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A Beginner’s Guide to Pu’er Tea

Think of walking through a forest in late autumn, a few hours after rain. The smell of wet leaves, moss and rich earth mingle as you scuff the gently decaying leaves.
This is how a good cup of pu’er tea should taste and smell – complex and earthy. Forest and stone, woodsmoke and lichen.
Having grown up on supermarket English tea with milk and sugar, Chinese teas were a brave new world for me. Mostly, they were a revelation – fresh and vibrant grassy green teas, and delicately floral oolongs. But I remained unconvinced about pu’er tea, thinking it tasted dank and musty – less like forest and more like wet basement and mouldy attic. I didn’t like it at all.
Pu’er is considered the pinnacle of tea-drinking for the Chinese, and often the most difficult for the rest of us to appreciate. Like wine, pu’er improves with age and develops more complex flavours. 
I hoped that by travelling along parts of the ancient Tea Horse Trail in southern Yunnan – the route by which tea travelled from its origins in Yunnan overland to Tibet, Mongolia and the rest of China – it would give me a new appreciation for the China’s finest tea. 
Completely unable to convince the rest of the family that visiting a tea workshop in the middle of nowhere followed by a climb up a mountain to a grove of ancient wild tea trees would be a fun way to spend the day, I went by myself on my own little tea trail, and learned a lot. 
The owner of the guest house in which we were staying (Yourantai) happened to be good friends with Chen Ying, a quiet Chinese woman my own age who had left a career in forestry conservation to run a tea workshop in a quiet, clean, remote part of Yunnan blessed with clean air and water and robust tea trees.
Starting in Jinghong near the Myanmar border, south of the ancient town of Pu’er for which the tea is named, I headed west and up into the hills past Menghai, visiting first the tea workshop, then tea terraces in the surrounding countryside, and lastly the mountain of Nanla, home to some of the oldest tea trees in Yunnan. 
Here’s what I learned (with still a great deal more to learn), thanks to my knowledgeable teachers that day.  
想到雨后几小时,漫步在深秋的林间。当你拖着脚轻轻走过那些腐烂的树叶时,你会闻到那些湿润的树叶,苔藓和肥沃的土壤混合的气息。正如一杯上好的普洱茶应该品尝起来的那样——复杂而又朴实。森林,岩石,林中的雾气还有那些青苔。在加牛奶和糖的英式茶超级市场中长大,中国茶对我而言是一个全新的世界,通常,他们会被这样诠释——清新活力的嫩绿色绿茶还有精致如花的乌龙。但关于普洱还是不能是我信服,想到它尝起来有种潮湿发霉的味道——不太像森林,更像是潮湿的地下室和发霉的阁楼。我一点都不喜欢。
我希望通过沿着在云南南部古时茶马古道的几个部分旅行——茶叶从云南原产地经由陆路被运到西藏、蒙古和中国其他地方的路线——可以让我对于中国最好的茶叶有一个全新的鉴赏。
对中国人而言普洱被认为是茶饮的尖峰极点,我们中其他人很难欣赏。像葡萄酒一样,普洱茶随着年限增长也会产生更多复杂的口味。
通过爬山去造访一个远古野生茶树的小树林,参观在一个无名之地的中部的茶叶作坊将会是度过愉快一天的好方式,但是我却完全不能说服家里的其他成员,所以我自行进行了一个茶叶的小追踪,并且学到了很多东西。
我们住的客栈(悠然台)的老板碰巧和陈颖是好朋友,她是一个和我年纪相仿的中国女人,离开了林业保护工作,在云南一个安静、干净、偏远的地方经营一家茶叶作坊,那里有清新的空气,水源还有强壮的茶树。
从靠近缅甸的景洪市出发,普洱即是在古镇的南边被命名的。我向西出发路过勐海县深入山丘,依次造访了茶叶作坊,附近乡下的梯田还有南拉山,一些云南最古老茶树的发源地。

下面这就是那天我了解到的一些东西 (还有很多东西要学习) 感谢知识渊博的老师们.

