Often compared to wine, tea puerh Pu Er tea does have the reputation to improve with age, or where the vast majority of teas, whether green, white or black quickly lose their wealth in contact with air and therefore drink as soon after harvest. As we discuss in this article quickly and more deeply in a future, the question is more mixed than that, and the adage that the more the better puerh Pu Er tea is old he will not take money for content.
Indeed, it is best to see aged puerh Pu Er tea as a class full of tea, a class of rich and fabulous diversity, but that can not be regarded as objectively superior. The aged are not puerh Pu Er tea least one dimension of this fascinating family of tea, are practically a whole culture, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, and have long been highly sought after and appreciated by fans. But where does this habit not only of aging the puerh, but also in many cases to assist the aging in a more or less artificial? So often we like to remember that culture is puerh Pu Er tea the millennium, the tea consumed by minorities of Yunnan it there's thousands of years, and we do not know ultimately not much, was without a doubt crafted and prepared in a manner far different than the one we're used to today.
The same enthusiasm that we see now for older puerh Pu Er tea is a relatively recent phenomenon that actually appears in the late 20th century. If this latest attraction for puerh Pu Er tea old seems to be the result of an earlier culture around this post-fermented tea, she hides in the folds of history and still partly mysterious. Through the trees they have left us we know that ethnic groups who inhabited the present Yunnan it there's thousands of years already knew and mastered the tea culture see The origins of tea.
Well unfortunately if these old trees, real fossils in the history of tea, are still alive, few traces of these reports qu'entretenaient ethnicities with tea during this period have withstood time, if not some traditional practices, transmitted orally from generation to generation. Among these practices, there's Bulang in making a tea out of the ordinary Chinese Suan called Cha tea or tea sour acid whose origins come from an ancient past.
Traditionally baked for festivals and rituals, especially weddings who could have no place Suan Cha is a rare and precious tea, which can not cross in the intimacy of a family Bulangs and the making of which was unfortunately a strong tendency to disappear today.
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Based on the same leaves as those used for making conventional puerh, the Suan Cha is the result of a unique traditional knowledge and the culmination of a long phenomenon of post-fermentation. They will remain there six months, bathed by the warmth and natural moisture of the earth before being extracted for consumption.
Tea at the Blang was usually eaten, supplemented with different foods and spices, but it can also be brewed just for drinking more conventionally as we shall see immediately. But Bulang were not the only inhabitants of this area, not only to eat the tea leaves, but especially to fermenting them for preservation. Similar practices are found in different ethnic groups from Burma and northern Thailand with teas that are respectively Lahpet name is Miang and-So. Like Cha Bulang Suan, it's fresh tea leaves, left fermented for several months, particularly in sections of bamboo, before being consumed, eaten as a salad, seasoned with garlic, peas, peanut , tomatoes, fish sauce, sesame seeds, ginger, shrimp, etc.
Behind these practices and post-fermentation seems to be in first place the custom of eating the fresh tea leaves not dried , including the kitchen, and found in many ethnic groups such as Bulang or Jino. The tea leaves can not be eaten fresh all the year their fermentation and preservation in this form appears as an alternative for months without a harvest, as is still the standard in Yunnan with many vegetables, fermented jars and called Suan Tzai, sour or acid vegetables what the English call picked or Preserved and for which we have not really appropriate French translation.
Having said these ancient practices of post-fermentation tea seem still limited, and the vast majority of tea was most probably in ancient times eaten fresh, either eaten or brewed.
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Besides the consumption of fresh leaves it is also possible that a proportion of tea leaves underwent a rudimentary work before being infused, resulting in a tea probably blaming himself more or less than the current gross puerh Pu Er tea or tea Green, as we can see for example in northern Laos, particularly in the area where Phong Sali from ancient trees identical to those growing in the region of Wu Yi local populations produce a rudimentary form puerh Pu Er tea tea. Briefly worked, compared to a puerh, these sheets are then compressed into small sections of bamboo to take shape and then extracted to be sold as tea bought at a market in northern Laos:.
