Jul 242012
 

To correctly determine Pu-erh tea’s quality,  one must be knowledgeable  and experienced.  The tea’s quality is impacted by several considerations such as  the origin of  production,  the leaves’ source,  the leaves’ quality ,  the method of farming, the period of harvest and storage conditions.

  A. Area of production:Choosing Pu-Erh Tea

    • There are four main regions producing high quality Pu-erh tea in Yunnan –  Simao, Xishuangbanna, Boshan, and Lincang.
    • These regions are located in the southwest part of China,  near  the borders of Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. 

 B. Leaf source:

    • Pu-erh teas are obtained from harvested leaves of  arbor tea trees or qiao mu ,  bushes of tea or  guan mu  and  wild  trees.
    • Similar to ordinary trees, an arbor tea tree has a primary trunk whose branches  sprout  from its main stem. Arbor tea trees are usually planted with seeds, permitted to grow the natural way  with no pruning,  and to develop strong roots. Many tea connoisseurs prefer  Pu-erh tea derived from arbor trees as it is believed that infusion  from leaves of  these arbor  trees are richer in flavour and  has  stronger energy or qi.
    • Propagation of  tea bushes is done from cuttings. They don’t possess a primary trunk and the branches fan out fountain-style. They are generally found in  plantations and  maintained as small-sized to allow easy picking.  On the other hand, wild tea trees are usually found in dense forests near bordering regions.   It is , however, difficult to determine if  wild tea trees grew naturally without having been planted by people or if they were actually cultivated and then abandoned.  Some believe  that Pu-erh tea obtained from wild tea trees possess unique taste.

 C. Farming methods:

1) Plantation style (taidi cha):

Tea plantations consist of  bushes of tea that are planted neatly but densely in plains  or hillside terraces. The bushes are  maintained  small-sized  and  need   fertilizers and pesticides to keep them healthy.   The yield of these plantations of tea bushes is large and can meet  the  demands for mass production. It is the most common type of Pu-erh tea found in the market  today.

Plantation style2.) Ancient tea gardens  (gushu cha):

Ancient tea gardens consist  of arbor trees that are planted from seeds carefully chosen  and cultivated in high altitudes together with other flora.  Using ancient methods, these are planted  and  grown organically,  making use  of resources from nature  with the objective of preserving the  ecological order.   Most trees found in these ancient tea gardens have been in existence for hundreds  of  years. These  trees produce less per annum  but their yield’s quality is believed to be better compared to tea that is derived from plantation bushes.

Ancient tea gardens

3) Sustainable Agriculture (shengtai cha):

Sustainable agriculture is  simply going back to the use of  time-proven methods of farming using organic practices. Tea trees are cultivated from seeds without  being pruned. They are spaced alternately with fruit-bearing trees to give them various fruit  flavors while at the same time providing them protection. Fertilizers and pesticides are not used. These trees are usually less than a hundred years old.

Sustainable Agriculture

In this video, Linda Louie gives an overview of the prevalent methods of farming used to grow pu-erh tea in Yunnan, China and also discusses new methods in sustainable and organic eco-farming called Shentai Cha Yuan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7EGOtiTze7U

D. Harvest Seasons

      • Harvest of Pu-erh tea leaves is done in spring, summer and fall. New buds start near the end of  March, just before the rainy season starts.
      • This yield is referred to as  “First Spring Tea” and is  actually considered to be the best produce during  the whole year. The leaves are gathered   twice more after that –  before the arrival of the  monsoon season. Leaves that are harvested in the fall season are generally lower  in quality compared  to the spring harvest but  is still better than  the harvest in the summer in terms of quality.

E. Grades:

      • Pu-erh has ten categories
      • The grade is ascertained by the time of harvest, the amount of buds, and the leaves’ freshness .
      • Numbers that are lower represent young leaves that are closer to the bud whereas  the higher  numbers represent the more mature  leaves that are farther in  the branch.   The best combination would be a  bud and two leaves.
      • Several  tea packages feature mixed blends of different grades  to attain a desired flavor.  The blend is generally disclosed to consumers  by the tea’s manufacturer .
      • In some cases  though, some manufacturers may have other reasons for blending several grades of tea together  that are for their own benefit.

Buying pu-erh tea would involve looking for a merchant or supplier  who is reputable, has  established  himself to be knowledgeable in the tea business and trustworthy.  In China, this is a relationship that is cultivated and  developed over time.

I.    What is Pu-erh tea

 II.    Pu-erh’s Origins

III.    Production

 IV.    Types of Pu’erh and Brewing

  V.    Flavours of Pu-Erh Tea

 VI.    Pu-Erh Tea and  Its Many Health Benefits

VII.    Shaping  and Packaging Methods

VIII.   Storing Pu-Erh Tea

 IX.    Criteria For Choosing Pu-Erh Tea

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