Terms Clarification


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Terms Clarification

Postby needaTEAcher » Nov 8th, '11, 02:19

:?: Shou vs Sheng, and wet vs dry. :idea: Here is my understanding, and my confusions. Please help!

Sheng-Raw (traditional? not oxidized? fermented?)

Shou-Cooked or Ripe (newer method, oxidized and then fermented?)

Wet-storage style, established in the 70s in Hong Kong, in which the environment is significantly more humid that it traditionally has been, which ages the tea faster, but can also cause too much mold (unhealthy) and even ruin the taste

Dry-storage style, in which the conditions are less humid, leading to a slower maturation but usually "better".

I have read that the best method is a skilled blend of the two, preferably cyclical and seasonal. I mention wet and dry because of my confusion as to shou and sheng. I know that at some point in the 70s, a new process was introduced that sped up the aging process. Is this wet storage or is this shou? Has puerh always been split into sheng and shou? Does shou turn into sheng (I think not, since i am drinking 1988 shou as we speak)?

So what is the difference between how sheng and shou are processed, and why is there this split? Are both traditional? What is the method created in the 70s that made it possible to age puerh faster, but at a price, shou or wet?

Thanks, as always!
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needaTEAcher
 
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Re: Terms Clarification

Postby wyardley » Nov 8th, '11, 04:03

That's a long question; hopefully I can clarify things a bit rather than make them more complicated.

Ripe (shu / "cooked") pu'er first started to be produced / sold in large quantities in the 70s. I have heard several reliable sources say that ripe pu'er was produced before then; just not as widely sold. From what I understand, it's somewhat based on the processes to make a few types of hei cha. But in any event, for the most part, it's safe to say that there is not much or any shu pu'er before the early - mid 70s. And tea is either produced as sheng (btw, the vowel is more like 'uh' than 'eh') or shu, and one does not become the other. Shu pu'er can be thought of as an attempt to mimic the results of how sheng tastes after years of aging.

I don't know how far back intentional wet storage goes, but I think it's pretty safe to say that pu'er was stored under fairly humid conditions well before the 1970s. In any event, whatever it means to you, so-called wet storage (aka "traditional storage") is not a production method - the method used to make ripe tea is part of the production process. Both ripe and raw pu'er can be "wet-stored". The concept of "dry storage" is a fairly recent thing, I think dating to the early or mid 90s. That's not to say that there isn't tea from before then that's been stored in a natural environment. But most of the places where pu'er was stored in large quantities are fairly humid.

Anyway, lots of threads about storage here to read through. See, for example, this one Also, some great articles on storage in the last few issues of Art of Tea Magazine.

Neither raw nor ripe pu'er should have much or any oxidation to start with - the raw tea base (maocha) has kill-green done on it before oxidation occurs, much like a green tea. There are some pu'ers produced nowadays that are said to be slightly (intentionally) oxidized to make them more drinkable while young, or you might see a small amount of red in the leaf from less than perfect kill-green. However, I believe that there is both oxidation and post-fermentation that occurs, whether the tea is ripened or ages naturally. Other than the "wodui" process (piling the tea in a controlled environment, covered with mats), the production of raw and ripe tea is the same.

Perhaps this flow chart will explain it better:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Teaprocessing.svg
and see also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh_tea#Production
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