come from the plants of the Camellia family.

Types of tea processing

Wilting is the first processing step for many kinds of tea. Freshly picked leaves and buds are left either in shade or direct sunlight. About one fourth of the leaves’ weight is lost during this stage. At that time, tea also begins to undergo slow oxidation.

Disruption. At this stage the leaves are slightly bruised and turned over and over again. As a result, tea leaves release enzymes that accelerate the process of oxidation. Essential oils freed by this process also have an impact on the final taste and aroma of the tea.

Oxidation. When exposed to air for a few hours, tea begins to acquire its characteristic dark-red and brown colors. This happens because the polyphenol oxidase enzyme starts to convert catechins (colorless polyphenols in tea leaves) into thearubigin and theaflavin, both of which are powerful antioxidants.

Fermentation. Constant mixing and rehashing of tea leaves releases even more juices from the leaves, which become fertile ground for the numerous microorganisms (fermenting cultures). It is the activity of these little fellas that, for instance, gives pu’er tea its characteristic smell and flavor.

Fixation. Once the oxidation reaches the desired level, it is stopped or “fixed” by heating tea leaves. Traditionally it is done in a wok.

Shaping. Leaves are shaped into different forms by hand or with the help of special machines. While shaped, tea releases some of its essential oils that make a great contribution to flavor. In order to preserve all that goodness, it is important to minimize the leaves’ exposure to air. That is why, tea often comes in shape of cakes, nuggets, gunpowder pellets, etc.

Drying. Tea is dried in an oven or a wok. Once tea is dried properly, it is ready for storage and packaging.

Aging is a process of keeping tea in open air and exposing it to fermenting microflora. The process can last from six months to several years. Aging is common for pu’er teas. It is believed that the longer the tea is allowed to mature, the healthier and more savory it becomes.

Flavoring and blending. For a very long time, the access to fresh tea in the west was quite limited. As a result, the flavor of the tea had to be enhanced by adding flavorings or mixing higher and lower quality teas together. Neither blended nor flavored teas are popular in China.

Some popular teas

Green teas are produced from unoxidized non-wilted leaves and buds. Green teas can also be “disrupted”. In order to “trap” the resulting cellular juices, individual leaves are often rolled into “gunpowder” pellets. The tea treated in this fashion comes closest to the texture and flavor of fresh tea leaves. Therefore, it is better to drink green tea soon after it was made while its flavor and antioxidant content are still high. Most of the green tea is produced in China.

Wulong (Oolong) is made of wilted semi-oxidized tips. With wulong, oxidation process is stopped shortly before the tea begins to turn brown. Great skill is required to get the timing just right and harness the tea’s potential. Wulong is typically shaped into small spiral rolls. Depending on how long and in what way wulong is treated, it may acquire hints of honey, milk, and other flavors. Wulong tea is a subset of a broad variety of teas referred to  as “blue-green” in China.

Black teas are made from wilted and disrupted fully oxidized buds and leaves. Black tea can come in various shapes. If made and stored properly, black tea can retain its fragrance for many years. In China, black tea is actually called “red”. That is because for Chinese people the point of reference is the color of the infusion and not the color of the leaves. Legend has it that it was “invented” by tea masters and merchants who were looking for a way to extend the shelf life of tea. At the beginning, black tea was considered inferior to green, but now it is the most popular kind of tea in the world.

Aged or Pu’er teas are fermented for an extended period of time with addition of fermenting cultures. Pu’er tea is often shaped into cakes and bricks.  Its loose form is also popular. The aging process allows the tea to change its flavor, often making it more mellow and fragrant. In China, aged pu’er is often referred to as “black tea”.

Flavoured teas are made from black, green, and wulong teas that are enhanced with blossoms, fruits, spices, and artificial flavorings.


This post was written by Miha and translated into English by Roman. Original version in Slovenian is also available (Predalčkanje čajev). For more posts on tea please visit daoli.eu.