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Pu Er 101

Yufei Weng


Pu Er is the ancient name of a large administrative area of five major cities includes Si Mao and Xi Shuang Ban Na. Pu Er was such a central hub for tea trading in Yun Nan Province that people began calling tea from Yun Nan, Pu Er. The city of Si Mao was restored to its old name, Pu Er, in 2007.


Officially a green tea, Sheng Pu is made in a classic green tea method, but pan-fried at lower temperature to allow some enzyme continue to live in the tea leaves and continue the fermentation process later.


Shou Pu (Cooked Pu) – This is made by fermenting the already made Sheng Pu with added heat and moisture to facilitate “compost” of the leaves with assistance of beneficial microbes, making it a black tea.

Shou Pu is NOT an “artificially aged” Sheng Pu. They are different teas and Sheng Pu aging does not result in Shou Pu.


Both types of Pu Er can be aged. Sheng aging is to complete the enzymatic metabolism of the leaves, eventually becoming similar to red tea. Shou Pu will continue to decompose whilst the the bacteria in the tea continue to break down the leaves.

The desirability of Sheng Pu is directly tied to the age of the tea trees. Highly sought after Pu Er come from trees that are 200-700 years old, planted during Ming and Qing Dynasty, often referred to as da shu cha or gu shu cha. Sheng Pu from newer tea trees planted following traditional practice with prospect for the trees to be independent of human and become big trees are called xiao shu cha. A majority of the Pu Er made from newly planted bush tea trees in high density are called tai di cha. Organic Pu Er is referred to as converted tai di cha.

Though pressed Pu Er is common, both kinds are sold as loose leaves as well. Traditional pressed Pu Er are in shapes of cakes and bowls. Standard cake weight is 357grams.


Like all Chinese tea, location where the tea trees grow matters a lot. Prices for Pu Er tea produced in different mountains vary greatly.

Wu Liang Shan – Ai Lao Shan (Jing Dong): least pricy
Lin Cang – Meng Ku: trending   
Meng Hai – Meng La (Ban Na):15 famous tea mountains, pricy

Old Six Ancient Mountains New Nine Ancient Mountains
East of Lan Cang River West of Lan Cang River
You Le Nan Nuo Shan
Mang Zhi Pa Sha
Ge Deng He Kai
Man Zhuan Bu Lang Shan
Yi Bang Xiao Meng Song
Man Sa (Yi Wu) Da Meng Song
Ba Da
Man Nuo
Jing Mai