Monday, September 8, 2008


Oolong is a traditional tea somewhere between and in oxidation. It ranges from 10% to 70% oxidation.

In Chinese tea culture, semi-oxidized oolong teas are collectively grouped as ''qīngchá'' . Oolong has a taste more akin to green tea than to black tea: it lacks the rosy, sweet aroma of black tea but it likewise does not have the stridently grassy vegetal notes that typify green tea. It is commonly brewed to be strong, with the bitterness leaving a sweet aftertaste. Several subvarieties of oolong, including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern and in the central mountains of Taiwan, are among the most famous Chinese teas.

Oolong tea leaves are processed in two different ways. Some teas are rolled into long curly leaves, while some are pressed into a ball-like form similar to gunpowder tea.

According to the "tribute tea" theory, oolong tea was a direct descendant of Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake tribute tea. Oolong tea replaced it when loose tea came into fashion. Since it was dark, long and curly, it was called the Black Dragon tea.

According to the "Wuyi" theory, oolong tea first existed in Wuyi Mountain. This is evidenced by Qing dynasty poems such as Wuyi Tea Song and Tea Tale . It was said that oolong tea was named after the part of Wuyi mountain it was originally produced.

According to the "" theory, oolong tea had its origin in the Anxi oolong tea plant. A man named Sulong, Wulong or Wuliang discovered it.

Another tale tells of a man named Wu Liang who discovered oolong tea by accident when he was distracted by a deer after a hard day's tea-picking, and by the time he remembered about the tea it had already started to oxidize.

Processing of Oolong

Oolong tea undergoes a few delicate processes in order to produce the unique aroma and taste. Typical Oolong tea is processed according to the following steps:
#''Wilting'' : Sun dry or air dry to remove moisture partly.
#''Cooling'': Cool off in shaded area.
#''Yaoqing'' : Gently tossing leaves to bruise the edge of leaves to create more contacting surface for oxidation.
#''Cooling and Yaoqing'' are repeated multiple times.
#''Shaqing'' : The procedure is to stop oxidation with high heat. Premium leaves are usually stir fried in a large pan over high heat, large productions are done by machine.
#''Rouqing'' : The tea leaves are rolled into strands or nuggets before dehydration.
#''Roasting'': Roasting with low heat to dehydrate tea leaves, this step can be repeated with temperature variations to produce flavors of choice.

Classification and grade

Tea connoisseurs classify the tea by its aroma , taste and aftertaste . Oolongs comes in either ''roasted'' or ''light'' . While most oolongs can be consumed immediately postproduction, like pu-erh tea, many oolong can benefit from long aging with regular light roasting with a low charcoal fire .

; Pouchong : Also romanized as Baozhong, the lightest and most floral Oolong, with unrolled leaves of a light green to brown color. Originally grown in Fujian it is now widely cultivated and produced in Pinglin Township near Taipei, Taiwan.

Other oolong teas

*'''': Darjeeling tea made according to Chinese methods.
*''Thai Oolong''
*''African Oolong'': made in Malawi and in Kenya


Generally, 2.25 grams of tea per 170 grams of water, or about two teaspoons of oolong tea per cup, should be used. Oolong teas should be prepared with 180°F to 190°F water and steeped 3-4 minutes.

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh, Pu'er tea, Puer tea or Bolay tea is a type of tea made from a "''large leaf''" variety of the tea plant ''Camellia sinensis'' and named after near Simao, Yunnan, China.

''Pu-erh'' tea can be purchased as either ''raw/green'' or ''ripened/cooked'' , depending on processing method or aging. Sheng pu-erh can be roughly classified on the tea oxidation scale as a green tea, and the shou variant as post-fermented tea. The fact that pu-erh fits in more than one tea type poses some problems for classification. For this reason, the "green tea" aspect of ''pu-erh'' is sometimes ignored, and the tea is regarded solely as a post-fermented product. Unlike other teas that should ideally be consumed shortly after production, ''pu-erh'' can be drunk immediately or aged for many years; ''pu-erh'' teas are often now classified by year and region of production much like wine vintages.

While there are many counterfeit ''pu-erhs'' on the market and real aged ''pu-erh'' is difficult to find and identify, it is still possible to find ''pu-erh'' that is 10 to 50 years old, as well as a few from the late Qing dynasty. Indeed, tea connoisseurs and speculators are willing to pay high prices for older ''pu-erh'', upwards of thousands of dollars per cake.

''Pu-erh'' tea is available as ''loose leaf'' or as cakes of ''compacted tea'' .

Introduction and history

''Pu-erh tea'' is traditionally made with leaves from old wild tea trees of a variety known as "broad leaf tea" or ''Camellia sinensis var. assamica'', which is found in southwest China as well as the bordering tropical regions in Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and the very eastern parts of India. The shoots and young leaves from this varietal are often covered with fine hairs, with the pekoe larger than other tea varietals. The leaves are also slightly different in chemical composition, which alter the taste and smell of the brewed tea, as well as its desirability for aging. Due to the scarcity of old wild tea trees, ''pu-erh'' made using such trees blended from different tea mountains of Yunnan are highly valued, while more and more connoisseurs are seeking ''pu-erh'' with leaves taken from a single tea mountain's wild forests. The history of ''pu-erh'' tea can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty.

