The awkward stage of Pu-erh
llouie
I recently read an article in the Art of Tea magazine, in which the writer wrote that he likes either the very young raw Pu-erh or the very old Pu-erh. He finds the ones in between "awkward." I find this a very interesting point and I happen to agree with his assessment. I am partial to raw Pu-erh, particularly the newly made ones from the old arbor trees. I love the fragrance, the freshness, the sweetness (hui tien) and the feeling of being in the tea forest. I also enjoy the very old Pu-erh. The Pu-erh that is in between can best be described as "awkward," like an adolescent who is still trying to find his or her own identity. It loses its initial fragrance, and yet has not "matured" to develop the complex flavor and aftertaste as the aged Pu-erh. No wonder people say Pu-erh is a living tea.

Pu-erh Tea Processing Video
llouie
During our recent trip to Jingmai Yunnan, we were invited into a small family-owned tea factory and able to take videos of the preliminary processing of Pu-erh tea and the making of Pu-erh tea cakes. This is the first of the two videos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3RyaLTg1mg

Linda Louie

Young Raw (Green) Pu-erh Deserves More Recognition
llouie
Most attention about Pu-erh tea has been paid to the aged Pu-erh.  There is a consensus in the Pu-erh community that Pu-erh tea is "the older it gets, the better it is." Don't get me wrong. I love aged Pu-erh because it possess qualities that no other teas can match. However, young raw Pu-erh should not be devalued either.

Unlike the old days, many young raw Pu-erhs manufactured today are made of premium leaves and from a single mountain. When brewed with lower temperature water and short brewing time, they are light, brisk, fresh and have very comfortable "Qi." Although young Pu-erh generally has more caffaine as compared to aged Pu-erh, it gives a good "pick-me-up" during the day. Young raw Pu-erh has features similar to green tea, except it is more flavorful, can last multiple brewing and richer in nutrients as they are made with the broad leave species. The old belief that "newly made raw Pu-erh tea is undrinkable" is only a fallacy.

Young Raw (green) Pu-erh deserves more recognition
llouie
Most attention about Pu-erh tea has been paid to the aged Pu-erh.  There is a consensus in the Pu-erh community that Pu-erh tea is "the older it gets, the better it is." Don't get me wrong. I love aged Pu-erh because it possess qualities that no other teas can match. However, young raw Pu-erh should not be devalued either.

Unlike the old days, many young raw Pu-erhs manufactured today are made of premium leaves and from a single mountain. When brewed with lower temperature water and short brewing time, they are light, brisk, fresh and have very comfortable "Qi." Although young Pu-erh generally has more caffaine as compared to aged Pu-erh, it gives a good "pick-me-up" during the day. Young raw Pu-erh has features similar to green tea, except it is more flavorful, can last multiple brewing and richer in nutrients as they are made with the broad leave species. The old belief that "newly made raw Pu-erh tea is undrinkable" is only a fallacy.

Characteristics you should look for in good Pu'erh teas
llouie

One of the reasons so many tea connoisseurs are so fanatical and will pay astronomical prices for vintage Pu’erh tea is because high quality Pu’erh not only offers distinctive flavors that are dissimilar to those of other teas, it offers an experience of the whole body and gives you an overall sense of well-being. Many avid Pu’erh drinkers call this “Qi” which literally means “the flow of energy.”

 

The difference between good quality and poor quality Pu’erh, among other things, is the mouth feel – the sensation left by the tea in the mouth and throat. The flavor of poor quality Pu’erh stops at the front of middle your tongue and does not do anything else. Good quality Pu’erh’s flavor, on the other hand, reaches the back of your mouth, down into the esophagus and stomach. You will feel a sense of warmth in your body. The flavor of a good Pu’erh tea always transforms to a sweet aftertaste, which lingers in your mouth and gives you a pleasant sensation. An avid coffee drinker but loves Pu’erh once said to me, “Pu’erh talks to me.” 


Linda Louie
www.banateacompany.com

How to be a smart Pu'erh purchaser
llouie
Not only are occasional Pu'erh drinkers fooled, professionals can be fooled also. Whether Pu'erh novice or professional, one needs to utilize common sense and trust his or her natural instincts. When it comes to buying Pu'erh, the most important thing is taste it before you buy. Many tea shops offer free tasting and many on-line tea shops offer free samples or samplers for a nominal price. Take advantage of these offers.
Good Pu'erh, new or aged, should give you a comfortable sensation in your mouth and a sense of well-being after consumption. The flavor should be clean and brisk without any odd taste or odor. One of the most unique characteristics of quality Pu'erh is its lingering aftertaste, especially in aged Pu'erh. For newer raw Pu'erh, your may find it a bit bitter or grassy when your tongue first comes in contact with the tea. However, the bitterness should quickly dissipate and transform into a subtle sweetness that coats your mouth. If the bitterness lingers, it is likely that the tea is of lower quality. Low quality Pu'erh is also flat and lacks the body that quality Pu'erh offers. Additionally, the brew from good quality Pu'erh should be clean, bright and translucent, not dull or cloudy. Finally, the more specific information the tea vendor provides, such as a the exact vintage, harvesting season, region where the tea was produced, the higher the likelihood you are buying a good product. Vendors who want to make a quick profit usually do not care about tea and will not invest the time to gather the information for their customers. Pu'erh teas produced after 2006 are required to pass the inspection of the Yunnan Food Administration. A blue "S" logo and a certificate number should be printed on the wrapping which serves as verification that the product has passed the inspection for food safety.  