Chinese Tea: The Basics 中国茶: 基本要素

Chinese tea falls into three main groups based on the degree of oxidation (the effect of air on the enzymes and chemicals within the tea leaf):
1. Unoxidized: green tea, white tea

2. Partially oxidized: oolong tea, yellow tea

3. Fully oxidized: tea  pu’er tea, black tea

Southern Yunnan is where tea originated, a place of lush green hills terraced with rows of tea bushes, patches of thick green jungle, valleys filled with sugarcane and banana trees. Large leafed pu’er tea,  related to the original wild teas of the region, is grown on the sides of steeply sloped hills and harvested twice a year in spring and autumn. 
Just like the influence of terroir on wines, the altitude at which pu’er tea is grown, the age of the trees, the mineralization of the soil, the water supply, the hours of sunlight, the rate of oxidation once picked and the skill of the tea artisans controlling the oxidation process all add to the unique flavour profile of pu’er tea.
Differing from green and oolong teas, after full oxidation (drying and warming) pu’er tea is left to naturally ferment, causing it to develop complex flavour characteristics over time.
依据氧化度(空气作用于茶叶的酵素和化学作用)中国茶基本分为三大类。
未氧化的:绿茶,白茶
部分氧化:乌龙,黄茶
完全氧化:普洱茶,黑茶
云南南部是茶的发源地,一个郁郁葱葱绿色山丘,这里布满几排茶树丛的梯田,长着几块浓绿色丛林和
满甘蔗和香蕉树的山谷。大叶子的普洱茶。和部落原始的野生茶相关,长在陡峭的斜坡山边,一年可以
割两次,春天和秋天。
正如土壤对于葡萄酒的影响,普洱茶生长的海拔,树龄,土壤的矿物量,水源供给,日照时间,一经采
的氧化频率,茶叶技工的技术控制氧化程度,都决定了普洱茶独特的风味。
不同于绿茶和乌龙,在完全氧化之后(干燥和加热),普洱茶是被自然的发酵,以致让它在一段时间之
产生复杂的口味特色。

Making Pu’er Tea 制作普洱茶

After picking, the leaves are first converted to ‘rough tea’ or maocha by drying for 5-6 hours on bamboo trays, then briefly cooking in warm metal pans and ‘rolling’ by hand, curling the leaves a little. The leaves are then sorted to separate the premium larger leaves from twigs and small leaves.
The leaves spend one day in the ‘greenhouse’ drying further – a large airy room with a glass roof concentrating the warmth. 
在采摘之后,叶子首先通过在竹盘上干燥56个小时被转化成“粗糙的茶”或者说是毛茶,然后短暂的在金属平底锅里蒸煮处理一下,在用手“揉搓”,将叶子弄卷曲一些。然后将茶叶分类,将大一些的叶子和细枝和小叶子分隔开来。 用一天的时间将叶子在“温室中”进一步烘干——一个有玻璃房顶保暖又通风的大房间。

The dried tea is measured into 200g portions, placed into a cotton bag and steamed briefly before being compressed into a cake or bing. The bag’s twirled knot gives the pu’er cake its distinctive indentation.
干燥好的茶叶将按200克一份进行分量分配,放在一个棉布袋里,在压成饼状之前短暂的蒸一下。布袋转动打结可以给普洱茶饼做一个特色的压痕。
Each cake is then placed under a heavy stone weight and the stone ‘rocked’ to further compress the tea
每一块茶饼然后被放在一个重石下面,晃动石头进一步压紧茶饼。
The tea cake is removed from the cotton bag, still steaming but now compressed flat, and placed to dry on racks for two further days. After this the tea is fully oxidized and ready to start the process of aging or fermentation.

从布袋拿出茶饼,仍然冒着蒸汽,但是现在被压平了,放在货架上再干燥两天。在这之后,茶就充分地氧化了,准备开始成年或者发酵的历程。

Wrapped in locally made paper, free of chemicals that might taint the tea, the tea is stored in traditional bundles of seven cakes wrapped together in banana husk – qi zi bing cha

用本地纸包装,完全不含污染茶叶的化学物质,茶叶以传统方式用香蕉外壳把七个茶饼一起捆绑为一束——七子饼茶。
This is sheng cha or green pu’er tea. Over the next eight to ten years the residual moisture in the tea leaves will allow it to slowly ferment, developing more and more complex flavours with age
这个就是生茶或者说是绿普洱茶,在接下来的八到十年里茶叶里剩余的水分将可以慢慢地发酵,伴随年限产生越来越多的复杂的口味。
Brewing the Perfect Cup of Pu’er Tea 酿造完美的普洱茶