''Pu-erh'' is well known for the fact that it is a compressed tea and also that it typically ages well to produce a pleasant drink. Through storage, the tea typically takes on a darker colour and mellower flavour characteristics. Often ''pu-erh'' leaves are compressed into tea cakes or bricks, and are wrapped in various materials, which when stored away from excessive moisture, heat, and sunlight help to mature the tea. Pressing of ''pu-erh'' into cakes and aging the tea cakes possibly originated from the natural aging process that happened in the storerooms of tea drinkers and merchants, as well as on horseback caravans on the Ancient tea route that was used in ancient Yunnan to trade tea to Tibet and more northern parts of China. Compression of the tea into dense bulky objects likely eased horseback transport and reduced damage to the tea.


All types of ''pu-erh'' tea are created from máochá(), a mostly un green tea processed from a "large leaf" variety of ''Camellia sinensis'' found in the mountains of southern Yunnan. ''Maocha'' can undergo "ripening" for several months prior to being compressed to produce ripened pu-erh , or be directly compressed to produce raw pu-erh.

While unaged and unprocessed ''raw pu-erh'' is technically a type of green tea, ''ripened'' or ''aged raw pu-erh'' has occasionally been mistakenly categorised as a subcategory of black tea due to the dark red colour of its leaves and liquor. However, ''pu-erh'' in both its ripened or aged forms has undergone secondary oxidization and caused both by organisms growing in the tea as well as from free-radical oxidation, thus making it a unique type of tea.

In China, where fully-oxidised tea is known as "red tea," ''pu-erh'' is indeed classified as a "black tea" , something which is resented by some who argue for a separate category for ''pu-erh'' as most other black teas tend to be of low standard and status.

Raw ''pu-erh'' and ''Máochá''

After picking appropriate tender leaves, the first step in making raw or ripened ''pu-erh'' is converting the leaf to ''máochá'' . Plucked leaves are handled gingerly to prevent bruising and unwanted oxidation. Weather permitting, the leaves are then spread out in the sun or a ventilated space to wilt and remove some of the water content. On overcast or rainy days, the leaves will be wilted by light heating, a slight difference in processing that will affect the quality of the resulting ''maocha'' and ''pu-erh''. The wilting process may be skipped altogether depending on the tea processor.

The leaves are then dry pan-fried using a large wok in a process called "kill green" , which arrests enzyme activity in the leaf and prevents further oxidation. With enzymatic oxidation halted, the leaves can then be rolled, rubbed, and shaped through several steps into strands. The shaped leaves are then ideally dried in the sun and then manually picked through to remove bad leaves. Sometimes maocha is aged uncompressed and sold at its maturity as aged loose-leaf raw ''pu-erh''.

''Raw pu-erh tea'' , also known as "''uncooked pu-erh''" or "''green pu-erh''," is simply ''máochá'' tea leaves that have been compressed into its final form without additional processing.

Ripened pu-erh

Ripened ''pu-erh'' tea is pressed ''maocha'' that has been specially processed to imitate aged raw ''pu-erh''. Although it is more commonly known as "''cooked pu-erh''," the process does not actually employ cooking to imitate the aging process. The term may come about due to inaccurate transliteration due to the dual meaning of "shoú" as both "''fully cooked''" and "''fully ripened''" .

The process used to convert ''máochá'' into ripened ''pu-erh'' is a recent invention that manipulates conditions to approximate the result of the aging process by prolonged bacterial and fungal fermentation in a warm humid environment under controlled conditions, a technique called ''wòdūi'' , which involves piling, dampening, and turning the tea leaves in a manner much akin to composting.

The piling, wetting, and mixing of the piled ''máochá'' ensures even fermentation. Poor control in fermentation/oxidation process can result in bad ripened ''pu-erh'', characterized by badly decomposed leaves and an aroma and texture reminiscent of compost. The ripening process typically takes anywhere from half a year to one year after it has begun. As such, a ripened ''pu-erh'' produced in early 2004 will be pressed in the winter of 2004/2005, and appear on the market between late 2005 or early 2006.

This process was first developed in 1972 by Menghai Tea Factory and Kunming Tea Factory to imitate the flavor and color of aged raw ''pu-erh''. This technique was an adaptation of "wet storage" techniques that were being used by merchants to falsify the age of their teas. Mass production of ripened ''pu-erh'' began in 1975. It can be consumed without further aging, though it can also be stored to "air out" some of the less savory flavors and aromas acquired during fermentation. The tea is often compressed but is also common in loose form. Some collectors of ''pu-erh'' believe that ripened ''pu-erh'' should not be aged for more than a decade.


To produce ''pu-erh'' many additional steps are needed prior to the actual pressing of the tea. First, a specific quantity of dry ''máochá'' or ripened tea leaves pertaining to the final weight of the bingcha is weighed out. The dry tea is then lightly steamed in perforated cans to soften and make it more tacky. This will allow it to hold together and not crumble during compression. A ticket, called a "''Nèi fēi''" or additional adornments, such as coloured ribbons, are placed on or in the midst of the leaves and inverted into a cloth bag or wrapped in cloth. The pouch of tea is gathered inside the cloth bag and wrung into a ball, with the extra cloth tied or coiled around itself. This coil or knot is what produces the dimpled indentation at the reverse side of a tea cake when pressed. Depending on the shape of ''pu-erh'' being produced, a cotton bag may or may not be used. For instance, ''brick'' or ''square'' teas often are not compressed using bags.

