Robertwolf1 wrote:When looking at buying some are they labeled either shu or sheng? If not what do those words mean.
Vendors will usually tell you, or put the cakes in separate categories.. in English, these will usually be something like "raw", "green", or "uncooked" for sheng, and "ripe" or "cooked" for shu (ripe is really a better approximation of the meaning of shu in this context). If the type is written on the cakes, they will most likely just have the Chinese characters for 生 (shēng) or 熟 (shú) on them. You can also usually tell by the color and taste of the tea broth, and by the look of the wet leaves. Modern ripe cakes are usually ripened pretty aggressively, so it's typically not that hard to tell by looking at (or smelling) the dry leaf either.
has some good close-ups of cakes, and on many of them, you can see the 生 character very clearly (fortunately, this is a pretty easy character to recognize).
By the way, just in case anyone was wondering how to say these words, "shēng" is pronounced sort of like "shung" (maybe a tiny bit towards "sheung"), with the tongue curled back further in the mouth than with a western sh sound, with a high flat tone, and "shú" is pronounced like "shu" with the same sh sound a rising tone. That's standard mandarin, but a lot of Mandarin speakers (especially Southern Chinese and Taiwanese) say the 'sh' sound as closer to just a straight 's' sound ('sung' / 'sue'). They also may pronounce it closer to "show" or "so" (phonetically) than "shoe".