A handfull of planters, scattered in the north provinces of Thailand, and belonging to the Shan, Akha or Lisu tribes produce a tea style Pu-ehr – also named postfermented or dark tea-, according to the oral traditions, by plucking tealeaves from wild teabushes in the surrounding forests.
For these tribes, manufacturing tea and especially this kind of tea, is an old tradition as the forest has always been considered a special place to harvest plants and herbs.
Nowdays, the manufacturing of this tea style follows more or less the Chinese process of production, with some changes as a result of farmer’s habits or decisions. Both kind of postfermented teas are produced : the Sheng and the Shou type. This production is possible twice a year in spring and autumn.
What is a postfermented tea or Pu-Ehr tea ?
Post fermentated tea is typically made in the following two steps. First the manufacturing of the tea and then the process of Aging. In the process of aging, microbial fermentation and oxidation of the tea leaves take place, after it has been dried and rolled.
There are 2 categories of postfermented teas : The Shu Pu-Ehr is the one where the tealeaves are compressed and mature slowly with time. It can be compared to wine which matures with time and gets the name of vintage wine . On the contrary, the Shou Pu- Ehr is a fast and accelerated process of maturing the tea.
It is communly known, that postfermented teas are the speciality of the Chinese Yunnan province and especially of a town called Pu-Ehr which gave its name to this tea family.
The tea style Pu-Ehr Sheng 2014 I tasted, is with long leaves, which are quite fine but a little mixed in size, whith colors ranging from silver grey to olive and some silvery tips. The liquor is quite smooth, a little lacking but with a reasonable balance of sweetness and greenish tinge.
The tea style Pu-Ehr Shou 2014 is a very mixed leaf with a lot of stalks. The leaves are quite black with some brown shining particels. Its nose evokes the smell of the humid earth with an extra moisture.
The liquor is very aromatic and even sweet without astringency. The most detectable notes you may find during the tasting will be leather and mouldness notes.
As the production of this tea family is quite confidential in Thaïland, don’t be surprise if you cannot manage to obtain one of them.