Depending on the desired product and speed, from quickest and tightest to slowest and loosest, pressing can either be done by:
* A ''hydraulic press'', which forces the tea into a metal form that is occasionally decorated with a motif in sunken-relief. Due to its efficiency, this method is commonly used to make all forms of pressed ''pu-erh''. Tea can be pressed in the press either with or without it being bagged, with the latter done by utilizing a metal mould. Tightly compressed bing, formed directly into a mould without bags using this method are known as ''tié bǐng'' due to its density and hardness. It is believed that the taste of densely compressed raw ''pu-erh''s can benefit from careful aging for up to several decades.
* A ''lever press'', which was operated by hand for tight pressings and has largely been replaced by the modern hydraulic press.
* A ''large heavy stone'', carved into the shape of a short cylinder with a handle, simply weighs a bag of tea down onto a wooden board. The tension from the bag and the weight of the stone together gives the tea its rounded and sometimes non-uniformed edge. Due to the manual labour involved, this method of pressing is often referred to as: "''Hand''" or "''Stone-pressing''," and is how many artisanal ''pu-erh bing'' are still manufactured.

Pressed ''pu-erh'' is removed from the cloth bag and placed on latticed shelves where they are allowed to air dry, which depending on the wetness of the pressed cakes may take several weeks or months. In ancient times, ''tuocha'' cakes may have had holes punched through the center so that they could be tied together on a rope for easy transport.
| ''Brick''
| Zhuānchá
| A thick rectangular block of tea, usually in 100g, 250g, 500g, and 1000g sizes. ''Zhuancha'' bricks are the traditional shape that was used for ease of transport along the Ancient tea route by horse caravans.
| ''Square''
| Fāngchá
| A flat square of tea, usually in 100g or 200g sizes. They often contain words that are pressed into the square.
| ''Mushroom''
| Jǐnchá
| Literally meaning "tight tea," the tea is shaped much like ''túocha'', but with a stem rather than a convex hollow. This makes them quite similar in form to a mushroom. Pu-erh tea of this shape is generally produced for Tibetan consumption, and is usually 250g or 300g.
| ''Melon, or Gold melon''
| Jīnguā
| A shape similar to ''tuóchá'', but larger in size with a much thicker body that is decorated with pumpkin-like "stripes". This shape was created for the famous "Tribute tea" that was made expressly for the Qing Dynasty from the best tea leaves of Yiwu Mountain. Larger specimens of this shape are sometimes called "Human-head tea" due in part to its size and shape, as well as the fact that in the past it was often presented in court in a similar manner to severed heads.

Process and oxidation

Although ''pu-erh'' teas are often collectively classified in Western and East Asian tea markets as ''post-fermentation'' or ''black'' teas, respectively, ''pu-erh'' teas in actuality can be placed in three types of processing methods, namely: ''green tea'', ''fermented tea'', and ''secondary-oxidation/fermentation tea''.

''Pu-erh'' can be green teas if they are lightly processed before being pressed into cakes. Such ''pu-erh'' is referred to as ''maocha'' if unpressed and as "green/raw ''pu-erh''" if pressed. While not always palatable, they are relatively cheap and are known to age well for up to 20 or 30 years. ''Pu-erh'' can also be a fermented tea if it undergoes slow processing with fermenting microbes for up to a year. This ''pu-erh'' is referred to as "ripened/cooked ''pu-erh''", and has a mellow flavour and is readily drinkable. Aged ''pu-erh''s are secondary-oxidation and post-fermentation teas. If aged from green ''pu-erh'', the aged tea will be mellow in taste but still clean in flavour.

According to the production process, four main types of ''pu-erh'' are commonly available on the market:
*''Maocha'': Green ''pu-erh'' leaves that are sold in loose form. The raw material for making pressed ''pu-erh''s. Badly processed maocha will result in an inferior pu-erh.
*''Green/raw pu-erh'': Pressed ''maocha'' that has not undergone additional processing. Quality green ''pu-erh'' is highly sought by collectors.
*''Ripened/cooked pu-erh'': Pressed ''maocha'' that has undergone fermentation in the ripening process for up to a year. Badly fermented maocha will create a muddy tea with fishy and sour flavours indicative of inferior aged pu-erhs.
*''Aged raw pu-erh'': A tea that has undergone a slow secondary oxidation and a certain degree of microbial fermentation. Although all types of ''pu-erh'' can be aged, it is typically the pressed raw ''pu-erh''s that are most highly regarded, since aged ''maocha'' and ripened ''pu-erh'' both lack a "clean" and "assertive" taste.



