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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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The chance routes to the nature and health – Free Tea Program

Pouring free tea into cups - Free Tea Program
Enjoy a tea party – Photograph by Oriento

The longer I live the more confident I believe there is no free lunch in the world, and this “no free lunch” idea saves me many times from trap, more importantly, it encourages me to do the right thing and focus on it instead of searching for shortcut.

But free tea is different, everyone deserves a chance to meet a cup of good tea. This idea came from a visit. Many years ago like in 2013, we welcomed a visit from US Carthage college students, one of them told me he didn’t know tea can be so tasty as the tea he ever met was terrible. I was shocked to hear this very truth, also it occurs me to think why so many people do not know about tea or like tea.

A good tea is just as easy to understand as cola, you do not need to become a tea professional in order to appreciate it, your tongue, nose can tell.

So it is not about knowledge, then what it is about?

That student’s word has always been circling in my head, when he came to here China and drank a good tea he knew the difference instantly, if he can meet that good tea in United States easily, he may find the tea enjoyment long time ago, in other words all he need is a chance to meet good tea.

From 2013 till now, it’s been a long time and I didn’t see much difference of the situation, to most people tea is still a grandma stuff even many friends around me. 5 years ago I had my first child, if you are parents you must understand how unreasonable I want to protect my kid from hurting by the world, especially the drinks out there, so much sugar and mysterious addictions, I even ever met somebody who drinks cola only and no water at all, sounds terrible but it’s true. Tea is so tasty and a healthy drink, it would be great everyone drinks tea.

So I decided to break the ice, make a Free Tea Program, sure I do not want to break my pocket, the quantity of free tea would be 40 grams or 50 grams only, I hope more and more people try it and let their tea journey have a start.

How this Free Tea Program works?

  1. Every month the chosen free tea will be published, including the specific SKU, buying link and coupon, check back here for new coupon.
  2. Applying the free tea coupon when checkout.
  3. One time each month for everybody, so if you get a free tea in November, you still can get another one in December.
  4. We recommend you create an account when check out for easier all tracking.
  5. Please note the shipping freight is not free.

Spread the word and enjoy!


Updates of 2019 November:

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Tea producing diary 2019

October 18 – Dry and Sunny.

4 Days ago there was a raining happened in the night, we have been waiting for it for over 2 months, that got me excited even more than The NBA Finals, I can imagine how happy of the land the plant as well as the grass there in the garden.

Location:Caixi, Juxi village, Long Juan town, Anxi county, Fujian province China
Elevation:750m
Temperature:30°C
Humidity:60%
Varietal:Tieguanyin Iron Goddess
Plucking time:13:00
Night tumbling – Photograph by D.C.

1. Withering

Fresh leaves arrived on 14:00 after 3 pluckers’ hard work, it’s not delivered to the factory actually to a 100+ years old house surrounded by mountains and big trees. This old house has been abandoned for many many years, even no family live nearby, just him sits here with clean air and bird singing. This house belongs to a friend’s relatives, quite complex aha but this relationship not just works but very helpful especially in the countryside. We regret to drive our car to be here, this is a very primitive road, the roadside grass gently touch our car just as a lover when we drove slowly, it’s better to use motorcycle.

A cloth was unfolded on the ground just in front of the old house, 28 kgs fresh raw tea leaves laid on the cloth for sun withering, it’s in the deep mountain and altitude is high, the temperature decreased quite quickly, only about 28°C, after 30 minutes, it even decreased to 25°C, at this time the first leaf was a bit soft but not others, them temperature can not hold deeper withering so we got them into the house.

2. Tumbling

As the sun withering is not enough so we made a light first tumbling, put the leaves into a rolling round basket for 5 minutes so the leaves can collide with each other as well as the basket wall, the surface of leaves will be broken and gets some chemical reaction with the air. We call it Yao Qing or Shaking or Dancing, that’s the unique craft differ Oolong from green/black tea.