And if the practice of post fermentation puerh Pu Er tea was likely not the most common use among ethnic groups inhabiting the Yunnan present there are over years ago, examples such as Suan Cha Bulang, tend still to show that these ethnic groups had already discovered in the distant past the possibilities of post-fermentation offered by these tea leaves, and were eating these fermented teas post.
But although we can see through these practices the first signs of maturation puerh Pu Er tea aware, we can have more cons in doubt about the parentage of one hand between these traditional, isolated in remote areas of Yunnan, and secondly the future history of puerh Pu Er tea old and diffusion through and out of mainland China, the two phenomena are probably dissociated.
The authors generally prefer to talk about this "discovery" of the maturation of puerh, refer to the famous tea route and horses, both for historical reasons as we shall see to inspire dreams, and make it more exotic. Less known than the famous Silk Road that is called the tea route, however, was one of the largest exchange network, export and trade of Chinese history.
More than a single road it is actually a vast network of roads, starting mainly in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, especially in Russia and ending in Burma to Tibet but also in Thailand in Laos or Vietnam. Among them the road to Tibet, also known ancient tea route and horses Cha Ma Gu Da , particularly well known, play a crucial role in the development of Chinese tea, especially in Yunnan.
Archaeological studies tend to show that sections of this road there's there already existed several thousand years ago, and have summers used by ethnic groups of the time, but it was not, however, that during the Tang dynasty that this road is formalized and truly took off as a trade route tea Horses, and especially the good war horses like the famous Heavenly Horses of Urbekistant were indeed one of many whose empire was eagerly need to allow for expansion, and without which its future was in danger.
Excluding these, rare in China abounded in the west especially in the territories Beanies, Mongols and Tibetans. This trade in horses in western China and their import is nothing, strictly speaking, the tea route and was notably one of the reasons for the previous Silk Road. However, the fall of the latter with that of the monopoly of the Chinese Silk, coincides almost exactly with the advent of a new currency: the tea.
Thus was born the famous roads of tea and horses, by which the horses were exchanged against Tibetans cargoes of tea, mainly from Sichuan and Yunnan, and the tea was actually appeared to Tibet to become very People at the end of the Tang Dynasty. The Tibetans, who especially in winters living in difficult climatic conditions, with a diet rich in dried meat and dairy products, but low in fruits and vegetables, especially appreciated teas such as puerh.
This soon made the tea and puerh Pu Er tea Sichuan almost a daily need in the eyes of Tibetan life, and smuggling of tea route and horses quickly became prosperous on both sides of the Himalaya. But to get to Tibet, the road is long and far from obvious, especially it there's years ago!
Twisting of the mountains of Yunnan to those of the Himalayas, the narrow path crosses a succession of mountains increasingly steep, dramatic cliffs along, through the gorges by unlikely since become famous suspension bridges, all under conditions of the most difficult climate, much of the road by the seasons in the rain or through snow storms. Particularly in the snow, cold and violence that defied the tea in the Himalayas crossing an imposing rock that separates the Tibetan Plateau regions of Yunnan and Sichuan. And so in these conditions and that the puerh Pu Er tea was transported from southern Yunnan to Tibet.
The tea was also charged on certain sections of long processions of mules or horses rarely.
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This is where was born used to compress the puerh, making transportation easier by reducing the space taken by the tea leaves, avoiding more economic to use wooden boxes, but also more resistant to the harsh conditions suffered by tea during transport, including air and moisture, particularly destructive for most teas. It is also for certain how one would have discovered the properties of post-fermentation puerh Pu Er tea even if it belongs may be more legend and imagination in the history of puerh Pu Er tea than anything else.
A legend tells that due to the difficult terrain and weather we abandon a cargo of tea on the way, then that next year they found that cargo. When tasting tea which consisted of one would then reported on the alteration of the tea and the quality of the result, thus discovering the beneficial effect of time and moisture on the aromas of puerh. One often reads as a more pragmatic, but probably not less romanticized, that carriers and tea sellers have found that tea was better for the convoy's arrival at the outset of this one.
