Is Puerh tea?

Now that we are starting to get the nitty gritty on Puerh production, involving yeasts and beasties and all, this question seems legitimate. Wine isn't grape juice, cheese isn't milk, bean paste isn't beans -- they are all just made from these. So I ask: Is Puerh tea or only made from tea?
--crymad
Reply to
crymad
Dear Crymad:
Pu-Erh is tea because wine,cheese all are mixed with something else but Pu-Erh is only made from tea leaves and the rest are natural processing.
On the other hand Pu-Erh is not a tea. Now a days most of the Pu-Erh teas are chemically aged so except properly aged green processed Pu-Erh, rest of them are not real tea.
My dear RDFT readers please don't make this comment as a hot issue. That's the fact about most of the Pu-Erh available around us, so crymad is right.
Ripon Vienna,VA
Reply to
Ripon

But wine can be made by just crushing grapes and allowing the juice to mingle with the naturally occurring yeasts in the dusty coating on the skins. And don't raw milk cheeses rely on naturally occurring bacteria to curdle the milk? Granted, wine and cheese in their contemporary forms undergo a much more embellished processing. But this wasn't the case for the peasant farmers who made wine and cheese for generations prior.
My point of contention isn't the virtues of natural processing over artificial processing. Rather, it's the question of Puerh's actual status as tea itself. Puerh starts as tea, but microbiology transforms it into something altogether different. It is, to borrow a phrase, tea's leap to immortality.
--crymad
Reply to
crymad
Hi Crymad,
I agree. But in the same series "tea isn't camellia leaves". It's not only for Puer, but the word "tea" is used for a product obtained after a transformation of the natural leaves. I've never seen a tea that was just dried leaves (like my grand-ma would let mint and "tilleul" dry under the sun to make herb tea in Winter). And well, white teas too have a bacterial transformation. If you look at it, you'll have to say none are "tea"...
As you want... But as that's one of the most ancient way to process tea, and it was called "cha" long before most the other teas. I'd say if you want to differenciate names, keep calling the Puerh one tea/cha/the...and invent a word for the others.
Kuri
Reply to
cc

Perhaps. But Puerh's unique post-fermentation seems to put it in a class by itself. It is a product obtained after a transformation of a transformation of natural leaves.
Puerh's rich history is not in question. Though we must remember that Shen Nong's legendary First Tea was brewed from leaves falling from the sky, not scooped from the moist earth. At any rate, my own personal revolt on this taxonomic front will be simply to call Puerh "undrinkable".
--crymad
Reply to
crymad
There is no clear distinction between "changed product" and "product made of change". is wine fermented grape juice or is it "wine"? One may start drawing lines and percentages, but IMHO the USAGE makes easier definition. We use wine, vinegar, bean paste, cheese differently than juice, milk, soybean, for different purposes. But pu-erh is a "tea" the same way C. Sinensis tea and floral tea are "teas" - i.e. something that is a natural herb that is steeped and drunk as a general drink. But if the fermentation would have changed C. Sinensisi leaves into something that we would use differently (say as a dip) it would not be a tea, even if the change would be dismal.
Alex.
Reply to
Alex Chaihorsky

Classifying by usage is appealing. But it doesn't hold up completely. Cabbage and sauerkraut, for example. Different products, but both are simply eaten.
--crymad
Reply to
crymad
Bad example. Sauerkraut is "acid cabbage" translated from German. So its a same cabbage just prepared differently. We just didn't bother to translate it in English here. You wouldn't claim that fried chicken is not chicken, would you?
Alex.
Reply to
Alex Chaihorsky
Just because the leaves are processed differently than other tea leaves does make it any less of a tea in my book. Other teas undergo processes like fermentation, oxidation, enzymatic activity, etc that transform them. The fact is that most teas are manipulated somewhat during processing as opposed to simply dehydrating the leaf. All black (red) teas, oolongs, etc are transformed, are they not tea? If we eliminate processing transformations from the definition of tea wouldn't we wind up with something close to, or less than, white tea being the only real tea?
The first thing you must decide is what exactly is your definition of tea? The dictionary says tea is.,,,
1: Any infusion or decoction, especially when made of the dried leaves of plants; as, sage tea; chamomile tea; catnip tea.. (so to call it Puerh Cha is perfectly accurate)
2: the dried leaves of the tea plant, often shredded, used to make a drink by adding boiling water. (still fits, Puerh comes from the tea plant and is steeped in boiling water)
3: a tropical evergreen shrub or small tree extensively cultivated in e.g. China and Japan and India; source of tea leaves (still fits, actually a tree in this case not a shrub, and the really good stuff is wild NOT cultivated)
So, according to the dictionary Puerh "is" a tea, and Puerh is also made from tea. Puerh satisfies all of these definitions. Not only does it satisfy the technical definition but IMHO it also satisfies the "intent" or "essence" of the definition.
Now process puerh in other ways, beyond than the original factory processing, as in the case of Kombucha and you do indeed have a case for calling it something else.
On Sun, 11 Jul 2004 13:36:46 -0700, crymad cast caution to the wind and posted:
Mike Petro snipped-for-privacy@pu-erh.net
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Mike Petro