We didn’t use air conditioner to control the temperature, I believe the clean air in high mountain has a spirit that can refresh the tea inside. Besides it’s an old house, not many equipments available, we need to follow the most traditional way by in use of the nature. The reason we came here instead of a modern factory it’s quite simple, I have a friend who want to learn tea making all by hands. There is a rumor in programming:

Lazy one can make better programming.

Also there is a found the “boring can evoke children’s imagination” while all commands kill creativity. Here in this old house we can be ourself, ask questions, resolve the problem.

The first tumbling is in order to make the moisture of leaf even, as the sun withering will let the leaf lose more moisture than the stem, right now they are fair again.

14:40 House withering begins

After several minutes even was broken as the air permeability of leaf and stem is different, leaves are put onto the bamboo tray with 5cm high, the leaves need to breath so do not stack too thick. The moisture in stems will flow to the leaf so make it hardish again.

Sit still for about 1.5 hours until the green color of leaf become darker while the edge turn lighter green, grassy decreased and a bit of flavor available, then it’s ok to continue for the second tumbling.

15:10 Tumbling goes to 2nd time

Based on the 1st tumbling, the preparation for moisture migration is ready. This time the real exercise begins, so the tumbling would be heavier than previous one, it’s about 27 RPM, this tumbler is over 30 yrs old that can not adjust the rate however it works pretty well. So we decided to make a longer time as 10 minutes.

We just watched its play, like a slow movie, every round it makes a noise, something like old wood going to break down but it makes it every time. I was happy to have this music with us. We did not have time to appreciate the insect’s song outside, even they were trying to please us with different rhythm.

Ten minutes was so short, finally the gate of tumbler was opened, we dig our heads into these hero leaves, they relived with full of blood, a little grassy, leaf tip cocks up, you can see it’s in a state of excitement. Now better to put them back to the bamboo tray for a rest.

15:30 House withering again for 2.5h

Time is miracle that can get you a lot of shows. Slowly the leaf gets soft again, the moisture in the leaf ran away to have a tryst with someone we do not know. There was a bird outside, he seems quite like the rearview mirror of car, jumps up and down, maybe he hasn’t seen mirror, maybe he is just a kid, he was kind of shy that tried to hide when I looked at him. Let him play, I think. After about 5 minutes you finally fly away, I didn’t know he made some white shit on the mirror 🙂

Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The leaves start to have a little flowery aroma, we were so excited to find this. After a long voyage, finally to saw a bit light of lighthouse from the afar. The leaf became soft again and back curved, the green color turned lighter and you can see the edge got a bit of red. When the grassy smell stepped down, that’s the show time again.

18:10 Tumbling goes for red

This is the most important time for aromatics conversion, red edge formation happens massive here. The round bamboo cage shaking was kind of wild at this time, so as the grassy smell, it needs to be as heavy as possible, step into the climax of Symphony. Moisture in the stems flows to leaf and make it stiff until the whisper appear.

We were strange people, bend over and attach our nose/ears as close as possible to the tumbler, at that moment I am sure I meditated like a great monk with a blank yet clear mind. It’s in the deep mountain and it’s October, I didn’t realize the sun back home so soon, the cold air seems has more power with the help of darkness, it’s a bit chilly but I know the leaves are on hot dancing, present every possible posture they can, their happiness eventually will become the sweetness and aromatic, I dare not to move a finger in case of interrupting them.

But we have to stop them, checking their edge how red it is. After 40 minutes shaking, unfortunately we didn’t get what we were looking for. The sun withering wasn’t heavy enough, we did not luck to have enough sunshine. “Well begun is half done”, now we can not agree more. The options we have is to make greenish common tea or continue for longer tumbling for great traditional legacy tea. We chose the difficult one.

Another 10 minutes? Ok, how is it, still not enough? let’s make another 5, all right 5 minutes again, finally we got the aroma, although the red edge area not ideal yet we gotta to make call it off, I know they have done their best and exhausted quite lot. Anyway we can make it a bit right by piling longer time in the end.

