Appendix 1: Puer Tea Categories and Production Process

From: Puer Tea

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205 Appendix 1 Puer Tea Categories and Production Process Puer Tea Categories Date of Production Old family commercial brands (Haoji). These are the earliest Puer tea products , produced during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by private family tea companies in what is now Xishuangbanna (including the Six Great Tea Mountains and Menghai) and Simao. Those originating in the Six Great Tea Mountains are regarded as the earliest. Most of this tea is now kept in museums or held by connoisseurs, mostly in rounded cake form. Famous brands include Tongqing Hao, Songpin Hao, Tongxing Hao, and Tongchang Hao, all of which were old family commercial brands in the Six Great Tea Mountains (figs. 1.1 and 1.2). Puer tea imprinted with the Zhongcha brand (Yinji). Zhongcha is the brand name of the Chinese Tea Company, and for Puer tea it refers specifically to the Yunnan Provincial Branch. The Zhongcha brand mark is composed of the Chinese character cha (茶) in the center, encircled by eight zhong (中) characters (figs. 1.3 and 4.2). The tea was produced from the late 1930s to the 1980s by the national tea factories of Menghai, Kunming, and Xiaguan. Modern (Xiandai) tea produced since the 1990s, when private tea companies reemerged and the Puer tea industry boomed in Yunnan. Processing Techniques (Especially Fermentation) Raw Tea (sheng cha or sheng pu) Raw Puer tea hasn’t been fermented and is closer to green tea. It can be very astringent when young. Raw Puer tea is available in loose form or made into various compressed shapes. 206  x  Puer Tea Categories and Production Process Artificially Fermented Tea (shu cha or shu pu) The technique of artificial fermentation was formally invented in Kunming in 1973. By subjecting raw tea leaves to a specific temperature and humidity , the fermentation of Puer tea (mainly microbial enzymatic reaction) is completed within two or three months. Artificially fermented Puer tea is also available either compressed or in loose form. Aged Tea (lao cha) This is raw Puer tea that has been “naturally” stored for at least five years, though clear agreement hasn’t yet been reached on how many years’ storage is required. It is believed that “natural” fermentation (mostly oxidation, possibly also with some microbial enzymatic reaction) occurs during longterm storage. The older the tea, the higher its price. But “natural” is a relative concept, because some people also create a humid storage environment to accelerate fermentation, which resembles the technique used to produce artificially fermented Puer tea. Some artificially fermented Puer tea that has been stored for several years is also considered aged tea. Outward Appearance Loose Tea (sancha) Puer tea in loose form (see fig. I.3). Compressed Tea (jin cha) Puer tea in various compressed shapes, including round, brick, mushroom, and bowl-shaped (see fig. I.4). Production Process Rough Processing and Maocha The process of harvesting, sorting, “killing the green” (see below), rolling, and drying. The final product of rough processing is maocha, the dried basic tea leaves in loose form. Harvesting/Picking Harvesting starts in February or March. Tea leaves sprout continuously throughout the spring, summer, and autumn (usually until November), but spring tea is the best. Summer tea is regarded as inferior because the abundance of rainy days could result in a lack of aroma and increased astringency in the flavor of the tea. In China, people usually pick one bud Puer Tea Categories and Production Process   x  207 plus two leaves from each sprout, but for Puer tea they often pick two or three extra leaves. Sorting Sorting involves removing rotten or fragmented tea leaves and separating the leaves into different grades. Fresh tea leaves are sorted soon after picking , and maocha is also sorted for further fine processing. “Killing the Green” (sha qing) / Stir-Roasting (chao cha) “Killing the green” is one way to deactivate oxidation and the action of enzymes and to suppress fermentation in tea leaves. Different methods of killing the green result in different flavors of tea. For example, steaming is popularly used on Japanese green tea, and sun-drying was used before other methods were invented. Puer tea leaves are stir-roasted without oil. Traditionally , fresh tea leaves were placed in a large, dry wok heated by charcoal or wood, and workers used gloved hands or bamboo sticks to turn the tea Table A.1  An overview of Puer tea categories and brew characteristics Categorization Standard Category Color (Brew) Aroma (Brew) Taste (Brew) Date of production Haoji — — — Yinji...