January 4, 2010

Puerh Video Sheds New Light On The Topic Of "Wulong,d" Maocha (maybe)


I found this video and thought it was interesting. Covers most of the history of Puerh as well as some of it,s production. You may have seen this before but I had not. One of the things I found interesting was that at one time evidently it was common practice to pre-ferment the maocha. Yep, you heard correctly, the tea was not ready for consumption until after the leaf had been pre-fermented. So, if this is correct then all the hub bub about pre-fermentation and how the tea may not age properly is a bunch of hooey. This video is about thirty minutes long but it,s somewhere around the seventeen minute mark that this issue is addressed. Those red tinged leaves have never worried me too much, although their are exceptions I usually prefer the taste of the red tinged teas to the pure green. A little rounder, fuller and the astringency seems to be toned down a bit. But I am perfectly aware that this video is not going to change the minds of people who have already made up their mind that this practice is either an accident or the result of producers wanting to make a drink now tea. Let me know what you think. What this tells me is that, take all the "online personalities" opinions and perspective with a grain of salt. The people making these teas have been doing so for a whole lot longer than all us twenty something white boys have been drinking it. Having cakes stacked to the rafters doesnt make you an expert, nor does having a popular blog. But, whatever!


  1. Thanks for the link, Bret. This is actually a subject I've been meaning to address since a few weeks ago--I think the complaining about oxidized pu-erh leaves is paranoid at best, and can be downright annoying as well. If it helps the body of evidence, I've begun paying special attention to the leaves of aged pu-erh I've been drinking lately. Almost all of the aged teas I've tried from the 60's all the way through the 90's have exhibited at least some darkening on some of the leaves; it's tougher to tell once the leaves have darkened with age, but some degree of oxidation is evident in the usual places--leaf edges and splotches in various places around the middle of the leaves. I should post more on this subject soon...thanks again for the link.

  2. Your welcome Zero. Yeah the whole pre-fermentation drama is much ado about nothing I think. If this video is correct in that the traditional puerh production process includes pre-fermentation as a crucial step then does that make the pure green sheng suspect? The "group mentality" of the day is that oxidation of the leaf is somehow a result of untimely handling of the tea or intentionally allowing the oxidation so as to feed the mass market something more palatable. These group mentality topics come and go though and a couple of years from now there will be a whole new issue for everyone to be up in arms about. Looking forward to your findings Zero.

  3. Maybe the paranoia stems from coincidence as coincidentally I have a few cakes that have become completely empty and terrible in just a few short years, and the only characteristic they shared that I could observe was pre-oxidation.

  4. Jeez, I dont know but if judging by what this video explains then it,s the use of less than ideal picking standards that affect how a tea will age. From my own experience Ive had teas that around the 3-5 year mark go thru a phase where there is nothing to be had but with continued aging pull out of their slump. I wonder how old were these teas that went hollow?

  5. I think it's a fine line of how much oxidation is acceptable, but if I'm finding a couple completely reddened leaves I'm not going to be too happy. In regards to Bryan, I'm thinking that aging may be an ebb and flow type of thing, and at some point in time cakes will taste flat, funky, or just completely off.

  6. Yeah, I,m with you there Maitre. How much oxidation is an important factor. The main reason I posted this was mainly because of certain bloggers with very high readership promoting the idea that any oxidation of the leaf is some kinda newfangled fad to make teas more palatable as a drink now tea. Or that the tea was not processed in an appropriate amount of time and there by causing the reddened leaves. Yet according to this video the oxidation of the maocha is a crucial step in insuring the tea ferment properly over time. I think this video is a much more dependable source of CORRECT information than any of the blogs (no matter how popular they are) There is such a mass mentality lately about puerh and how it,s just not the same anymore and blah, blah. But Ive also read that in some peoples opinion (Blenders that have been in the biz for a long time)that modern puerhs are vastly superior to the ones made years ago.The only really drastic change in puerh production is the use of baking machines to dry the finished cakes. And even then I dont think it harmfull as long as it,s a low temperture. Assuming that those criteria are met I would think it would make for a more consistent product. According to this video the most important aspect of the teas ability to age properly is "picking standard" when teas are mass produced, say like Menghai how could they possibly be able to use those standards and still maintain the output of tea that they do? Are Menghais cakes Wulong,d? Not typically but those cakes are the ones I would be doubtfull of, not the pre-oxidised ones. But people will beleive what they want to beleive. I was wanting to put it out there that just because so and so says it doesnt make it true.

