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.

by Kafevend

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