Yunnan province produces the vast majority of ''pu-erh'' tea. Indeed, the province is the source of the tea's name, Pu'er Hani and Yi Autonomous County. ''Pu-erh'' is produced in almost every county and prefecture in the province, but the most famous ''pu-erh'' areas are known as the Six Famous Tea Mountains
Six famous tea mountains

The six famous tea mountains are a group of mountains in Xishuangbanna that are renowned for their climates and environments, which not only provide excellent growing conditions for ''pu-erh'', but also produce unique taste profiles in the produced ''pu-erh'' tea. Over the course of history, the designated mountains for the tea mountains have either been changed or listed differently.

In the Qing dynasty government records for pu-erh , the oldest historically designated mountains were said to be named after six commemorative items that were left in the mountains by Zhuge Liang, These mountains are all located northeast of the Lancang River in relatively close proximity to one another. The mountains' names, in the Standard Mandarin character pronunciation are:
#''Gedeng'' : The term for "leather stirrup"
#''Mansa'' : The term for "seed sowing bag"
#''Mangzhi'' : The term for "copper cauldron"
#''Manzhuan'' : The term for iron brick"
#''Yibang'': The term for "wooden clapper"
#''Yōulè'' : The term meaning "copper gong"

Southwest of the river there are also six famous tea mountains that are lesser known from due to their isolation by the river.

Other regions

In addition to China, border regions touching Yunnan in Vietnam, Laos, and Burma are also known to produce ''pu-erh'' tea, though little of this makes its way to the Chinese or international markets.


Perhaps equally or even more important than region or even grade in classifying ''pu-erh'' is the method of cultivation. ''Pu-erh'' tea can come from three different cultivation methods:
*''Plantation bushes'' : Cultivated tea bushes, from the seeds or cuttings of wild tea trees and planted in relatively low altitudes and flatter terrain. The tea produced from these plants are considered inferior due to the used of pesticides and in cultivation, and the lack of pleasant flavours, and the presence of harsh bitterness and astringency from the tea.
*''"Wild arbor" trees'': Most producers claim that their ''pu-erh'' is from wild trees, but most use leaves from older plantations that were cultivated in previous generations that have gone feral due to the lack of care. These trees produce teas of better flavour due to the higher levels of secondary metabolite produced in the tea tree. As well, the trees are typically cared for using organic practices, which includes the scheduled pruning of the trees in a manner similar to pollarding. Despite the good quality of their produced teas, "wild arbor" trees are not as prized as the truly wild trees.
*''Wild trees'' : Teas from old wild trees, grown without human intervention, are the highest valued ''pu-erh'' teas. Such teas are valued for having deeper and more complex flavors, often with camphor or "mint" notes, said to be imparted by the many camphor trees that grow in the same environment as the wild tea trees. Young raw ''pu-erh'' teas produced from the leaf tips of these trees also lack overwhelming astringency and bitterness often attributed to young ''pu-erh''.

Determining whether or not a tea is wild is a challenging task, made more difficult through the inconsistent and unclear terminology and labeling in Chinese. Terms like ''yěshēng'' , ''qiáomù'' , ''yěshēng qiáomù'' , and ''gǔshù'' are found on the labels of cakes of both wild and "wild arbor" variety, and on blended cakes, which contain leaves from tea plants of various cultivations. These inconsistent and often misleading labels can easily confuse uninitiated tea buyers regardless of their grasp of the Chinese language. As well, the lack of specific information about tea leaf sources in the printed wrappers and identifiers that come with the ''pu-erh'' cake makes identification of the tea a difficult task. ''Pu-erh'' journals and similar annual guides such as ''The Profound World of Chi Tse'', ''Pu-erh Yearbook'', and ''Pu-erh Teapot Magazine'' contain credible sources for leaf information. Tea factories are generally honest about their leaf sources, but someone without access to tea factory or other information is often at the mercy of the middlemen or an unscrupulous vendor. Many ''pu-erh'' aficionados seek out and maintain relationships with vendors who they feel they can trust to help mitigate the issue of finding the "truth" of the leaves.

Sadly, even in the best of circumstances, when a journal, factory information, and trustworthy vendor all align to assure a tea's genuinely wild leaf, fakes fill the market and make the issue even more complicated. Because collectors often doubt the reliability of written information, some believe certain physical aspects of the leaf can point to its cultivation. For example, drinkers cite the evidence of a truly wild old tree in a menthol effect supposedly caused by the trees that grow amongst wild tea trees in Yunnan's tea forests. As well, the presence of thick veins and sawtooth-edged on the leaves along with camphor flavor elements and taken as signifiers of wild tea.


''Pu-erh'' can be sorted into ten or more grades. Generally, grades are determined by leaf size and quality, with higher numbered grades meaning older/larger, broken, or less tender leaves. Grading is rarely consistent between factories, and first grade tea leaves may not necessarily produce first grade cakes. Different grades have different flavors, and many bricks feature a blend of several grades chosen to balance flavors and strength.


Harvest season also plays an important role in the flavor of ''pu-erh''. Spring tea is the most highly valued, followed by fall tea, and finally summer tea. Only rarely is ''pu-erh'' produced in winter months, and often this is what is called "early spring" tea, as harvest and production follows the weather pattern rather than strict monthly guidelines.

