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Calling shu pu-erh tea as cooked pu-erh tea is inappropriate

[2016.01.21] Posted By

ripe pu-erh tea

We often came across customers called the Shu Pu-erh tea as “cooked pu-erh” instead of ripe pu-erh tea. Many people thought that the ripe pu-erh tea is made by cooking tea with direct heating. In fact, it is incorrect.

Shu has a few different meanings

The word in Chinese and also in Japanese used for ripe pu-erh is 熟茶. It is pronounced as “Shu” in Chinese. The word Shu carries a few different meanings as follow.

  1. Aging or Maturation
  2. Cooking/well done
  3. Processed
  4. Fermentation
  5. Get used to the things
  6. Sufficiently

In the case of ripe pu-erh tea, Shu is meant for process or fermentation. The word Shu 熟 is derived from traditional Chinese medicine. It’s often used to indicate processed herbs versus the raw material. For pu-erh tea, it is named from the process of ripe pu-erh tea which involved the fermentation of raw pu-erh tealeaf. The process of ripe pu-erh consists of two stages.

Neither cooking process nor heating process is involved

In making ripe pu-erh tea, the raw pu-erh tea is used as the material. Raw pu-erh tea is piled and soaked with moisture in order to initiate the fermentation of bacterial. In this stage, bacteria such as actinomycetes involve in fermentation. After this stage, tea is spread over on the floor in order to reduce moisture and initiate the secondary fermentation which takes place by yeast and mold. The entire fermentation process of ripe pu-erh tea takes around two months.

ripe pu-erh tea

The first fermentation

Secondary Fermentation

As you can see in the above process, there is no cooking process involved. The reason why some people call ripe pu-erh as cooked puerh is due to the misreading of the meaning of the word Shu (熟). No doubt that Shu also means cooked. But this meaning is inappropriate to be used for Shu pu-erh. In my own opinion, “ripe pu-erh” is also not really a good name to describe Shu pu-erh tea. I guess matured pu-erh tea or fermented pu-erh tea sounds more appropriate if we follow the way of process.

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