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Drying process that affects the flavor of raw pu-erh tea

[2015.05.07] Posted By


Pu-erh tea consists of raw pu-erh tea and ripe pu-erh tea. The tea leaf of raw pu-erh tea is greenish color and the drinking feeling is closer to green tea or white tea. In fact, raw pu-erh tea is technically one kind of green tea. The basic process of both raw pu-erh tea and green tea is the same as described below:

  1. Withering
  2. Pan-frying (Inactivation of Enzyme)
  3. Rolling
  4. Drying

The only difference between green tea and pu-erh tea is the drying method

The difference between green tea and pu-erh tea is the drying method. The green tea is dried with hot air in general, while pu-erh tea is dried under the sun. Thanks to the sunshine drying, it develops distinctive drinking feeling of pu-erh tea.

As for the ripe pu-erh tea, it is microbiologically fermented tea made using raw pu-erh tea as raw material. The ripe pu-erh tea has a shorter history. Its production method was developed in 1970s.


Raw pu-erh tea after the sunshine drying

In making raw pu-erh tea, any tea manufacturer in Yunnan only uses sunshine drying method

I often come across with customer loudly told me that nowadays some tea factories use hot air drying to replace the traditional sunshine drying method. However, it is nothing but incorrect information given by those who have never been to the tea production site. In any occasion, the tea factories have no reason to use hot air drying instead of sunshine drying that cost is zero. If they use hot air drying, it becomes a green tea and moreover the production cost will be very high. In Yunnan, all the tea manufacturers, regardless of big or small scale, use sunshine drying for making pu-erh tea.




Weather is the very important element that affects the flavor of tea

Sunshine drying is the simplest way of drying. However, it often affects the tea quality if the weather is not very ideal. Most of the pu-erh tea production area in Yunnan is located at more than 1000m a.s.l.. During sunny day, tea is dried within half a day. However, tea will remain wet even after been dried for a whole day if the weather is not fine, raining or continuously cloudy. Under the circumstances, tea leaf becomes darker and less shinny. It produces unpleasant odor too. It is just like wet laundry is kept for a whole day during raining day. Once the unpleasant odor is formed, it will not disappear, even after tea is further dried on subsequent day. Therefore, it is very critical to choose the tea produced during the fine weather. Tea must be properly and sufficiently dried under the fine weather.


Raw pu-erh tea under the sunshine drying


The environment to conduct sunshine drying is also important. In this photo, the tea leaf was placed at the road side for drying. From my point of view, it is not the ideal environment.

We select tea before blending

In a day, the manufacturer produces many batches of tea. It is because of each frying-pan can only accommodate very small quantity of tea leaves. Moreover, day by day the drying condition of tea leaves vary a lot. The quality of tea is mostly affected by the weather condition and the tea master frying skill. So usually the standard practice is that the manufacturer continuously producing the 1st plucked tea for about a week, and then all batches are blended in order to even out the quality. Since we are very particular about the condition of tea leaf, we always make sure select individual batch of tea before the blending is conducted. That is the reason why we always has to be at the production site even before the tea production is started. We have to put emphasis on the tea manufacturer so as not to blend the different batches of tea.

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