Tea factories

Factories are generally responsible for the production of ''pu-erh'' teas. While some individuals oversee smaller higher-end productions, such as the Xizihao and Yanqinghao brands, enjoys a good reputation, as does Changtai Tea Group, Mengku Tea Company, and other new tea makers formed in the 1990s. However, due to production inconsistencies and variations in manufacturing techniques, the reputation of a tea company or factory can vary depending on the year or the specific cakes produced during a year.

The producing factory is often the first or second item listed when referencing a ''pu-erh'' cake, the other being the year of production.

In past two years, a new generation of pu-erh tea factories has been established. For example,ChenSheng Tea Factory ,which is the only one manufacturer to supply the pest Puer tea that called LaoBanZhang ;and YPT Puerh Tea Factory, , already applies the most advanced technology to standardize its product and brands its product with Chinese ancient culture for marketing. High quality mass production and modern have transformed pu-erh tea from a regional traditional Chinese drink to a nationally widespread trend.


Tea factories, particularly formerly government-owned factories, produce many cakes by recipe, indicated by a ''recipe number''. Recipe numbers consists of four-digits. The first two digits represent the year the recipe was first produced, the third digit the grade of leaves used in the recipe, and the last digit represents the factory. 7542, for example, would be a recipe from 19''75'' using ''fourth''-grade tea leaf made by Menghai Tea Factory . There are also those who believe that the third number indicates a recipe for a particular production year. or Feng Qing Tea Factory It is argued whether tea quality is adversely affected if it is subjected to highly fluctuating humidity levels.
* ''Sunlight'': Tea that is exposed to sunlight dries out prematurely, and often becomes bitter.
* ''Temperature'': Teas should not be subjected to high heat since undesirable flavours will develop. However at low temperatures, the aging of ''pu-erh'' tea will slow down drastically. It is argued whether tea quality is adversely affected if it is subjected to highly fluctuating temperature.

When preserved as part of a ''tong'', the material of the ''tong'' wrapper, whether it is made of bamboo shoot husks, bamboo leaves, or thick paper, can also affect the quality of the aging process. The packaging methods change the environmental factors and may even contribute to the taste of the tea itself.

Further to what has been mentioned it should be stressed that a good well-aged Puerh tea is not evaluated by its age alone. Like all things in life, there will come a time when a Puerh teacake reaches its peak before stumbling into a decline. Due to the many recipes and different processing method used in the production of different batches of Puerh, the optimal age for each age will vary. Some may take 10 years while others 20 or 30+ years. It is important to check the status of ageing for your teacakes to know when they peaked so that proper care can be given to halt the ageing process.

Raw ''pu-erh''

Over time, raw ''pu-erh'' acquires an earthy flavor due to slow oxidation and other, possibly microbial processes. However, this oxidation is not analogous to the oxidation that results in green, oolong, or black tea, because the process is not catalyzed by the plant's own enzymes but rather by fungal, bacterial, or autooxidation influences. ''Pu-erh'' flavors can change dramatically over the course of the aging process, resulting in a brew tasting strongly earthy but clean and smooth, reminiscent of the smell of rich garden soil or an autumn leaf pile, sometimes with roasted or sweet undertones. Because of its ability to age without losing "quality", well aged good ''pu-erh'' gains value over time in the same way that aged roasted oolong does.

Raw ''pu-erh'' can undergo "wet storage" and "dry storage" , with teas that have undergone the latter being much more desirable.

''Pu-erh'' properly stored in different environments can develop different tastes at different rates due to environmental differences in ambient humidity, temperature, and odours.

Ripened pu-erh

Since the ripening process was developed to imitate aged raw ''pu-erh'', many arguments surround the idea of whether aging ripened ''pu-erh'' is desirable. Mostly, the issue rests on whether aging ripened ''pu-erh'' will, better or worse, alter the flavor of the tea.

It is often recommended to age ripened ''pu-erh'' to "air out" the unpleasant musty flavours and odours formed due to maocha fermentation. However, some collectors argue that keeping ripened ''pu-erh'' longer than 10 to 15 years makes little sense, stating that the tea will not develop further and possibly lose its desirable flavours. Others note that their experience has taught them that ripened ''pu-erh'' indeed does take on nuances through aging,

Because of the prolonged fermentation in ripened ''pu-erh'' and slow oxidization of aged raw ''pu-erh'', these teas often lack the bitter, astringent properties of other tea types, and also can be brewed much stronger and repeatedly, with some claiming 20 or more infusions of tea from one pot of leaves. On the other hand, young raw ''pu-erh'' is known and expected to be strong and aromatic, yet very bitter and somewhat astringent when brewed, since these characteristics are believed to produce better aged raw ''pu-erh''.