Oxidation and enzymatic activity, yes. But fermentation? On your website, you write:
"One of the main reasons that Puer is so unique is that Puer tea is a living thing! Many different microbes are active during the manufacturing process and the subsequent storage of the puer cakes. Some of these microbes have very short lives and are only present during certain phases of the manufacturing process, while others are predominate throughout the entire life of the tea if properly stored."
Conventional teas -- green, Oolong, black -- are not living things and do not improve with age.
Agreed that all teas are a product of transformation. But as I mentioned before, Puerh is a product obtained after a transformation of a transformation of natural leaves. These are the steps you outline in the production of green Puerh:
1. The leaves are picked by hand, often from very old trees. 2. The leaves are then sorted and any inferior leaves are removed. For example leaves that are broken, started to whither, or have signs of excessive oxidation. 3. Heat is now used to stop the natural oxidation, this is usually done on a hot metal surface 4. The leaves are now rolled to break them up a little bit, although this step is sometimes omitted 5. The leaves are now withered either by sun or heat until roughly 90% of the moisture has been removed. Sun dried leaves are considered the best. 6. The tea is now sorted into 10 different grades, sometimes there a few special grades in addition to the basic 10. 7. The leaves are now steamed and compressed into a variety of shapes. 8. The cakes are then stored in a dry environment to encourage slow oxidation. This is called "Dry Storage" and the puerh that is stored this way is referred to as Dry Storage Puerh.
Tea as we commonly know it is achieved at step 6. It is then transformed into Puerh with the following two steps. I don't suggest that this kind of unscrupulousness goes on, but could a Puerh producer take some green tea from the previous year's harvest and transform it into sellable Puerh but simply subjecting the leaves to steps 7 and 8?
Well, the dictionary has to cover all the bases. We here in this newsgroup aren't willing to grant catnip the status of "tea". And going solely by the dictionary definition, Chardonnay qualifies as "juice".
Right now, I'm leaning towards classifying Puerh as "fermented tea" or "preserved tea". I really feel it's not just plain tea.
--crymad
Reply to
crymad

You discounted the "dictionary" quotes. I agree that maybe those definitions were a little broad in relation to this newsgroup's expectations, we are a persnickety bunch. However my statement still stands - you must decide what exactly is your definition of tea? I cant judge that something is "not" tea if I don't what the definition of tea really is. Puerh satisfies all commonly accepted definitions that I know of. What is your definition?
You quoted my website where I say that puerh is unique and a living thing. It is, so what, that doesn't mean its not tea. Red, white, yellow etc all have slightly different processing methods and are all unique. Are you saying that being "microbiologically dead" is a requirement for tea? If so, I have never heard of that requirement before? Just come down south and analyze the sweet iced tea served in most restaurants here, it is often full of beasties, but its still tea.
For thousands of years puerh has been acknowledged by the Chinese as a tea. The Chinese have not chosen to call it something other than Cha and I think they know best, why should we be different? Yes, it is very unique and that is why it was given its own classification, much like white, green, yellow, red, and oolong all have their own classifications.Since puerh is so esoteric, most people who are actually aware of puerh also at least know that it is unique and somewhat extreme. I see no need, benefit, or purpose in classifying it further. The name "Puerh" in and of itself segregates it from other more commonly consumed teas.
Call it what you want but IMHO it is still tea....
Mike Petro snipped-for-privacy@pu-erh.net
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Mike Petro
Guys,
If you really want to get into this, do the google search on two chinese (actually Wen Yan, ancient literary chinese) phrases ??? and ???? (Puppy is not a dog and White horse is not a horse). The noble shadows of Men Zi, and Lun Zi will be delighted. I like Mike's argument that if Chinese call puerh a tea, so *&$#-ing be it. me, when I am bored with the subject of tea, I'd rather talk about women. :)
Alex.
Reply to
Alex Chaihorsky
I'll try again because I saw that my characters turned into quastion marks: If you do not see them try Unicode UTF-8 encoding.
If you really want to get into this, do the google search on two chinese (actually Wen Yan, ancient literary chinese) phrases ??? and ???? (Puppy is not a dog and White horse is not a horse). The noble shadows of Men Zi, and Lun Zi will be delighted. I like Mike's argument that if Chinese call puerh a tea, so *&$#-ing be it. me, when I am bored with the subject of tea, I'd rather talk about women. :)
Alex
Reply to
Alex Chaihorsky
Hmmm, tried UTF-8, Big5, and GB2312 and none of them seemed to work.
Send them to me in an email please.....
On Mon, 06 Sep 2004 09:21:10 GMT, "Alex Chaihorsky" cast caution to the wind and posted:
Mike Petro snipped-for-privacy@pu-erh.net
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Mike Petro

