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A brief history of ripe Puer tea

“Holy shit, it’s on the ground.” After so many years, still can remember the feeling that saw how to make the Ripe Puer in the factory, it’s a huge factory and hundred tons of teas just sat on the cement floor. What will you think when you get this picture?

Actually it’s the right way to do it as long as it’s clean. For making ripe Puer, the floor must be draughty bare and have good water absorbency, the best material is black brick, you can see this from walls or palace built thousand years ago. The second best also affordable option is cement.

The first moment I was there, there was a question in my head, “couldn’t they use something to let the teas do not touch the ground? for example a piece of wood?” Later I learned the quantity of the tea they used for making ripe Puer one time is about 5 – 20 tons, normally 10 tons, that’s 10,000 kilo grams, besides the teas are not just sit there, they need to be flipped over 4-5 times, like a elephant dances and it’s difficult to let it dance on that piece of wood.

1974, the first ever cup of ripe Puer arrived

You may heard a lot that Ripe Puer was invented by Ms. Wu Qi Ying in Kunming Tea Factory. That’s documented officially, in 1973 Kunming Tea Factory together with Xiguan Tea Factory and Menghai Tea Factory, 7 tea masters took a visit of Guangdong Tea Company to learn Puer tea post-fermentation, then back to their factory and kept researching.

In that era of China, the electronic communication was very poor, these 7 tea researchers barely no communication after back home, so each developed very unique different style product.

  • Menghai Tea Factory has the highest fermentation.
  • Xiaguan Tea Factory gets a little sour product which Japanese loves it very much.
  • Kunming Tea Factory has no shining character but balanced.

There is a reason they developed so different style, besides these 7 tea masters had no communication, it is about their different location.

Speaking of humidity, Menghai > Kunming > Xiaguan, and humidity is so important to post-fermentation beside temperature.

Xiaguan is too dry and always windy, so when open the factory gate, the big wind will come in, the tea will be difficult to remove the moisture, like our body after heavy exercise which need to sweat, but can’t if we got blow right away. You may smell that sour if somebody don’t have a shower after that.

1975, ripe Puer officially show up on the market

SKU 7572 might be the most famous Puer product, it’s about 1.05 USD/KG at that time but now as high as 10,000USD/KG, it’s more crazy than bitcoin, today if you ask which stock has the biggest potential, somebody might answer Tesla, personally I like the trend it follows and the fearless spirit of Elon Musk, but even Musk should buy 7572 as an investor.

But firstly he should do his homework and figure out what does this number 7572 mean. This number can be divided into three parts:

  • 75 is the first part indicates the year it’s produced first time
  • 7 is the second part which tells you the grade of raw material
  • 2 is the third part shows out which factory make it

There are 4 factories for that third part:

  • Kunming Tea Factory = 1
  • Menghai Tea Factory = 2
  • Xiaguan Tea Factory = 3
  • Puer Tea Factory = 4

They all belong to Yunnan Local Product & Animal Co., Ltd., in 1975 China had not open yet, all business belonged to the government, you will see a lot of old coding system in China tea history.

1957, informally Ripe Puer invented in Guangdong

According to the China Puer Tea Standard GB/T 22111-2008, only teas come from Yunnan can be named as Puer, then what’s the business with Guangdong? Guangdong is a big province in the Southeast of China, close to Hong Kong, Yunnan sits in the Southwest of China.

Historically even today Guangdong is the biggest consumer market for Puer tea, Fangcun Tea Market is the biggest tea wholesale market in China and most of the teas there over 70% is Puer.

In the early 1950s, Guangdong Tea Import & Export Company was founded, they exported mainly Mao Cha or Raw Puer to Hong Kong and Macao, but they can not eat so much Raw Puer, so the Guangdong Tea Company decided to research Ripe Puer. In 1957 they made a success and have a document about that deal.

You eat and you change, you drink you change the world too.

That’s very true especially in this consumerist society, consumer has the power. Guangdong people loves aged Puer and that aging takes so many years, not so many people has the patience for that waiting or lucky to get one aged Puer.

A certain 10 per cent. will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent. certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., positive audacity; 100 per cent. will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged.

Thomas Dunning

No surprise the tea merchants will try to fulfill the consumers’ desire and created informally Ripe Puer tea nongovernmental. I believe that’s the foundation the Guangdong Tea Company can invented Ripe Puer in so short time.

Puer tea must come from Yunnan? No, it was not.

In Guangdong, they made a lot of Ripe Puer with local varietals, even small leaf varietals, even not sun-drying tea but roasting-drying green tea, but they found sun-drying material makes the best quality. So even you are in the United States and if you have a tea plant you can try to make a Ripe Puer too. No guarantee!!!

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