Judging quality

Quality of the tea can be determined through inspecting the dried leaves, the tea liquor, or the spent tea leaves. The "true" quality of a specific batch of ''pu-erh'' can ultimately only be revealed when the tea is brewed and tasted. Although, not concrete and sometimes dependent on preference, there are several general indicators of quality:
* ''Dried tea'': There should be a lack of twigs, extraneous matter and white or dark mold spots on the surface of the compressed ''pu-erh''. The leaves should ideally be whole, visually distinct, and not appear muddy. The leaves may be dry and fragile, but not powdery. Good tea should be quite fragrant, even when dry. Good pressed pu-erh often have a matte sheen on the surface of the cake, though this is not necessarily a sole indicator of quality
* ''Liquor'': The tea liquor of both raw and ripe ''pu-erh'' should never appear cloudy. Well-aged raw ''pu-erh'' and well-crafted ripe ''pu-erh'' tea may produce a dark reddish liquor, reminiscent of a dried jujube, but in either case the liquor should not be opaque, "muddy," or black in colour. The flavours of ''pu-erh'' liquors should persist and be revealed throughout separate or subsequent infusions, and never abruptly disappear, since this could be the sign of added flavorants.
**''Young raw puerh'':The ideal liquors should be aromatic with a light but distinct odours of camphor, rich herbal notes like , fragrance floral notes, hints of dried fruit aromas such as preserved plums, and should exhibit only some grassy notes to the likes of fresh sencha. Young raw ''pu-erh'' may sometimes be quite bitter and astringent, but should also exhibit a pleasant mouthfeel and "sweet" aftertaste, referred to as ''gān'' and ''húigān''.
**''Aged raw puerh'': Aged pu-erh should never smell moldy, musty, or strongly fungal, though some ''pu-erh'' drinkers considers these smells to be unoffensive or even enjoyable. The smell of aged pu-erh may vary, with an "aged" but not "stuffy" odour. The taste of aged raw ''pu-erh'' or ripe ''pu-erh'' should be smooth, with slight hints of bitterness, and lack a biting astringency or any off-sour tastes. The element of taste is an important indicator of aged pu-erh quality, the texture should be rich and thick and should have very distinct ''gān'' and ''húigān'' on the tongue and cheeks, which together induces salivation and leaves a "feeling" in the back of the throat.
* ''Spent tea'': Whole leaves and leave bud systems should be easily seen and picked out of the wet spent tea, with a limited amount of broken fragments. Twigs, and the fruits of the tea plant should not be found in the spent tea leaves, however animal hair, strings, rice grains and chaff may occasionally be included in the tea. The leaves should not crumble when rubbed, and with ripened ''pu-erh'', it should not resemble compost. Aged raw puerh should have leaves that unfurl when brewed while leaves of most ripened puerh will generally remain closed.


In culture, ''pu-erh'' is known as ''po-lay'' tea. Among the Cantonese long settled in California, it is called ''bo-nay'' or ''po-nay'' tea. It is often drunk during dim sum meals, as it is believed to help with digestion. It is not uncommon to add dried osmanthus flowers, pomelo rinds, or chrysanthemum flowers into brewing ''pu-erh'' tea in order to add a light, fresh fragrance to the tea liquor. ''Pu-erh'' with chrysanthemum is the most common pairing, and referred as ''guk pou'' or ''guk bou'' . ''Pu-erh'' is considered to have some medicinal qualities.


Drinking pu-erh tea is purported to aid in digestion, reduce blood cholesterol and lipid levels. It is also widely believed in Chinese cultures to counteract the unpleasant effects of heavy alcohol consumption. In traditional Chinese medicine, the tea is believed to invigorate the spleen and inhibit "dampness." In the stomach, it is believed to reduce heat and "descends qi".

Some ''pu-erh'' brick tea has been found to contain very high levels of fluorine, because it is generally made from lesser quality older tea leaves and stems, which accumlulate fluorine. Its consumption has led to fluorosis in areas of high brick tea consumption, such as Tibet.


Pu-erh tea can generally improve in taste over time . Teas that can be aged finely are typically:
#Made from high quality material
#Processed skillfully
#Stored properly over the years
The common misconception is that all types of pu-erh tea will improve in taste -- and therefore get more valuable as an investment item -- as they get older. There are many requisite variables for a pu-erh tea to age beautifully. Further, the cooked pu-erh will not evolve as dramatically as the raw type will over time from the secondary oxidation and fermentation.

As in wine, only the finely made and properly stored ones will improve and increase in value. And as in wine, the percentage of those that will improve over a long period of time is only a small fraction of what is available in the market today.

Flower tea

Flower tea

Yellow tea

Yellow tea usually implies a special tea processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase, where the damp tea leaves are allowed to sit and yellow. The tea generally has a very yellow-green appearance and a smell different from both white tea and green tea. The smell is sometimes mistaken for if the tea is cured with other herbs, but similarities in taste can still be drawn between yellow, and teas.

It can, however, also describe high-quality served at the Imperial court, although this can be applied to any form of imperially-served tea.

Varieties of yellow tea

; '''' : from , China is a ''Silver Needle'' yellow tea. A .
; '''': from Mt. Huo, , China.
; '''' : from Mt. Meng, , China.
; '''': from , China. Literally ''Big Leaf Green''.
; '''': from , China. Literally ''Yellow Soup''.


Tie Guan Yin is a premium variety of associated with Anxi in the . Named after the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara , it has also been translated as "Iron Goddess of Mercy" after the old translation for Guan Yin's name. Tie Guan Yin produced from different areas of AnXi have different characteristics. Recently the tea has been grown in Nantou, Taiwan where it thrives.

