Posted in Kafevend Blog
Before we begin to consider
Pu-erh tea, a certain discrepancy in colour needs to be sorted out.
Nowadays we're used to thinking about tea in terms of white, black,
green and yellow, but what we in the west think of as black tea is
known as red tea in China and what they refer to as black tea is
vintage or aged tea. Pu-erh is the most well known of these. The tea
merchants of old discovered that the leaves of the Pu-erh trees had
the pleasing property of improving over the long time it took to
traverse trade routes and so eventually the tea was aged by design.
Although aged tea is grown
elsewhere in China, only that grown in the province of Yunnan can be
labelled Pu-erh. Its production is tightly regulated to ensure
consistently high quality. To add to the colour confusion there are
two varieties of Pu-erh tea- green which has been made for hundreds
of years and black which was developed as recently as the 1950s. Both
types undergo a variety of production stages before being stored and
allowed to mature, fermentation being key to the developing flavour.
However, the black variety is subject to an additional process which
involves “cooking” or piling the leaves. The ensuing breakdown of
enzymes produces heat, rather like in a compost heap and this is what
adds depth to the flavour.
Although this type of tea
can be drunk after three months, leaving it for the long haul is
recommended in order to develop its taste fully. Five years is common
practice, but much money is exchanged for rare teas which have been
ageing, like a fine wine, for fifty years or more.