19:20 Heroes rest as house withering

Leaves were put back onto bamboo tray, as high as 10cm, the thicker the better but not the center part in order to prevent temperature of leaves flying too high. Right this time we were kind of free, we stepped out of the house, darkness suddenly hit us totally, barely see anything but cold clean night air, slowly naughty stars emerge more and more, they are shinning bling bling and they are so many there, they look so pure that totally different from the city sky, we were lucky to be touched.

A small episode at 5:10am

The leaves stay on the tray for long time house withering, finally we can have a rest but I woke up at 5:10am, it’s blindly dark here, I decided to check them out. When I went out my room, I hear a song nearby, a very quiet song, I 100% confirmed no song in day time and no one live around, might that be ghost singing?

Next morning our host came from the village at the foot of mountain, he invited me to see his chickens, his motorcycle driving skill is excellent, when we got there I found that song again, he said it’s for his chickens.

06:30 Tumbling goes to the final time

The fourth time tumbling is for aroma, no need to be too strong, we made it 4 minutes and pile it up to increase the oxidization, when the aroma hits the peak and has about 20% red area, that’s the time for stopping oxidization.

Killing green for stopping oxidization

There is a big oven in the old house, the oven is old too, over 30 years old but still looks shining. We used bamboo for firing. In Chinese culture, bamboo has very unique character, clean and integrity. Using bamboo can help tea get its nice aroma too. Although in the beginning there was too much smoke but when you see that smoke float in the sky with big trees, everybody’s mind is free at that time. We knew we had made something special.

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Tea tour is a drug

Puer tea producer Mr. Zhao Tian

All life is an experiment, the more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Believe it or not, you will love it more than you thought after that travel, as you will jump into tea and have really true feelings about tea, the tea world will open to you instantly.

A friend ever complained that she still doesn’t GET Puer although had steeped so many Puer teas for so many years, I said “maybe all you need is a Yunnan tea travel, leave the city you are living everyday and lay down the love and hate there. In the wild Yunnan, with new people, new air, you will get more than tea after speaking to the local farmer and that ‘more’ might be the key to a new world.”

We people are human beings not robot, we can try to understand the world by reading but not everything is built on papers or numbers especially when talking about tea, we need to touch it, feel it then get it into our body.

I still can remember how humble of our host in Nan Nuo Mountain, you will not think of hospitable or welcoming that normally we encounter, he was just there with you naturally without any extra polish, like the tree stand with the tree, I feel calm and very comfortable. He belongs to Ani People, a branch of Hani People. In my idea, he is not a very good tea producer but absolutely a good cooker, his mom was plucking tea in their forest, like any mom she has a very sweet big smile when talking about his son, “he is kind of lazy.” without any blame, we can feel the proudness and love. We met a simple yet beautiful soul.

A cat walk in the old tea forest.
Cat walking in old tea forest

Food is a gift for tea man

Speaking of cooking, not just book, house or language can represent a culture, food also can be a very nice ambassador or even a better one. “Do not eat too much.” that’s my warning words when out for a tea travel.

If there is good tea, there must have good food.

Daniel XX H

The nature is very generous if we treat her well, all kinds of mushrooms, wild vegetables etc, all so charming, the processing can be very simple, actually it is, most of the meals I had on the tea travel are not complexly cooked, it’s just tasted so good. It’s very difficult to have such kind of food in the city.

Cook egg with fresh tea leaves
Cook eggs with fresh Puer tea leaves

Pick some tea leaves, an iron pan, several eggs and a little salt, fire it up with dried branches, drinking tea alongside while wait for the tea egg, what I can assure you is this is really a different egg.

