Process – Puer is the most prevalent style of tea in a family of Chinese teas called Hei Cha, or Dark tea. Fermentation is the major defining feature of this tea. There are two ways of producing Puer tea, Sheng (Raw) or Shou (Cooked). The initial process phases for both types start the same way. The tea leaves are picked and left to wither either outdoors or indoors. They are then pan fired for several minutes to halt oxidation. The tea is rolled, dried in the sun and then sorted. This finished loose tea is called Maocha, or “rough/raw tea”, and is very similar to green tea. After this point, there is a variation in the processing between the two types of Puer.
Sheng (Raw) style Puer - This is either stored and consumed as Maocha, or it is pressed into a shape, usually in the form of a cake or brick. For pressing the tea, the leaves need to be made more malleable. First they are weighed out into a form and then steamed. After an initial steam, they are put into a cloth, placed back in to the form and then re-steamed. The tea is then pressed either under large stone forms or by hydraulic press. The pressed tea is then set out to dry. Once the desired moisture level is reached, the Puer is ready to drink or be aged.
Shou (Cooked) style Puer - Developed in the 1970’s, the goal was to accelerate the fermentation process that would take 10 – 15 years through natural aging to meet the demands of the domestic and Hong Kong market. After withering, heating, rolling, and sorting the Maocha is formed into large piles, water is added and then covered. The tea is then left to ferment over the course of a few months. The piles are turned throughout to maintain consistency in the fermentation. A secondary fermentation process is implemented by uncovering the piles and spreading the leaf out, which also begins the drying process. Once the tea has finished drying, it is sorted. Some tea will be designated for being sold loose and others will be pressed (most often pressed by a hydraulic press).
Aging Puer tea- The process in which a Puer tea is stored can greatly affect the development of its flavor. Puer cakes should be stored between 68-86 Degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity between 60-70 percent. The tea should not be stored in direct light, and kept from anything that would give off a strong scent (spices, coffee, etc.). See more on our temperature controlled Puer room here.
Common Flavor Profile – Young Sheng Puer has some White and Green tea flavor elements, but with greater body and complexity in the finish and aftertaste. Both Young and Aged Sheng Puer teas are rich, deep and complex. Aged Sheng often show earthy woodland flavors such as wet fallen leaves and damp moss, with notes of tobacco, fruit, honey and hints of floral. ShouPuer is more of an approximation of aged Sheng, with earthy, sweet flavors with notes of spice.
Popular Regions & Teas – Puer tea is only supposed to come from the Yunnan Province in China, however there are some decent growing regions in Laos and Myanmar. Other provinces do produce Dark tea however such as Hunan or Guangxi.