Other spellings and names include Ti Kuan Yin, Tit Kwun Yum, Ti Kwan Yin, Tie Guan Yin, Iron Buddha, Iron Goddess of Mercy, and Tea of the Iron Bodhisattva, which is probably the closest English translation.


There are two legends behind this tea: Wei and Wang.

Wei Legend

Deep in the heart of Fujian's Anxi County there was a rundown temple that held inside an iron statue of Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Mercy. Every day, on his walk to his tea fields a poor farmer named Mr. Wei would pass by and reflect on the worsening condition of the temple. Something has to be done, thought Mr. Wei. But he did not have the means to repair the temple because he was poor. Instead the farmer brought a broom and some incense from his home. He swept the temple clean and lit the incense as an offering to Guan Yin. "It's the least I can do," he thought to himself. Twice a month for many months, he repeated the same task. Cleaning and lighting incense. One night, Guan Yin appeared to him in a dream. She told him of a cave behind the temple where a treasure awaited him. He was to take the treasure for himself, but also to share it with others. In the cave, the farmer found a single tea shoot. He planted it in his field and nurtured it into a large bush, of which the finest tea was produced. He gave cuttings of this rare plant to all his neighbors and began selling the tea under the name Tie Guan Yin, Iron Bodhisattva of Mercy. Over time, Mr. Wei and all his neighbors prospered. The rundown temple of Guan Yin was repaired and became a beacon for the region. And Mr. Wei took joy in his daily trip to his tea fields, never failing to stop in appreciation of the beautiful temple.

Wang Legend

Wang was a scholar who accidentally discovered the tea plant beneath the Guanyin rock in Xiping. He brought the plant back home for cultivation. When he visited Emperor Qianlong in the 6th year of his reign, he offered the tea as a gift from his native village. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed that he inquired about its origin. Since the tea was discovered beneath the Guanyin Rock, he decided to called it the Guanyin tea.


By roasting level
* Jade Tie Guan Yin is a newer type of Tie Guan Yin and has a light green Jade color. It produces a very flowery aroma and taste. It is more similar to green tea than Oolong, and is not good for people with weak stomach.
* Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin is traditional Tie Guan Yin. It has more complex taste and aroma but is less floral.
* Moderately Rasted Tie Guan Yin is a new breed that has a good balance of floral aroma and complex taste.
By harvest time
* Spring Tie Guan Yin is harvested around Li Xia and has the best overall quality.
* Autumn Tie Guan Yin is harvested in the autumn and has strong aroma but less complex taste.
* Summer Tie Guan Yin is harvested in summer and is considered lower quality. Summer Tie Guan Yin can be further divided into two types one harvested in June to July, one harvested in August.
* Winter Tie Guan Yin is harvested in winter. Production of Winter Tie Guan Yin is very low.
Other categories
* Guan Yin Wang is the best of Tie Guan Yin. It means Guan Yin King. The best Jade Tie Guan Yin and Autumn Tie Guan Yin are classified as Guan Yin Wang.

Tea brick

Tea bricks or compressed tea are blocks of whole or finely ground tea leaves that have been packed in molds and pressed into block form. This was the most commonly produced and used form of tea in ancient China prior to the Ming Dynasty. Although tea bricks are less commonly produced in modern times, many post-fermented teas, such as ''pu-erh'', are still commonly found in bricks, discs, and other pressed forms. Tea bricks can be made into beverages or eaten as food, and were also used in the past as a form of currency.


In ancient China, compressed teas were usually made with thoroughly dried and ground tea leaves that were pressed into various bricks or other shapes, although partially dried and whole leaves were also used. Some tea bricks were also mixed with binding agents such as flour, blood, or manure to better preserve their form so they could withstand physical use as currency. Newly formed tea bricks were then left to cure, dry, and age prior to being sold or traded. Tea bricks were preferred in trade prior to the 19th century in Asia since they were more compact than loose leaf tea and were also less susceptible to physical damage incurred through transportation over land by s on the Ancient tea route.

Tea bricks are still currently manufactured for drinking, as in ''pu-erh'' teas, as well as for souvenirs and novelty items, though most compressed teas produced in modern times are usually made from whole leaves. The compressed tea can take various traditional forms, many of them still being produced. A dome-shaped nugget of 100g is simply called ''tuóchá'' , which is translated several ways, sometimes as "bird's nest tea" or "bowl tea." A small dome-shaped nugget with a dimple underneath just enough to make one pot or cup of tea is called a ''xiǎo tuóchá'' which usually weighs 3g–5g. A larger piece around 375g, which may be a disc with a dimple, is called ''bǐngchá'' . A large, flat, square brick is called ''fángchá'' .

To produce a tea brick, ground or whole tea is first steamed, then placed into one of a number of types of press and compressed into a solid form. Such presses may leave an intended imprint on the tea, such as an artistic design or simply the pattern of the cloth with which the tea was pressed. Many powdered tea bricks are moistened with rice water in pressing to assure that the tea powder sticks together. The pressed blocks of tea are then left to dry in storage until a suitable degree of moisture has evaporated.