How's this:
Leaves of the Camellia Sinensis that have been picked, subjected to a range of oxidation -- from complete (black), to partial (Oolong), to not at all (white and green) -- and then dried or fired prevent further oxidation and deterioration.
I would say that tea should display qualities typical of agricultural products: Freshness that diminishes with age and deteriorates with exposure to moisture, light, and air.
The liquid beverage, perhaps. But certainly not the dried tea leaves from which it is made.
This doesn't make an impression on me. The Japanese call infusions of dried barley "mugi-cha", and infusions of salted konbu kelp "konbu-cha". Do the Chinese use "cha" exclusively for Camellia Sinensis?
--crymad
Reply to
crymad
I meant to ask you again to elaborate a bit on the making of Puerh. Once again, the steps you detail in its production:
1. The leaves are picked by hand, often from very old trees. 2. The leaves are then sorted and any inferior leaves are removed. For example leaves that are broken, started to whither, or have signs of excessive oxidation. 3. Heat is now used to stop the natural oxidation, this is usually done on a hot metal surface 4. The leaves are now rolled to break them up a little bit, although this step is sometimes omitted 5. The leaves are now withered either by sun or heat until roughly 90% of the moisture has been removed. Sun dried leaves are considered the best. 6. The tea is now sorted into 10 different grades, sometimes there a few special grades in addition to the basic 10. 7. The leaves are now steamed and compressed into a variety of shapes. 8. The cakes are then stored in a dry environment to encourage slow oxidation. This is called "Dry Storage" and the puerh that is stored this way is referred to as Dry Storage Puerh.
Is it conceivable that Puerh can be made using tea from the previous year's harvest? Or perhaps made using tea that was originally a finished product; that is, unsold green tea that was intended to be drunk as-is?
--crymad
Reply to
crymad
I have NEVER heard of turning left over unsold tea into puerh.
I have seen a certain amount of time elapse from the time the tea was picked before the tea was processed into puer. I was talking to my Chinese mentor via video conference and he showed me some dried green leaf that he was considering to make into puer. The leaves had obviously been dried, they were very long and flat, it was obvious that they had been processed (maybe pre-processed) but the leaves looked unlike any processed tea I had ever seen. He said he was evaluating the tea leaves for incorporation into his next set of custom cakes. He said he would pick several varieties of leaves and once he selected the proper blend he would send them to a factory to be produced according to his specifications. I have no idea how old these dried leaves were, I got the impression that they had been recently harvested. After seeing leaves in this state it is conceivable that leaves could be from last years crop and made into puer this year. I have no idea how long leaves can be stored in this state. I have seen cakes advertised that claimed to have been processed into puer in 2004 from 2003 crops.
Mike Petro snipped-for-privacy@pu-erh.net
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Mike Petro
It seems to me that you are attempting to redefine tea to represent a meaning of your own personal preference. The Chinese people have called Puerh "TEA" for thousands of years, it seems to me that it would be kind of arrogant for Westerners to come in now and redefine it. After all it is a product of their culture, not ours!
I think we are going to have to agree - to disagree - on this one....
Mike Petro snipped-for-privacy@pu-erh.net
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Mike Petro

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