Pu-erh is a post-fermented tea made from a large leaf
varietal grown in Yunnan Province. This tea is often aged, which mellows and
refines its flavor and character. It is made either as loose leaf or pressed
into a myriad of shapes; round cakes (bingcha), rectangular bricks and a
birds' nest shape (tuocha) are the most common. Pu-erh can also be
pressed into short lengths of bamboo, then dried and stored- a specialty of the
Dai people in Xishuangbanna.
Pu-erh has traditionally been savored in Hong Kong, Guangdong
Province and Taiwan; other post-fermented teas are also made elsewhere in
China as well as in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Japan.
There are two main steps in production: The first is making a
base tea (mao cha), and the second is post-fermenting and often
compressing it. Pu-erh produced before the 1970s was made from sun-dried green
tea and naturally aged, a process that is now known as sheng, green
or raw. In 1973, a technique for accelerating the process of aging and changing
the character of the tea was developed by the Kunming Factory. This process is
called wo dui and involves increasing the moisture level as
well as the temperature of the tea to speed up the fermentation. These pu-erhs
are referred to as shu, brown or cooked pu-erh. more..
Pu-erh [POO-urr] tea comes from the Yunnan Province in southern China. It is fermented after processing and then aged. This is the only tea which is intentionally aged - the others are always better fresh. The aged tea, often formed into bricks or cakes of different shapes and sizes, tends to get smoother and richer with age. Rare pu-erhs can be 30 years old. Chinese and French studies have documented many health benefits associated with this tea.