Know tea by eating

Have you ever seen somebody use hot water wash apples? This might be odd, yes this was very odd to me when the first time I saw a foreigner do this, now I get it even suggest foreign tea friends don’t eat not-cooked food or drink local raw water, like the old Chinese saying indicates, “The unique features of a local environment always give special characteristics to its inhabitants.”

Let’s take chilli as an example, in Wuyi Mountain people prefer to spicy food as this can help them survive through cold winter. Also regarding meal, you will always get large, this is connected to its enthusiastic and simple folkways. Thus you will not surprised they chose the traditional charcoal roasting for rock tea to get much stronger, more complex tasting while in the south of Fujian, Anxi county evolved into a lighter greener version of iRON Goddess of Mercy.

Actually in a lot of tea production areas, people do not say “drink tea” instead they say “eat tea”, another reason to this tradition is to local people tea is a must for human body just as important as food.

Pay more for tea

This might sound stupid but it’s really really true, a friend ever took a tea travel with me to Wuyi Mountain, actually we went to an unknown area that just neighbor to Tong Mu Guan that belongs to another city, almost no tourist there, undeveloped forest and lake, old wooden houses and wild tea plants, they all just sit there, some tea plants have serious damage by insects but don’t worry, it will go away when the summer leave, no human intervention at all.

The view there is gorgeous, people are nice but their tea processing skill is not as good as it should be, still we bought the tea with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I asked my friend why he made that order, he said:”It’s just all damn beautiful!”

Besides it’s a huge fun to cup all teas that got from the travel with friends, agree? 🙂

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Can’t complete purchase because cart empty

Drive in Yunnan

Maybe you encountered an error while tried to make an order here, that just can not complete the buying while checkout and shows “Your cart is empty”, this problem happened between July 5 – 11 and fixed on July 12.

Sorry for this inconvenience as at that time I was in Yunnan for a tea travel, you know sometimes in the deep mountains of Yunnan that over 2000m high just can not get access to internet.

I figured out the problem, it’s about the Cache System, we use Opcache to accelerate PHP and Memcached to store SQL queries, the Cart page might be cached accidentally so always tell you it’s empty, so I purged all cache and switch the WordPress cache plugin from WP Super Cache to W3 Total Cache to have a better control of exception cached page. As we build this online shop all by ourselves, the manual is open sourced and freely available on Github repository.

Actually it’s someone submitted our contact form to report this issue or we will not get it until our business fall down, no words can express our appreciation, thank you Thomas and Brandon, you saved my ass.

I know you guys love tea as much as we do, thank you is not enough, offering good tea is not enough too, I will try to post the background and stories as frequently as possible and YouTube maybe, all can help to understand the tea a bit better and more possibilities to enjoy it. “No secrets hidden.” you got our promise, using mystery to fool you is out of our line.

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How to plant tea seeds in Belgium

Sprouting from tea seeds

As we offer tea seeds randomly,
this guide might be helpful to let your tea plant dream come true,
as it tells you how to survive in cold winter not just in Belgium.

Two kinds of tea seeds:
One from drinkable tea, that is Camellia Sinensis, this is the one we will talk;
One is Oil tea, latin name is Camellia Oleifera Abel, it’s for extracting oil.

Continue reading How to plant tea seeds in Belgium

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Tea fantasy – 7 days in Anxi

Next month my Chicago brother Jiaoshou will visit China to stay with us for a week. He has plans to open a tea class at his college. The plan is for us to spend the whole week in Anxi county exploring tea, but there are no details yet. What can we do in those seven days?

My first thought is that we absolutely must drink the best tea there. There are so many famous tea varieties, all of them excellent, in Anxi. Continue reading Tea fantasy – 7 days in Anxi

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Why we opened this shop…

Spring Sprout

It’s quite simple: we were not happy with the teas available on the market. It is so difficult to buy a first-rate tea, even when you’re willing to pay a top price. In China the problem is even worse, since so many people know about tea or have connections to a tea farmer, and it is consequently more expensive to buy teas online. Continue reading Why we opened this shop…