Tea before arriving in Tibet was in effect for months packaged in paper and woven bamboo, between heat, humidity and perspiration of annimal carrying tea, and could undoubtedly greatly affected by this journey, permeated by moisture, and Occide quite fermented. Stories also tell that the cargo arrived at Lassa, tea was spread on the roads and left some days before being sold, probably to dry, reducing mold damage and some stale odors transport.
It is therefore obvious that the puerh Pu Er tea arriving in Tibet was marked by months of travel, was to be the result of a post-fermentation accelerated by transport conditions, and therefore that which would have tasted this tea before and after would probably noted a marked difference. Against him by exclaiming that this tea is best, thus laying the foundation stone for the culture of aging puerh, seems more drawn against the imaginary, Hong Kongers probably, than anything else.
Firstly the lack of written evidence to my knowledge that could refer to it, and that would describe the natural transformation of puerh Pu Er tea during transport to Tibet or state to come by while we find many cons or write period are detailed the different quality of imported tea in Tibet including 5 types of bricks Sichuan, their flavors and their degree of fermentation!
But even more questions arise about the very image of this accidental discovery: the Chinese merchant who notes that his tea is the best that happened at the start, making a crucial discovery that is the cause of aged teas end that we enjoy today with a price in some tea houses For handing things in context of this vision which we wonder: What, the one who has had the opportunity to taste the same tea at the start of Yunnan and Tibet has come from going to see a difference either. Whether it had any influence on the production, processing and consumption of more puerh Pu Er tea Yunnan is much less cons on for at least two reasons.
In the first place, the transformation of puerh Pu Er tea was inevitable at that time. We're there there's almost years ago, there was then no plastic bags or "cool packaging" or refrigerated cold storage, and transportation were terribly long. Today, when consuming green tea products ultra cool, who travel the world in a few hours by plane in protective pockets seems natural, it strives to recreate artificially against by the conditions for the fermentation of some puerh.
But in the era of the tea route and horses the situation was diametrically opposed: the fermentation of tea leaves was not a choice but an inevitability that there was nothing, even with the best will in the world.
So many were inevitably puerh Pu Er tea fermented to some degree, they are stored in the conditions of the time, particularly among producers of tropical areas like Xishuangbanna, or transported from one region to another, and it's finally puerh Pu Er tea in its cool that would be unknown outside of production areas.
Furthermore it appears on the tea route that the technical advances made gradually puerh Pu Er tea for packaging, especially for has to be sent to Tibet, tended towards a better protection of tea, and a minimization of the phenomenon of mold, not the otherwise. This is part of what motivated the creation of Jin Cha, puerh Pu Er tea compressed shaped fungus that appear between and to replace the old form of Tuo Cha bowl for export to Tibet, and whose form has been studied to allow better ventilation tea during transport and prevent mold caused by moisture accumulation between Tuo Cha, and avoid excessive fermentation of the leaves.
It will be seen as a will and a positron radically different from the example of wet storage that will appear almost 30 years later around Hong Kong and Guangzhou, which is precisely to push the moisture until the appearance mold to the surface of the tea. In the second place the history of tea would happen best in his journey through Tibet fermentative, and therefore show that the Chinese way of aging of this tea, we ask the "best". Tea culture in Tibet it there's years ago is far from Gung Fu Cha and art and intellectual elitist tea that grows at the same time in some Chinese environment.
Tea is in Tibet is a popular product for everyday use, that is not only long boiled mixed with big doses of rancid butter and salt, but also and above all been produced with this in mind from the remains unfit the Chinese consumer. The tea sent to Tibet and surrounding areas by the famous roads of the horses was in fact not a quality product comparable to teas that some relished at the same time inside China, but was specifically produced for export. The quality criteria between these teas low-end product to finish in rancid butter and tea products to be consumed on the Chinese territory were so radically different, and as we have seen how these teas were consumed, and it is quite unlikely that the finding of the fermentation of these scrap of tea during their journey to Tibet them has the slightest impact on quality teas.