:"Yaan is the main market for a special kind of tea which is grown in this part of the country and exported in very large quantities to Tibet via Kangting and over the caravan routes through Batang and Teko. Although the Chinese regard it as an inferior product, it is greatly esteemed by the Tibetans for its powerful flavor, which harmonizes particularly well with that of the rancid yak's butter which they mix with their tea. Brick tea comprises not only what we call tea leaves, but also the coarser leaves and some of the twigs of the shrub, as well as the leaves and fruit of other plants and trees . This amalgam is steamed, weighed, and compressed into hard bricks, which are packed up in coarse matting in subunits of four. These rectangular parcels weigh between twenty-two and twenty-six pounds—the quality of the tea makes a slight difference to the weight—and are carried to Kangting by coolies. A long string of them, moving slowly under their monstrous burdens of tea, was a familiar sight along the road I followed."

:"The brick tea is packaged either in the courtyard or in the street outside, and it is quite a complicated process. When the coolies bring it in from Yaan, it has to be repacked before being consigned upcountry, for in a coolie's load the standard subunit is four bricks lashed together, and these would be the wrong shape for animal transport. So they are first cut in two, then put together in lots of three, leaving what they call a ''gam'', which is half a yak's load. Tea which is going to be consumed reasonably soon is done up in a loose case of matting, but the ''gams'', which are bound for remote destinations, perhaps even for ''Lhasa'', are sewn up in yakhides. These hides are not tanned but are merely dried in the sun; when used for packing they are soaked in water to make them pliable and then sewn very tightly around the load, and when they dry out again the tea is enclosed in a container which is as hard as wood and is completely unaffected by rain, hard knocks, or immersion in streams. The Tibetan packers are a special guild of craftsmen, readily identifiable by the powerful aroma of untanned leather which they exude.
:Another prominent guild in Kangting is that of the women tea coolies who shift the stuff from the warehouses to the inns where the caravans start. They have a monopoly on this work and the cheerful gangs of girls are a picturesque element in the city's life. They need to be immensely strong to do a job which consists of carrying over a short distance anything up to an entire yak's load several times a day. Many of them are quite pretty ; they look very gay and rather brazen as, giggling and chattering among themselves, they move along with their heavy burdens, which are held in place by a woolen girdle around the chest."

Consuming tea bricks

Due to their density and toughness tea bricks were traditionally consumed after they have been ground to a fine powder. The legacy of using of tea bricks in powdered form can be seen through modern as well as the pulverized tea leaves used in the ''lei cha'' eaten by the Hakka people.


In ancient China the use of tea bricks involved three separate steps:
#''Toasting'': A piece was broken from the tea brick and usually first toasted over a fire. This was likely done to sanitize the tea brick and destroy any molds or insects. Such infestations likely occurred when the bricks were stored uncovered in warehouses and storerooms or in covered jars underground. Toasting also imparted a pleasant flavor to the resulting tea.
#''Grinding'': The toasted tea brick was broken up and ground to a fine powder.
#''Whisking'': The powdered tea was mixed into hot water and frothed with a whisk before serving. The color and patterns formed by the powdered tea were enjoyed while the mixture was being imbibed.

In modern times, bricks of ''pu-erh'' type teas are flaked, chipped, or broken and directly steeped after thorough rinsing. The process of toasting, grinding, and whisking to make tea from tea bricks is now uncommon and not generally practiced.


Tea bricks are used as a form of food in parts of Central Asia and Tibet in the past as much as in modern times. In Tibet pieces of tea are broken from tea bricks, and boiled overnight in water, sometimes with salt. The resulting concentrated tea infusion is then mixed with butter, cream or milk and little salt to make butter tea, a staple of Tibetan cuisine.

The tea mixed with ''tsampa'' is called Pah. Individual portions of the mixture are kneaded in a small bowl, formed into balls and eaten. Some cities of the Fukui prefecture in Japan have food similar to ''tsampa'', where concentrated tea is mixed with grain flour. However, the tea may or may not be made of tea bricks.

In parts of Mongolia and central Asia, a mixture of ground tea bricks, grain flours and boiling water is eaten directly. It has been suggested that tea eaten whole provides needed roughage normally lacking in the diet.

Tea bricks as currency

Due to the high value of tea in many parts of Asia, tea bricks were used as a form of currency throughout China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Central Asia. This is quite similar to use of Salt bricks as currency in parts of Africa. Tea bricks were in fact the preferred form of currency over metallic coins for the nomads of Mongolia and Siberia. The tea could not only be used as money and eaten as food in times of hunger but also brewed as allegedly beneficial medicine for treating coughs and colds. Up until World War II, tea bricks were still used as a form of edible currency in Siberia.

Tea bricks for Tibet were mainly produced in the area of Ya'an in Sichuan province. The bricks were produced in five different qualities and valued accordingly. The kind of brick which was most commonly used as currency in the late 19th and early 20th century was that of the third quality which the Tibetans called "brgyad pa" , because at one time it was worth eight Tibetan tangkas in Lhasa. Bricks of this standard were also exported by Tibet to Bhutan and Ladakh.

Health effects

Brick tea often contains very high levels of fluorine compounds, because it is generally made from old tea leaves and stems, which accumulate fluorine. This has led to fluorosis in areas of high brick tea consumption, such as Tibet.

Quick tea

Quick tea