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Puerh Tea from Jade Spring Teas

In terms of terroir, processing, and flavour maturation with age, puerh tea is often compared to fine wine or whiskey. There are two main varieties of puerh - sheng (raw) and shou (baked). Sheng and shou puerh both start as mao cha (rough tea) made of either old growth or plantation tea which has been plucked, wilted, roasted (to 'kill the green'), rolled and dried. This process is done soon after the tea has been picked on the farm before it is sent to the factory for final processing. Once at the factory the mao cha is either steamed, compressed into bings (discs). It is then wrapped for aging if it is sheng (raw) or piled (composted / microbially fermented for 45 to 60 days), dried, steamed and then compressed into bings if it is shou (baked).

Sheng (raw) puerh is slowly (microbially) fermented during the aging process and takes seventy years to reach full maturity. This long maturing processes makes sheng the vastly more valuable of the two puerhs and is the traditional processing method. Due to the demand and price of aged sheng puerh many people drink the tea ‘young’ - some within a year of processing, but it is recommended to wait at least five years.

The processes of artificially fermenting shou (baked) puerh was developed in the late 1960s and was put into commercial production in 1973 in Kumming, Yunnan Province. The aim was to replicate and expedite the smooth taste of fully matured sheng puerh. The end result was not really comparable and instead a new category was invented. Shou puerh will age and continue to ferment over time, although it will not have the same characteristics of an aged sheng. It is recommended to buy puerh which is at least five years old.

Puerh tea is terroir based, broad leafed tea (camellia sinensis assamica) originating in Yunnan, China. Puerh tea was discovered when tea caravans travelled thousands of kilometers along the Tea Horse Road, an ancient 1000-year-old network of paths, which connected the various tea producing regions of Yunnan, one of the first tea producing regions, with Bengal and India via Burma and Tibet. The maocha, which was pressed for convenience of travel, was transformed by rain and sun throughout the long journey into what is now known as puerh.

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