Submitted by,
Linda Louie
Owner, Bana Tea Company
www.banateacompany.com

My Visit To The Yunnan Ancient Tea Garden
llouie

Yunnan is believed to be the birthplace of tea trees and, according to the Pu’erh Tea College of the Yunnan University of Agriculture, there are still over 60,000 acres of ancient tea gardens in Yunnan with tea trees ranging in age from 100 to 3,000 years old can be found. Yunnan people revere these tea gardens as “tea tree museums” and refer to the tea trees as “living fossils.” The ethnic minorities who tend and harvest these trees call their tea gardens a “living inheritance” from their ancestors.

 

As a tea enthusiast, my being able to visit these centuries-old tea gardens was a real privilege. I was able to witness the environment in which my favorite teas are being grown and observe the life of the people who work to produce these wonderful gifts of nature. The tea gardens are all located in remote mountainous regions and, to arrive there, hours of driving through rugged terrain is required. There are no modern facilities like hotels or restaurants in the area. My companions and I stayed at a tea farmer’s house and enjoyed the simple and rustic aspects of living on a farm, an experience I have rarely had having lived in the city all my life.

 

There are a little over 100 families living in the village where I visited and they all farm tea for a livelihood. The families live a modest and self-sufficient lifestyle, unaffected by the modern world (although cell phones are prevalent). They grow their vegetables and raise their own animals. The furniture in their homes is largely made with bamboo grown in the region. The houses are constructed with wood planks and the actual dwelling units are about ten feet elevated from the ground. The ground level is used to store logs and to keep the animals. All the houses are of the same style, reportedly designed by a general during the Three Kingdoms period (over 2,000 years ago). Speaking of the houses, when I returned to Lao BanZhang this year, I saw a number of new Han-style brick houses under construction. The view of the village was no doubt less homogenous than last year. One tea farmer told me that because the tea from this region is the most sought-after by tea merchants, some tea farmers became rich and built more modern homes. I heard that many other villagers frown on the building of these new homes because of concerns that the village is losing its identity.

 

The tea gardens are about 20-30 minutes walking distance from the village. From afar, these gardens look just like any forest. The tea trees are interspersed among other forest plants in a very natural environment, untouched by modern technology or human intervention. They do not require pruning, fertilizers or pesticides. The trees are planted with plenty of space in between to allow for exposure to maximum sunlight. The tea trees in the garden are various ages, but even the youngest are over 100 years old. The oldest one I saw was 1,200 years old. Looking at these trees, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people and what their lives were like when these trees were first planted so many centuries ago.

 

I visited three famous tea mountains during my trip. Although the tea gardens were relatively the same in appearance, the teas produced in each mountain region are quite distinctive due to the differences in their ecological environment. My favorite was the tea from YiWu because it was so refreshing, sweet and delicate. The famous BanZhang tea is known for its strength and its aging potential. The taste is heavy and musky. On the other hand, tea from Nannuo is smooth and subtle. While there may be some initial bitterness, it quickly disappears and turns sweet.

 

Residents of the tea mountains are members of various ethnic minority groups, among them Hani, Aini, Bulang, Dai, Lahu, and Yi. These groups have their own dialects but no written language. I had the privilege of speaking to a young man at length about their traditions. His name is GeErh. He said everyone in his village has three names;  one used for school, a pet name used at home and a name given at birth. However, only the parents know the child’s birth name and that name is only used to “catch the child’s spirit” when the child is sick or in danger.

 

Life is centered around the extended family with the grandparents looking after the young, while the father and mother work in the tea garden. The tea garden owned by GeErh’s family has about 100 acres in size. GeErh said he is very happy with his life and has no desire to live elsewhere.   He said he loves the mild weather and the fresh air in the mountain. As long as he has his tea garden, he does not need to be concerned with unemployment or poverty. He has a young wife and a two-year-old son.

 

I met a number of tea farming families during my trip and I found them to be all very hospitable and generous. While not having much in the way of materials goods themselves, they provide their guests with the best of what they have. For example, I was so touched by our host family for letting us use a blanket that was made last year for the wedding of the family’s older son. It has the red double happiness character beautifully embroidered on the duvet and it was almost brand new. They let us sleep in their bedroom while they all slept on the bare wooden floor. One thing worth noting is that my companions and I enjoyed the chicken we ate on the tea garden. As we raved about how lean and delicious their “free range” chicken was, the host and his family became puzzled by the concept of “free range” chicken. In the village, animals are always free to roam.

 
Linda Louie
www.banateacompany.com

 

 


?

Log in