This type of post-fermented tea originates from Yunnan, a Chinese province. It is preserved in its special form of cakes or bricks, and improves over time. The making of Pu erh is also unique. It can last several years. Depending on the process used, we obtain raw or cooked Pu Erh teas. They vary in taste and appearance.
The steps of the Pu Erh tea elaboration
Before being tasted, Pu Erh tea undergoes a long transformation. It starts with the plucking of the leaves of wild tea plants. After harvesting, they are spread out for a few hours in the sun or in a dry place.
Then the tea is quickly heated to a high temperature. This process, similar to coffee roasting, aims to reduce the humidity and stop any oxidation. Once cooled, the leaves are rolled and kneaded. This step of the Pu Erh manufacturing process allows to release the aromas. After a new drying, the leaves are completely dehydrated.
At this point, the product obtained, Mao Cha, is consumable. However, additional treatments are necessary to have a raw or cooked Pu Erh.
The ancestral way to obtain a raw tea
Traditionally, Mao Cha is compressed in different forms. The most common are the patty and the brick. This is achieved by steaming the tea leaves and then pressing them into a mold.
The origin of this method comes from the time when Pu Erh was exported from China by road. This facilitated storage and transportation, unlike bulk. At that time, the tea was exposed to the weather during the journey and fermented. Today, this aging process is replicated by placing the product in a wet cellar for several years and then in a dry cellar.
The modern process to create a cooked tea
For the production of cooked Pu Erh, fermentation takes place before the molding process. It is accelerated by the producers. They lay the tea on the ground, sprinkle it with water, then cover it with a tarp for at least 45 days. The micro-organisms transform the Pu Erh and we obtain the post-fermented tea.
It can be sold in bulk or molded. It can be consumed immediately or stored for a few years to mature.
The differences between raw and cooked Pu Erh
Depending on the manufacturing techniques of Pu Erh, we obtain a tea called raw(Sheng Cha) or cooked(Shu Cha). But beyond this aspect, we can distinguish them by their color and taste.
The particularities of Sheng Sha
Raw Pu Erh is composed of leaves similar in color to green tea. They can turn brown if the tea is kept for a long time. It offers an infusion ranging from pale yellow to orange, depending on the maturation and oxidation. If drunk young, this tea is light, fresh and spicy. If aged, the notes are more fruity, with a touch of sweetness.
Characteristics of Shu Cha
Cooked Pu Erh belongs to the dark tea family. Its color can range from black to brown, with a red glow. The strong fermentation of this drink gives it a singular taste. The thick liquid offers aromas reminiscent of undergrowth. In the mouth, it is round and without bitterness.
Some of these teas, matured for a long time, are of high quality. They can be sold at a high price, just like an excellent bottle of wine.
Depending on the conditions under which the Pu Erh is made, there are two very different teas. In addition to its original character, this Chinese tea has medicinal virtues. It helps, among other things, to lose weight and to control cholesterol.