The mysteries of the perfect cup of tea seemed insurmountable to a mere tea mortal like myself with way too much fuss, bother, equipment and paraphernalia involved.  So it was entirely refreshing to have Chen Ying tell me she makes her pu’er both the traditional way, and a quick way if she’s drinking tea alone.
The necessary equipment:
1. A small teapot made from pure clay (eg Yixing ware), so as not to cause any chemical impurities to seep into the tea.
2. A glass jug into which the tea can be decanted
3. Porcelain tea cups
4. Boiling water and tea
Method:
1. Break off a small of amount of pu’er tea from the cake, add tea to pot
2. Fill the pot to overflowing wth just-boiled water, replace lid and pour water over pot to warm it
3. Allow to brew very briefly then pour the first brew of tea over the tea cups – this rinses both  the tea leaves (removing any dust or impurities) and the tea cups
4. Fill pot for a second time with boiling water
5. Allow to steep for 30 seconds
6. Decant tea into glass jug, and from there pour into individual tea cups
7. Refill teapot with water and repeat for up to 15 steepings, according to taste
If she’s in a hurry Chen Ying says she just puts some leaves into a lidded porcelain teacup and allows it to steep in the cup, adding more water as needed. She explained though, that tea drinking should always be a relaxing activity, with the proper time taken to do it well.
When to Drink Tea
There is really no better reminder of the best times to drink tea than to follow the esoteric directions in Hsu Tse Shu’s Ming Dynasty poem:

Proper Moments for Drinking Tea

When one’s heart and hands are idle.
Tired after reading poetry.
When one’s thoughts are disturbed.
Listening to songs and ditties.
When a song is completed.
Shut up at one’s home on a holiday.
Playing the ch’in and looking over paintings
Engaged in conversation deep at night.
Before a bright window and a clean desk.
With charming friends and slender concubines.
Returning from a visit with friends.
When the day is clear and the breeze is mild.
On a day of light showers.
In a painted boat near a small wooden bridge.
In a forest with tall bamboos.
In a pavilion overlooking lotus flowers on a summer day.
Having lighted incense in a small studio.
After a feast is over and the guests are gone.
When children are at school.
In a quiet, secluded temple.
Near famous springs and quaint rocks.


对于我这样一个万分慌乱、烦恼,还得准备好各种器材和设备的普通人而言,完美茶饮的未解之谜看起来简直是不可解的。因此当陈颖告诉我她做普洱茶的两种方式,传统方式和独酌的快捷方式的时候,真的让我很振奋。

必要的设备:
用纯泥土制作的小茶壶(例如宜兴茶具),不会让任何化学杂质渗入到茶里。
一个茶水可以被轻轻倒出的玻璃水壶。
瓷质茶杯
沸水和茶叶

方法:
从普洱茶饼上折断一小块,将茶叶放在壶里
用刚煮沸的水注满茶壶,移开茶盖并且将水倒在壶上面,使它变暖
迅速地冲泡一下然后将茶的第一泡倒在茶杯上——这是冲洗茶叶(去除灰尘和杂质)和茶杯
用沸水将茶壶二次填满
浸泡约30秒钟
将茶轻轻倒入玻璃水壶,再从那里给个人杯子倒茶
重新用水填满茶壶,依据口味,最多可以浸泡15

陈颖说,如果忙的话,她会把一些茶叶放入带盖子的瓷茶杯里边,让茶叶在里边泡一泡,然后再加入更多的水。她解释说,饮茶虽然应该是一件放松的事情,但是也要在合适的时间把它做好。

什么时候饮茶
关于什么时候饮茶,没有比跟随明朝诗人许次纾的诗更合适了:
饮时
  心手闲适,披咏疲倦,意绪纷乱,听歌拍曲,歌罢曲终,杜门避事,鼓琴看画,夜深共语,明窗净几,洞房阿阁,宾主款狎,佳客小姬,访友初归,风日晴和,轻阴微雨,小桥画舫,茂林修竹,课花责鸟,荷亭避暑,小院焚香,酒阑人散,儿辈斋馆,清幽寺观,名泉怪石。

