How to Classify Pu-erh Teas (Part Two)
In Part One of this blog series, we discussed two methods for classifying Pu-erh tea. Join us now as we continue to discuss the various methods of Pu-erh tea classification.
Third Method: Classifying Pu-erh teas according to the shape of the tea
Loose Tea: While Pu-erh tea is often pressed into a specific shape, loose tea retains the original shape of its leaves. This allows one to observe the original shape, color, and texture of the tea leaves. Generally speaking, loose tea is harvested from tea bushes.
Tea Cake: The classic tea cake is round and flat, not unlike the shape of pizza. Since it is easily stacked, and in Chinese culture circles are associated with perfection, this is most common shape of Pu-erh tea.
Tuocha: The shape of tuocha are similar to that of a bowl, with a diameter of about 10 centimeters. Tuocha are generally formed by the tender leaves and sprouts of Puerh. Because of this, the resulting mouthfeel is very fresh and vibrant, and tuocha has lots of active constituents.
Tea Brick: The rectangular tea bricks are generally about half the size of a clay brick. Historically, tea bricks were made in Yunnan Province and transported to Tibet and Mongolia, using this particular shape for its ease of transportation. Tea bricks are made from full-grown tea leaves, and bring forth a flavor that’s complex even after being brewed many times.
Fourth Method: Classifying Pu-erh teas according to methods of manufacture
After the same initial steps of harvesting preparing the tea leaves, different production techniques help the Pu-erh tea to be considered either Raw or Ripe.
Raw Pu-erh: Raw Puerh is naturally stored without going through a process of pilling, or fermentation. The result is a tea whose taste is wilder than ripe Pu-erh, with bright yellow and clear tea water. The aroma is fresh and pure, with a strong hui gan (returning sweetness). After several years’ storage, the wildness gets transformed, becoming more soothing, with an increasingly elegant fragrance. High quality Raw Pu-erh is like a fine wine; the longer it’s stored, the stronger the aroma and vitality of the tea, and the value increases over the years. Premium Raw Pu-erh tea is also incredibly high in phenolic content, and contains three times more polyphenols than regular green teas.
Ripe Pu-erh: After piling and fermentation, the harvested and processed tea has become Ripe Pu-erh. The artificial fermentation process was invented in 1973 and put into production in 1976 to meet a growing demand for Pu-erh tea. Ripe Pu-erh’s temper is mild and smooth, with a pure and dark brown tea water. Its aroma is mellow, yet still boasts a returning sweetness. After a long storage period, the flavor of Ripe Puerh grows ever more complex. Because of the pilling process, the ripe Pu-erh has lots of probiotics which play a crucial role in the maintaining of a healthy digestive system. Ripe Pu-erh can also protect the stomach and warm the body in cold weather. Additionally, Ripe Pu-erh has very low caffeine content, and will not affect the sleeping patterns of its drinkers.
Stay tuned for Part Three in our continuing series on classifying Pu-erh teas.
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