Generally speaking, Pu’er Tea is a generic term that refers to tea in bulk or in its compressed form. This tea is made from the sun-greened raw tea that is grown in the six well-known tea-growing mountains near the Lancang River basin and that is then withered, rolled and dyed.
The first written record of Pu’er Tea appeared during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), so the history of Pu’er Tea can be traced back at least 1,700 years.
What makes Pu’er Tea different from other types of tea, in terms of its unique taste, is the post-fermentation process. In the past, plain tea was initially sun-greened to make the primary tea, and then the primary tea was dried, steamed and moulded into different shapes of compressed tea. Usually this compressed tea had a high moisture content. Before these teacakes were delivered to the distribution centre, water had to be sprinkled onto the surface of the teacakes in order to prevent them from being crushed. Thus the preliminary cold fermentation process was completed whilst the tea was on the road. At the distribution centre, the finest quality tea was selected and then sent to Tibet. This long journey took several months and, whilst the tea was on the road once again, it completed the secondary slow cold fermentation process.
Nowadays, people have found a much faster way to perform these fermentation processes. The sun-greened primary tea is piled up, sprinkled with water and covered with linen for 24 hours. The fermentation process is aided by microorganisms that thrive in the hot and humid environment. Thanks to this process, the texture of the tea becomes milder, and the colour turns from green to yellow, to brownish red, and sometimes even to a dark red.
Pu’er tea can be made via the pilled fermentation process, called the “Cooked Tea” process, or it can be made following the natural fermentation process, called the “Raw Tea” process. The natural fermentation process usually takes at least 5 to 8 years but the aroma of the tea produced is stronger and the texture is milder than tea made by the pilled fermentation process.
At 700 to 800 metres above sea level, the area around and on Huangshan Mountain, is the perfect place and main area of production for the superfine Huangshan Maofeng tea leaves. Huangshan Maofeng is produced in several different places on the mountain, including Peach Blossom Peak, Purple Cloud Peak, Cloud Valley Monastery, Pine Valley Temple and Hanging Bridge Temple. In fact, Huangshan Maofeng is produced throughout the whole Huizhou District. This region boasts a temperate climate and receives plenty of rainfall. The annual average temperature is between 15 to 16°C, and the average amount of precipitation is between 1,800 to 2,000 millimetres. The soil is deeply layered and made up of the yellow earth typically found in mountainous regions. This type of soil is loose in texture and has good water permeability. It contains an abundance of organic matter and phosphorus potassium, and it has an acidity level of between ph 4.5 and 5.5 which makes it suitable for the growth of tea trees.
Huangshan Maofeng was created by the Xie Yuantai Teahouse in the Guangxu Period of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). After 1875, in order to meet the market demands, each year, during the Qingming period (a time which falls around the 5th of April and is one of the 24 solar terms according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar), pickers would climb high mountains in Tangkou, Chongchuan and some other places in the Huangshan region in order to collect fat leaves and bud points, which were then fried and baked. They named the kind of tea made from this practice Huangshan Maofeng.
Huangshan Maofeng must be picked carefully. The picking standard for top grade Maofeng is to pick one bud and one leaf just before it’s about to unfold Top grade Maofeng is picked during the Qingming period. Grades 1 to 3 are processed during the Grain Rain period (one of the 24 solar terms according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, roughly falling around the 20th of April). After the fresh leaves are picked, they will be sorted to ensure that all of the leaves are of a high quality and that all of the buds are of a similar size. Then the fresh leaves will be separated by their differing degrees of tenderness and spread to dry out. In order to guarantee the quality and to keep the freshness of the tea, it is recommended that the tea leaves are picked in the morning and processed in the afternoon, or picked in the afternoon and processed at night. The manufacture of Huangshan Maofeng is divided into three procedures – heating, rubbing and twisting, and curing.
The shape of top grade Huangshan Maofeng is like a sparrow’s tongue and has thick leaves with white fluff on them. It is yellowish green, nearing ivory white, in colour and golden pieces grow below the tea leaves. It smells fragrant and tastes mellow and luscious. When brewing Huangshan Maofeng, you will notice that the tea water is limpid in colour. Thanks to the distinctive characteristics of the “golden pieces” and the “ivory” coloured leaves found in Huangshan Maofeng, the taste of top grade Huangshan Maofeng is sharply distinguishable from the taste of other varieties of Maofeng.
Try it on the tour: Explore the Ancient Chinese Villages in the Huizhou Region
There is a mysterious, ancient road hiding in the mountains of southwest China. Hoof prints are imbedded into the narrow trails along the high cliff edges and turbulent rivers flow under precariously suspended chain bridges. This is the road that was once treaded by merchant caravans.
The Tea – Horse Road was developed because of the ancient Tea – Horse Mutual Trade, which was established 1300 years ago in China’s southwest region. However, the Ancient Tea – Horse Road was not only a passage for trade, but also a thoroughfare for cultural exchange.
Along the Ancient Tea – Horse Road there are many plateaus. Trading posts were established on these plateaus and were used by merchant caravans to do business and trade with one another. These trade points were developed gradually thanks to the prosperity and increasing length of the Ancient Tea – Horse Road. Eventually some of them grew into flourishing towns.
Most of these towns are in Yunnan Province, Sichuan Province and Tibet. They are beautiful and worth a visit not only because of their fantastic scenery and architecture, but also because they are home to many unique cultures. Most of the towns have been developed to accommodate tourists so it’s relatively easy for travellers to visit these towns alone. However, it is still vital that you have a well-prepared travel plan. After all, it is a region dominated by ethnic minorities who won’t speak English and who probably won’t even speak much Mandarin. If you want to gain an in-depth knowledge of their culture, we advise that you do some research and learn about some of the history behind the towns and the ethnic minorities before you travel there. If you need any help planning your fantastic tour of these mysterious towns, please do not hesitate to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.