  7. Bryan, sorry to hear that some of your cakes aren't tasting so hot. I know as little about long-term personal aging as the rest of us, but the evidence I've seen in aged teas that taste good to me is that some degree of oxidation is acceptable, so I'm not going to fret a whole lot if I see some oxidation in younger teas.

    Bret, I wholeheartedly agree that the "oxidation is bad" mantra is becoming one of those things that's "true" just because it's been repeated so many times. You're right too that people will always believe what they want to believe--there isn't really any quantitative way to study oxidation and age-ability as discrete from all the other factors that go into aging, so I don't see a clear answer in sight.

  8. Zero, your right. There will be no answer to this drama. It just buggs me when some people start these kinda issues and as it turns out they had no idea what they were talking about. But because of who they are their word is taken as hard facts. Now, I,m not claiming to have any hard truths and they shouldnt either.

  9. hi,

    nice post, it reminds me of the one MarshalN did about "information".

    point is, alot of guys started to drink tea for the sake of having a blog and posting on it rather than out of any deep interest in tea. So when someone with some real experience with tea consuming (I mean, starting way before that "blog bubble"), these online followers will tend to take his word for The Trend, even though he was just expressing a personal feeling and not necessarily willing to tell a Big Truth.
    So many online experts have raised in the last year, most of them just collecting "information" via google (or asking those they believe more experienced, and also totally misunderstanding what is said to them). not only in the tea field, by the way. The web is full of culinary experts, marketing experts, linguistics experts, botanics experts, wine experts, you name it experts (and a few assholes too, if you allow such terrible langage).
    We have them in France too :DD
    Funny... but so different from IRL ? not sure. More visible certainly.

    anyway, to come back to tea, I never forget that although I have been exploring chinese tea for a good ten years now, I have never seen a tea bush or tree, or leaf, for real. much less the processings. Besides it would not be enough to just see that (because some guy lives in China or Taïwan it does not mean he does not utter a lot of bullshit, perticularly if he has a sales agenda).
    The amateur's "job" is not the processing part, it is the brewing part (continuance of a certain processing though). Which is not so bad after all, and leaves quite a lot to do. of course we get curious about "how they do it", but we have our limits.

    As for the "wulonging story", it maybe that it is partly correct but partly only. You see, if you think about torrefaction, some stale teas are retorrefacted as a trick, but there is the art of torrefaction, which is not purposed for refreshing leftovers. It just occurred to me that any process could be used astray. It then takes someone with solid experience and/or references to tell between levels of quality.

  10. Very interesting discussion. Thanks to all for the varying perspectives. Open discussions like this really provide a great opportunity to learn.

    Bryan -
    I hope you did not throw away that tea that seemed to go empty in a few years. If so, please send me all of your future flat teas. I would like to keep them for a few more years and see what happens.

  11. Howdy Steve, Thanks for reading.

  12. Hi Flo, Thanks for the input. Your right in that everybody is an "expert" online anyways. The expert in question is actually a very enjoyable read and also very informative. Nothing personal against him at all, it,s just that it annoys me when I see the other readers clinging to his every word. Kinda like the Wizard of Oz when the curtain is pulled back. He,s just another guy who passionately loves tea but should maybe think twice before he writes something. It,s one thing to express an opinion, as long as it,s presented as just that, an opinion. As for the pre-oxidation drama, of course we have no way to prove any of this one way or the other. Personally I dont care if the tea has been "wulong,d" as long as I like the tea thats all I care about. But now I feel that Ive repeated my stance enough times that to say anything further would be redundant so lets just leave it at that. Thanks for reading Flo, it,s nice to hear from new people.