Drinking pu-erh is to imbibe its history, to literally taste where it’s been. Pu-erhs are aged and fermented teas from a variety of tea trees native to China’s southwestern Yunnan province.
In contrast to all other tea types, this type of tea is truly fermented rather than oxidized, broken down by slow microbial activity as the tea ages.
Our selection of pu-erhs include both loose leaf and pressed cake form. They represent minimally aged green sheng pu-erhs to shou pu-erhs that received accelerated fermentation. Each pu-erh’s character is a result of not only provenance and crafting, but also how long and in what manner it was aged.
There are two types of pu-erh: raw and cooked. This is known as “sheng” and “shou” in Chinese. Each has its own method of production, though they both begin their lives in the same way.
Picked leaves are first processed as a green tea: plucked, roasted, and left to dry in the sun. This nascent state is known as “mao cha”. Sheng leaves are then left alone to age, while the leaves of shou pu-erhs are gathered into large piles, where they sit for several months. Heat generated in the piles accelerates fermentation. Both types may be kept loose or pressed into cakes, bricks, or other shapes.
As “living” teas, storage environment impacts flavor and rate of aging. We are a proponent of dry aging pu-erhs to ensure complexity and sweetness.
The nature of pu-erh teas and the fermentation they undergo lend an inevitable earthiness of aroma. Still, while a quality, well-aged pu-erh will smell of earth, it should not taste of soil.
A pu’erh’s quality hinges on the quality of the base tea, its age and how and where it has been stored.
At Red Blossom Tea Company we know the age of our pu-erhs and the environment in which they are kept (our pu-erhs are stored on shelves, off the floor and away from walls). Pu-erh teas stored in this manner should be quite sweet and smooth. The older the tea, the smoother and sweeter, and stored in a very dry environment, should also retain a bit of complexity. There should be a decent “hui gan” to the tea.
An Introduction Organic Emperor Pu-erh, ca. 2008
Our Favorite Grand Shou Pu-erh, ca. 1997
Our Organic Emperor is remarkably delicious, it's younger age showing through only in a slight astringency. We think it's the perfect tea to get to know pu-erhs with. But to get a sense for what our pu-erhs are about, we suggest our Grand Shou.