If I try and question the myth of Tibetan puerh Pu Er tea post fermentation, it is by no means to question the importance of Tibet in the history of puerh Pu Er tea and post-fermented teas, but instead to refocus the issue of Tibet and other border areas. In fact by making the tea route called the theater of discovery, accidental, maturation of puerh Pu Er tea we accessorize the situation in Tibet and other neighboring countries, to highlight the alleged and Chinese of this "discovery", and the alleged future exploitation of this discovery, while on the contrary it is precisely on the sidelines of the China mainland, and in these border areas, as has been the issue of post-fermented tea.
Whatever indeed the poor quality of tea exported to Tibet, or the reasons and conditions for the fermentation of the tea there was very appreciated and requested. If the Han Chinese who held the tea market despised undoubtedly the quality of what they sent to Tibet, he did not neglect the profits that meant and obviously the development of these Although Xiao Cha, tea for exports in border areas, is primarily made to stick to the demand and taste of people in these areas. To illustrate this a taste of Tibetan brick, not from Yunnan but Guei Zhou, a neighboring province.
Produced in by Tong Zi, branded Jin Long Pai this brick has since been preserved in a natural atmosphere, and is not following a wet storage in Guangzhou or Hong Kong. It retains its original character shaped by 20 years to mature slowly and naturally.
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The current enthusiasm for puerh Pu Er tea is indeed often forget that the road was carrying not only tea but also the puerh Pu Er tea widely, and probably mostly tea compressed into bricks from Sichuan. In many write two teas are blended, and everything we associate with Tibetan tea compressed tea puerh, whereas in fact it is quite different from tea, not only by their origins but also in their production processes.. In a French missionary, Father Desgodins, described in a report because the production techniques of bricks produced for export in Sichuan to Tibet.
Yet this description describes accurately what the abbot Desgodins considered the secret of success of this tea, or how the tea leaves of poor quality, plant waste and branches, were fermented to become drinkable.
Now the form of the artificial fermentation approaches disturbingly of what was practiced 80 years later in Hong Kong and in the Canton area and inspire the development of Yunnan puerh Pu Er tea fermented modern! The leaves, branches and other plant waste and had chopped a few inches and then placed, in layers in holes dug in the ground. If the leaves were not wet enough they poured water between each layer to allow fermentation. Everything was in a hurry to become thin and compact the hole was plugged with cover to avoid contact with air.
The leaves were thus left to ferment days. We note also that the description of the low fermentation times, probably causing a slightly fermented tea, may be approaching an old tea naturally, not a highly fermented puerh Pu Er tea as we now produce artificially. The reasons for this artificial fermentation of the tea produced in Sichuan to Tibet by cons are unclear. Was it to imitate from inexpensive material, such as branches of leaves of other trees that tea, appearance and aroma of puerh Pu Er tea sent to Tibet from Yunnan, and it had the ability to fermented "naturally"?
Or rather is it the puerh Pu Er tea came to fill an application by creating fermented tea tea dark Sichuan?
As a "competitor" on the market in Tibet, it is also hard to believe that mastery of Sichuan artificial fermentation of tea was unknown in Yunnan teas from these two regions cottoyant in Tibetan shops. If these fermentation techniques and assisted tea were probably known producers of tea in Yunnan may first think that it was deliberately ignored, the post-fermentation tea puerh Pu Er tea being any natural way and as we have seen difficult to avoid, therefore requiring no extra work.
One might also think that such artificial fermentation of puerh Pu Er tea was well practiced in the Yunann during that period it has now has been unearthed by historians. The latter hypothesis is rather unlikely to seen the number of documents on this puerh Pu Er tea in Chinese archives and where it is to my knowledge never a question of artificial fermentation of puerh. Always it is that Tibet and border areas of Yunnan is well into the 30s the main market of aged teas, or post-fermentation, fermentation is that natural or assisted.
This market is also huge in that the British in the s trying to conquer this market for India. But the Tibetans are not made in Indian tea and still prefer the post-fermented teas from Yunnan and Sichuan, despite efforts not to pierce the English what they treat as secret Chinese production.