Pu’er Tea: The Taste  普洱茶:味道
I tried five different pu’er teas that day – a recently pressed sheng cha or fresh pu’er, which had a light herbaceous taste, then a one, three, four and five year old tea. Each different year brought a variety of new tastes – light smoke, polished wood, wet leaves and earth. None were musty or mouldy tasting, and there wasn’t a single hint of basement or attic. They were all smooth and very refreshing.
I had officially been converted. I bought two cakes of the oldest tea I could afford, which turned out to be three years old. One to drink now, and one to keep for as long as possible. Chen Ying’s oldest tea, eight years old, was entirely out of my price range at around $150 per bing. Imagine the price of a twenty, thirty or fifty year old tea!
那天我尝试了五种不同的普洱茶刚加压的生茶或者新普洱,有一种淡淡的草本的味道,以及一年,三年,四年和五年的陈茶。不同年份的茶有不同的味道淡淡的雾气,光滑的树干,超湿的叶子,还有土壤。没有哪一种尝起来有霉味,也没有一点阁楼或者地下室的印记。他们都很柔滑,而且非常提神。
我完全折服了。我买了两块我能承受价格的最老的茶饼,这些茶饼的茶龄最终证实是3年。一份现喝,一份尽可能久地保存。陈颖所有的最老的茶已经有八年了,它的价格已经完全超出了我的范围,每块茶饼大约要150美元。想想20年,30年,甚至50年的茶叶的价格吧!

Buying Pu’er Tea 购买普洱茶

As the exclusivity and value of pu’er tea has increased in China, so has the ingenuity and guile of those willing to risk prosecution to make money from the everyday consumer – you and me. 
Scams I heard about included (but clearly weren’t limited to) the classic bait and switch (try a tea of very high quality, then be sold a pu’er cake of inferior tea) and the sale of semi-fake cakes of pu’er with high quality outer leaves (so when you break off a little and test it, it seems the genuine article) but filled with cheap, inferior tea on the inside.
Buying aged pu’er is also problematic, as the price rises exponentially with the age of the tea. What condition has the tea been stored in for all of that ten or more years?  Has the tea changed hands during that time?
Just as it’s difficult and daunting to know which red wines to buy when you first start out (and in China the red wine market is equally full of fakery and quackery) the suggestion is to make friends with a tea lover and learn from them. Taste plenty of teas and learn which you like best, find out who their trusted tea suppliers are buy only from them.
Ultimately though, it comes down to taste – your taste – and buying what you enjoy drinking even if it’s inexpensive or younger than fully aged pu’er tea.
由于独垄断占性,以及普洱茶在中国价格的走高,因此那些狡猾的人会冒着被起诉的风险从寻常消费者(包括你我)身上赚钱。
我听说过的欺诈不过(当然不限于)经典的诱饵营销(品尝一种很高品质的茶,然后卖给顾客次级普洱),出售半假的茶饼——他们外层包着高品质的茶叶,但内层确实便宜的次品(因此,当顾客从茶饼上掰下来一小点品尝时,尝起来就像是正品)。
由于普洱的价格随年代的增加而呈指数上涨,买年份久的普洱茶也是有问题的。这些茶在过去的10年或者更久的时间里是在什么样的环境中保存的?在这些时间里,它们被倒手过么?
就像开始买红酒时,很难判断应该买哪一种一样(在中国,红酒市场充斥着假货和骗子),在开始买普洱的时候,我的建议是和茶叶爱好者交朋友,向他们学习。品尝大量的茶,然后知道自己最喜欢那个,找出他们最信赖的茶商,然后只从这些茶商购买。
不过最终,还是要回归到口味上——你自己的品味——买你喜欢的茶,尽管他们可能不那么贵,或者年份并不久远。

Storing Pu’er Tea 储存普洱茶

Pu’er needs to be stored in a clean, dark, dry, airy place, wrapped in its original paper to keep it clean. Excessive moisture will lead to mould. 
普洱茶需要存放在干净,阴暗,干燥和通风的地方,用最初的纸包裹起来以保持清洁。湿度过大可能会导致发霉。

Resources for Learning More:
Seven Cups  – a US website dedicated to Chinese tea
Making Pu’er tea – a demonstration video at www.dianxitea.com
Information about Pu’er tea and Chen Ying’s tea workshop can be found at her website www.qualitea2005.com