文 By: 許玉蓮 Hooi Yoke Lien
Puer tea is poised to play a big role after black tea in the tea market around the world. Presently, the increasing number of Puer tea drinkers has pushed up the growth of Puer sale in the market, be it black tea-loving England, Russia and the United States; or green tea-drinking Japan and South Korea.
Green tea was the most popular choice among tea drinkers in China in the earlier days; over time, new trends set in and new varieties, from light fragrant oolong, puer, to fashionable black tea and most recently roasted oolong, have taken over. But what has truly won the favour of Chinese tea drinkers through the ages is, alongside green tea, puer.
In traditional markets such as Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, puer is in the people’s blood – the enjoyment, collection, rise and history of this favorite beverage is passed on, from generation to generation. In those places, puer is a daily necessity.
Puer is endorsed by tea drinkers around the world for various reasons. First, there is such a lot involved in the production, from tea estates to raw materials, fermentation processes and storage methods. The diversified process has brought out the exquisite characteristics of puer, allowing for different styles and a wide range of prices to meet the preference and budget of tea lovers. Secondly, the physical value of puer tends to soar with the passage of time. Furthermore, aged puer carries the memory and experience of the owners, adding to it an emotional value.
The tea industry may further promote the ways of brewing and appreciating puer as it develops the puer tea market. Worthy of a vintage collection, Puer is great for everyday enjoyment, too! As it is made for drinking, puer must be ‘delectable’ – a criterion that can be achieved through different means. Our aspiration would include:
(a) Optimizing the blending technology. Tea leaves from different mountains, grades, regions, seasons, and even oxidized raw materials from previous harvest can be used and, through reasonable blending, produce the best quality of puer. This way, production would increase by many fold, which may in turn create and supply more markets.
Only a handful of puer drinkers could afford Puer of Origin (puer from a single defined area of origin). Let’s get this straight. Every leaf of a single tree is different, and the kind of slopes, tea trees, villages are unique; so is the difference in picking time, workers, grades of raw materials and the seasons. The yearning for Puer of Origin has become a pursuit of luxury. It is this yearning that has pushed the price sky high. The reality is, the price should not be overly high if the tea is made to be an affordable yet good quality beverage for consumption of the general public.
(b) Sharing the storage technique to optimize ageing. Recognize storage as part of the process of yielding great flavor, as puer has to be stored in order to go through mellowing by way of fermentation. The tea’s bitterness and astringency will be toned down towards the end of the aging process. The infusion, bright in colour, has a smooth, rounded flavour. The tea industry would need a sound theoretical basis to garner public confidence in this process.
Storage is key to the unique character of puer. Storage management provides puer a new lease of life. This technique transforms the nature of the tea, releasing an aged aroma and pleasant flavor widely accepted and loved by tea drinkers. More importantly, when this flavor is achieved, the industry will be able to develop their own brands according to individual needs in terms of pricing and quality.
(c) Introducing more old puer tea. Old puer has always been embraced by consumers. Old puer is a pleasure to drink, valuable and comes with wide varieties for selection. As long as there is old puer tea, the market for puer, young and old, will be vibrant.
Puer can be categorized into five generations according to their ‘ages’, namely vintage, old, mid-aged, young and new. Different ages of puer has different styles and tastes, where these characteristics can be further classified into several grades and categories, attracting consumers from all walks of life.
(d) Ushering in the big time for puer tea bag. Besides black tea, puer is one of the teas highly suitable for tea bags, given its large yield and adaptation to oxidation. Good quality tea bags are always welcome by the market.
(e) Creating a new era of seasoned puer tea. Puer is the tea beside black tea that benefits from seasoned flavor without losing its own. Puer goes well with a variety of flowers, herbs and fruits for tea drinks with unique flavour.