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Loose leaf Pu'er tea 普洱散茶

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Alex_Hart

I was stressed this weekend as I just took my HSK, and even more stressed after I finished the test. Reading your posts, however, acts much like a nice cup of tea (or a nice bottle of beer!) and relaxes me. Thanks for all your efforts, abcd.

 

I'm jealous of your market. I've now made two trips to Shanghai (a short one hour ride on the 高铁) in order to buy tea and I question why it would be included in a list of tea markets alongside Kunming. I doubt very much that the main tea market there surpasses 300 shops, many of which are extremely wide-ranging in their tea choice (green and black and puer all on the same shelf). I had luck finding one lovely lady from 武夷 who mostly had Wulongs and was happy to drink tea with two of us for almost two hours. I had already made my purchase, but she kept chatting and sharing teas. As she was fluent in Japanese, we were soon joined by a Japanese man who lived in the neighborhood and she gave us a long speech on the characteristics of Chinese tea that attract Japanese customers and insisted on brewing a fresh tea to elaborate on every point: "this is a flavor they won't like because..", "this is a flavor they will like because..", "this tea is suitable for their palates, but the color is bad for them because..." By the end, we were all desperate to use a bathroom and catch our trains, and she realized she was late to go home and prepare dinner for her kid. Still, even she had nowhere near the selection of wulong compared to your range of puer choices!

 

The 生 looks gorgeous. How common is blending pu'er? I often drank blended greens with flowers in Chengdu (teacher said to help dissipate the wet heat), but was really surprised to have a tea house owner share a blended shu with us once - I have no idea what it was blended with (definitely not flowers!), but it was really delicious. She said she blends teas herself mostly for fun, and wouldn't have shared it with us except that I mentioned I had just returned from Yunnan.

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abcdefg
On 6/12/2017 at 6:16 PM, Alex_Hart said:

How common is blending pu'er?

 

It's not very common. Don't think I've run into it before. The purists wrinkle up their noses at the very idea.

 

Yunnan does make some of its own jasmine tea, blending a mild green tea from far south Xishuangbanna and jasmine flowers from Guanxi. Also I've seen tea in stores that offered Pu'er and rose buds, but have not tried it. I think it is mostly aimed at tourists.

 

Making top grade flower teas is really pretty difficult. It's much more than just mixing tea leaves with flowers. For example, for jasmine tea, flowers and tea leaves are layered, five or six layers deep, and then allowed to stand together over just a little bit of heat for just the right amount of time. It's easy for something to go wrong.

 

Flower teas also get a bad name because they are often mainly sold to people who don't care much about tea at all. The typical jasmine tea buyer is not sophisticated. So the tea leaves that are used may not be the best; and the flower smell is often purposely made too strong so as to cover other flaws. I would hasten to add that excellent jasmine tea exists, but it's difficult to find.

 

About the wholesale markets, I have not been to any in Shanghai. The two big ones here are both fabulous. Apparently they sell to all of SE Asia as well as to most of China. Yunnan teas are prized in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam. Malaysia and Indonesia grow some tea of their own, and import some from Sri Lanka, but Kunming still gets a piece of that market as well.

 

The wholesale tea market in Guangzhou is huge and impressive. I've been there several times. Pretty sure they have a wider range of teas, with many from Fujian, Anhui, Guizhou, and Guangxi.

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Teasenz

I think besides the grading already discussed, you've the 'gu shu' (古树) which are picked from wild trees. These are then classified into how old they are and from which mountain region.

 

@abcdefg how is the pu erh market affected by the eCommerce boom in recent years? Blending stuff with pu erh is pretty cool btw, I often use Osmanthus flowers after steeping pu erh pure for about 4 rounds. It works really well to reactive the pu erh flavour.

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abcdefg
18 hours ago, Teasenz said:

how is the pu erh market affected by the eCommerce boom in recent years?

 

That's something I don't really know, not being in the business. In the physical marketplace, like where I reported on visiting last week, some of the stores are little more than small warehouses, stacked high with large cardboard boxes full of tea. Once when walking around there with one of my friends who was a tea pro, I asked about it. She said it was because lots of these places did almost all their sales by means of the internet and they didn't really care about having a "brick and mortar" presence.

 

Thanks for the tip about using osmanthus flowers with Pu'er. I'll try that soon.

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Teasenz
3 hours ago, abcdefg said:

She said it was because lots of these places did almost all their sales by means of the internet and they didn't really care about having a "brick and mortar" presence.

 

 

I guess another thing is that people who visit the market are more 'rational' tea buyers. They care less about the appearance, and simply judge the tea. It's different from buying more commercial brands.

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