Puerh tea is a tea type itself. It does not belong to the green, yellow, white, red, black or oolong tea family. However, the Chinese people perceive puerh tea as black tea because the color of the tea liquor is brownish black. Thus, calling it black tea is not completely ludicrous or baseless.
Although puerh tea is solely grown and processed in the Yunnan Province of China, the consumption population is not limited to the people living within this region. Puerh is a common tea drank by domestic and overseas Chinese, as well by the people in adjacent countries bordering China. Puerh tea is compressed into shapes such as round cake, brick and mushroom (tuocha) for economical purposes and sensible reasons. The shape allows the tea traders to stack greater quantities of puerh tea during shipment and keep track of the load in transportation. Secondly, the compressed shape preserves the quality of the tea itself. Mold and dirt can be easily scraped off the surface if the traders encounter occasional drizzle or if the loads tumble.
The unique processing of puerh tea allows the tea itself to endure treacherous road and sea conditions during long trips. This tea is neither delicate nor susceptible to oxidization like the green tea. In fact, oxidization is crucial during the aging process and contributes to a good-taste puerh. Carefully stored aged puerh have a smoother, richer and sweeter undertone than the newly made puerh tea. The bitter and astringent qualities of new puerh tea will mellow and dwindle through oxidization and proper storage.
Currently there are two types of puerh tea processing resulting in two types of puerh products:
- Green or Sheng («C»æ¡B¥Í»æ)
- Cooked or Shou (¼ô»æ)
Green puerh is not green tea. Green puerh is still considered to be puerh tea but the tea is to be age or has been aged naturally.
Cooked puerh is puerh tea that has been subjected to accelerated aging process based on the compost theory(¨U°ï).
Which one is better?
Some say that green puerh is more valuable and tastier because aging is attained naturally, whereas in cooked puerh, the aging is assisted and attainable within a few months from its initial leaf picking. Others vouch for cooked puerh because aged green puerh does not guarantee flavorful or pleasant taste and puerh lovers would have to wait for a very long time (at least ten years) for the tea to age naturally. Besides, the taste of cooked puerh is smoother than the newly made green puerh, where its pungent qualities still exist and would require careful storage and space.
We do not favor one type of puerh over another. To say that green puerh is always better than cooked puerh is unwarranted. After all, quality and proper storage play a critical role in the outcome of the tea's taste. We think both green and cooked puerh are equally enjoyable and should be judged individually based on its taste.