Puer Tea – Origins, History and Characteristics
Puer Tea is he oldest known traded form of tea, today counting among the truly ‘Great Teas of China’. It’s got its name from the eponymous city and prefecture ‘Puer’, located in the Chinese province of Yunnan, the cradle of tea, where it evidently has been produced and traded since about the 4th century AD. Tea produced according to the same method outside of Yunnan, in China is not called Puer tea, but ‘dark tea’ (chin. ‘Hei-Cha‘). Puer tea found its way to other parts of world aready starting from around 1000 AD via the Tea Horse Road, a trail, on which Puer Tea should be transported on mule’s back for the centuries to come and until the the midst 20th century from Yunnan northwards across all of China and until Lhasa in Tibet. There, the tea was traded against horses, which in those days were much sought after in China. Contemporary sources reveal that in those days a return trip from Yunnan to Lhasa on the tea horse road took people a full year and was infamous for putting the traders’/travelers’ endurance to a harsh test. The limited transport capacity of the carrier mules has most probably helped inspiring the tradition of pressing Puer tea into disc or cake form for easier. However, the pressed form also has effects on the ripening process, which in turn can produce refinements in taste.
In principle, Puer tea is distincted in two basic categories, ripe Puer tea (‘shu’ Puer tea) and unripened (‘sheng’) Puer Tea. As opposed to other tea categories (green tea, Oolong tea, black tea, etc.) the processing of Puer tea isn’t about stopping the oxidation process at a certain point and fixate the tea leaves through exposure to high temperatures (roasting or steaming). Instead, the particular character of Puer tea is based on a (post) fermentation process under controled conditions, which until not so long time ago used to take many years. While the initial steps of Puer tea processing (such as the sundrying process) appear to be rather easy when compared to other tea types, the ripening is a highly complex process requiring the continous monitoring and intervention of a competent tea master. The much quicker method of ripening a Puer tea commonly used today has been developed by Chinese tea researchers only during the 1960s. Our Ancient Phoenix Ripe Puer Tea, for example, already goes to the market after only about 5 years. You will find more general information about the history, cutlivation and processing of Puer tea in our dedicated article at Siam Tee Blog:
A range of positive health effects is commonly attributed to Puer tea, among these in particular digestion-enhancement and and other general stomach-friendly effects of the bacteria in Puer tea, a particularly high Vitamin C content (double compared to raw Puer tea) and the reduction of clogging of arteria as a result of too much fat intake.
Our Ancient Phoenix Competition Grade Ripe Puer Tea
Ancient Phoenix Ripe Puer Tea has been awarded the gold medal for the best ripened (‚shu‘) Puer tea on the Yunnan Government Puer Tea Competition in 2011. Not only does it taste-wise belong to the best that we have been allowed trying so far (see also our First Grade Reifer Lincang Puer Tea, but also sticks out through the environment-friendly character of its biodiverse cultivation, as well as through its individual background. Grandma Yang of Yunnan’s Yi tribe picks the tea leaves for Ancient Phoenix Ripe Puer Tea from ancient, organic-certified tea trees on Wuliang Mountain, where these are thriving in a widely untouched, biodiverse environment and are cultivated without the use of any pesticide. After the initial processing, the tea is pressed into its final round disc shape for further ripening by means of wooden moulds. This wood has some very special fragrance properties that contribute to the unique aromatic and flavor profile of Ancient Phoenix Competition Grade Ripe Puer Tea. Everything about this tea is manual work, from the picking and processing to the packaging for retail.
Despite of the shared basic character with other ripe Puer teas, Ancient Phoenix Competition Grade Ripe Puer Tea is individually distincted by a full-bodied and soft velvety taste, dominated by coffee bean, chocolate and licorice. The infusion is deep dark to black and of thick, oily texture. The unfolding leaves are short, slightly curled and show an undefined stripes pattern of brown and black shades.
Tea master Grandma Yang Xue Fang comes from a family of artisan tea makers, in which tending the plantation of ancient, organically cultivated tea trees on Wuliang mountain has been a family tradition for more than 200 years already. Grandma Yang herself is more than 70 years old now, with most of her years having been spent on the picking and processing of tea. Everything is about the right timing of pickings and the right choice of leaves to pick for optimal flavor, energetic and aesthetical properties of the resulting tea. She has by now passed down her ancestors` knowledge and her own accumulated experience to her six children, so that the family today shares in the works and duties around the picking and processing of the tea leaves.
We bring you this tea in pressed discs of ca. 11g each, so that the 9 discs contained in a package will roughly add up to 100 grams. The dics offer the benefit of easy transportation, making it convenient for you to carry this tea with you to whereever you go, and at the same time facilitate its dosaging: the disc can easily be split in 2 halves at the provided groove, whereas one half in China is considered as an appropriate dosage for a Chinese standard size teapot (200 – 350ml). The packaging of our Ancient Phoenix Competition Grade Ripe Puer Tea is 100% recycleable and therefor partcularly environment-friendly.
Infuse one half of a disc (ca. 4.5g) Ancient Phoenix Competition Grade Ripe Puer Tea with 250-350 ml water of a temperature of 90° – 100°C (best in a clay teapot!) and leave for 1-2 minutes for a first infusion. Infusion period second and third infusion slightly reduced (45 seconds and 1 minute). With a gradual increase of the steeping period by ca. ½ minute each for following infusions, this Puer Tea will produce a long range of delicious infusions.