The Most Common Puerh Tea Misconceptions
Puerh tea is a magnet for controversy. Online tea forums are full of debates over the origins of Puerh tea, what constitutes the best quality Puerh tea, and even what qualifies as Puerh tea. Though there is admittedly plenty of gray area, there is still plenty of room to improve public understanding about this oft misunderstood tea. This article will delve into some common misconceptions about Puerh.
- Puerh Should Taste Like Dank Swamp Water
Puerh tea can, in some very unfortunate circumstances, taste like putrid swamp water, but that fishy taste is a sign of low quality tea and processing, or freshly produced ripe Puerh tea. Much of the Puerh that has been imported to Western countries is of very low quality, hence the swampy taste. If you want to avoid this problem, buy Puerh from a website that has a solid Puerh track record or in the case of freshly made ripe Puerh, put it into storage! After a year or two, that wodui [pile fermented flavor] will dissipate!
- There is Truth in Labeling
Puerh tea labels are often very unrepresentative of the contents in the package. This is partly the fault of prevalent forgery in the Puerh world, but also due to a lack of regulatory standards. Put another way, any unscrupulous vendor can write anything on their packaging that they please. Printing a wrapper and making a production of tea that is labeled “Old Arbor Pure Organic Yiwu” is as easy as visiting a print store – and nobody is there to slap them on the wrist, even if the tea in the wrapper is toxic waste.
- Aged Puerh Tea is Always Better
Although the common belief is that Puer improves with age, this does not translate to a direct old equals good equation. Aged tea has a different character than young Puerh tea, which tends to be stronger and more brash, with potential for strong characteristics of astringency and bitterness. After years of drinking and interacting with Puerh drinkers all over the world, we have encountered drinkers who prefer young tea, middle aged tea, or aged tea. So, while aged Puerh is the goal for many drinkers, it does not necessarily mean that aged tea is better.
- Pretty Leaves Equals Good Tea
Your mother told you never to judge a book by its cover, and visually attractive tea does not always mean good tea. While the look of a leaf can be a sign of quality tea, the proof is in the cup. Don’t be discouraged if you find a leaf with a slightly off color or if a Puerh tea brick does not have full leaves and is made from heavily chopped up material. Puerh tea is an agricultural product and should not be uniform like a row of Oreos in a plastic package. Tea leaves come in all shapes and sizes, and during processing can have variation of exposure to heat and fermentation, as well as breakage. Pretty teas can be both bad and good in the cup, just as ugly teas can often surprise you with how delicious they are!
- There is Only One Way to Store Puerh Tea
Storage of Puerh tea is a process with many variables, the most important of which are temperature, humidity, and surrounding environment. This topic has started some epic debates about “correct” Puerh tea storage, but regardless of which opinions are the loudest, there are many ways to store Puerh tea. Some of the most common iterations in the marketplace are dry storage from Kunming, in Yunnan province and wet (also called traditional or humid) storage from Guangdong province. Different storage conditions yield different results, all of which have their own benefits and drawbacks.