Pu Erh

Pu’er or pu-erh (Chinese: 普洱; pinyin: pǔ’ěr; Wade–Giles: p’u3-êrh3) is a variety of fermented tea produced in Yunnan province, China. The town of Pu’er is named after the tea that is produced close by. Fermentation in the context of tea production involves microbial fermentation and oxidation of the tea leaves, after they have been dried and rolled.[3] This process is a Chinese specialty and produces tea known as 黑茶 hēichá (literally, “black tea”) commonly translated as dark tea. This type of tea is different from what known as black tea in English, which in Chinese is called 红茶 hóngchá (literally, “red tea”). The best known variety of this category of tea is pu’er from Yunnan Province, named after the trading post for dark tea during imperial China.
Pu’er traditionally begins as a raw product known as “rough” máochá (毛茶) and can be sold in this form or pressed into a number of shapes and sold as “raw” shēngchá (生茶). Both of these forms then undergo the complex process of gradual fermentation and maturation with time. The wòduī (渥堆) fermentation process developed in 1973 by the Kunming Tea Factory [4][5] created a new type of pu’er tea. This process involves an accelerated fermentation into “ripe” shúchá (熟茶) which is then stored loose or pressed into various shapes.

The fermentation process was adopted at the Menghai Tea Factory shortly after and technically developed there. The legitimacy of shúchá is disputed by some traditionalists in contrast to aged teas. All types of pu’er can be stored to mature before consumption, which is why it is commonly labeled with the year and region of production.

Darkening tea leaves to trade with ethnic groups at the borders has a long history in China. These crude teas were of various origins and were meant to be low cost. Darkened tea, or hēichá, is still the major beverage for the ethnic groups in the southwestern borders and, until the early 1990s, was the third major tea category produced by China mainly for this market segment.

There had been no standardized processing for the darkening of hēichá until the postwar years in the 1950s where there was a sudden surge in demand in Hong Kong, perhaps because of the concentration of refugees from the mainland. In the 1970s the improved process was taken back to Yunnan for further development, which has resulted in the various production styles variously referred to as wòduī today.This new process produced a finished product in a matter of months that many thought tasted similar to teas aged naturally for 10–15 years and so this period saw a demand-driven boom in the production of hēichá by the artificial ripening method.
In recent decades, demand has come full circle and it has become more common again for hēichá, including pu’er, to be sold as the raw product without the artificial accelerated fermentation process.

 

Source: https://www.cshoppers.com/blog/puer-is-a-variety-of-fermented-tea_b0046.html

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