Category Archives: Puer Tea



Pu’er tea is generally a compressed tea that comes in many different shapes and sizes. They are also available in dry leaves loose form called maocha. The compression and shapes are for ease of transportation in the past, when teas were carried by mule caravan from Yunnan to Tibet through the famous Ancient Tea Horse Road 茶馬道.

One of compressed tea shape is the brick Pu’er tea. They are dried tea leaves that were pressed into brick shapes since the ancient times. Brick shaped Puer were explored more widely in the 1960s with the first prototype, Jinggu test brick tea. It was subsequently developed into the tea brick that was popularly known as Cultural Revolution brick tea 文革砖茶.

Perhaps the more sought after ones are those done in early 1970s. Some of them have wonderful jujube and ginseng taste. During that period, there were many research and experiments done on fermenting tea to create shou cha. Some of these brick Pu’er tea has the combination of shou and sheng cha, the 30/70 seems to be popular during the 1970s and 1980s.

Brick shape Pu’er tea comes in many sizes and weight. The usual Cultural Revolution brick tea weight is 250grams. There are also some other sizes like 1kg and 500g.

In early 1990s, there was an unusual batch of brick Pu’er tea which was done in 300g size. This tea is unique because it was over compressed. The tea was very hard and dense. It was not known whether the over compression was intentionally done or not. Although the weight is higher, the 300g brick is much smaller in size than the standard 250g brick size. New wrapper has to be printed for this tea, a smaller wrapper with higher weight indication.

The picture below shows a comparison of size between the 300g and 250g brick tea of almost the same era. The heavier 300g brick tea is obviously much smaller than the 250g tea.


The notion of over compression tea is very interesting from the storage and aging point of view. With higher density and compression, the teas are less susceptible to external environment. It will oxidize rather than ferment in its aging process. From tasting experience, an aged well compressed tea seems to retain a lot of its intrinsic quality and also free from external odours and taste character.

This is one of the many observations and experiences which sets the foundation of my understanding for storing and aging Pu’er tea. There are many ways to store and aged Pu’er tea. All methods have their followers and critics and the topic is fiercely debated often. Eventually, there are too many variables and it is up to each individual to choose their own method of storing and aging their Pu’er teas.

Personally for me, keeping tea away from external environment is important, as I store and age them in warm and humid environment. This is done by sealing all the Pu’er tea. Sealing prevent external odour from affecting the tea. It also prevents the high external moisture from inducing fermentation process whilst allowing the desirable oxidation process to take place.

This 300g brick tea is a wonderfully aged Pu’er tea. Due to its high compression, the aging process is slow and steady. It retains all the character and goodness of the tea. The tea quality was excellent when it was freshly made. With good foundation and proper aging process for more than two decades, it has developed into a very clean, smooth and full bodied with fruity character tea. This is certainly one of my favourite Pu’er tea.



Masterclass is a tuition session where an expert e.g. in music conduct classes for students. In tea,  a tea expert often conducts this teaching by producing the actual tea to share their interpretation of a potentially good tea. Some tea like Puer tea has decades of learning experiences, so the only way to teach the tea is to produce the tea for a lifetime of sessions.

I normally call these tea “masterclass tea” i.e. tea produced by tea expert or teamasters. Notwithstanding, the quality of the tea are based on the tea expert understanding and interpretation of an ideal tea. It may or may not be the ultimate tea but the experience gained from drinking the tea over a long period of time is definitely worthwhile.

I was fortunate to obtain 2 batches of masterclass Puer tea.

The first masterclass Puer  tea was jointly produced by four teamasters from four different countries. Their names are endorsed on the wrapper of the tea.  The details are:


Collaboration production (芾監合聯, Fèi jiān hé lián) of the following tea experts:

Hong Kong : 葉榮忮 Yè Róng Zhì

Taiwan : 吕禮臻 Lǚ Lǐ Zhēn

Singapore : 李自强 Lǐ Zì Qiáng

Malaysia : 蕭慧娟 Xiāo Huì Juān

Name of the tea cake: 福䘵夀禧 (Fú lù shòu xǐ)

Year of production: 2014

Cake size: 375gm Bing

This Puer tea is said to be a spring tea from Yiwu mountain. The tea leaves are consistently good quality with nice natural floral and fruity fragrance.


The second masterclass tea was produced by   鄧時海 Dèng Shí Hǎi

Name of the tea cake : 福祿圓茶Fú Lù Yuán Chá

Year of Production : 2012

Cake size: 380gm Bing


I was supposed to meet 鄧時海 Dèng Shí Hǎi for a tea session with my regular tea friends  in Malaysia 2 months ago (December 2014) but unfortunately my trip was delayed. What a missed opportunity! I am sure that I will catch up with him soon as my old hometown is 15 minutes away from his old hometown and we travelled to that region often and in contact with the same tea groups there.   He was kind enough to leave a tong and two extra bing of the tea produced by him in 2012 and autographed on the bamboo wrapper for me.  This tea is the 3rd batch produced by him, the others were in 1996 and 2007.

According to him this tea was inspired by the ancient Puer tea recipes and method of processing.  He said that it will be the tea for the future generation to appreciate and drink. The tea leaves are blended and looks like a mixture of many types of leave.  It seems to resemble what the ancient Puer tea look like. This would be an interesting tea to experience for many years to come.

Masterclass tea is a tea that worth its’ experience for many serious tea hobbyist.  It reveals the tea expert interpretation of a good tea based on his expertise and knowledge.  It may or may not be an ultimate tea but definitely worth the experience. A tea like that should be humbly appreciated for seeking understanding and experience.

I certainly look forward to experience these tea for years to come by brewing them often to follow its aging and changing character.



I recalled, in a very long time ago in the 1970s, an old Teamaster told me that some tea goes a very long way. A few tea leaves thrown into a big kettle would enabled the tea to be brewed for almost the whole day, pots after pots of it.

Many years later, I discovered some tea with this character. I call this type of tea the “Superpower” tea.

In the late 1990s and early 2000, a group of tea experts toured Yunnan to study the Puer tea in detail. They were amazed why the Chinese, being very resourceful, left the wild tea trees alone. After thorough studies, they realised and concluded that only wild tea harvested in Spring is suitable to be processed into Puer tea.

Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea wrapper (Seven Sons)
Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea wrapper (Seven Sons)

It was only around the time in early 2000, some small producer began harvesting some wild tea in the early Spring and started the wild Puer tea movement.  But the Puer tea market response was lukewarm and hesitant. There was a lot of doubts about wild tea Puer as most collectors were more in flavour of Cultural Revolution tea and older mass market tea at that time.

Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea leaves (Seven Sons)
Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea leaves (Seven Sons)

Finally, after more that a decade, wild spring tea aged to be one of the most powerful, smooth and flavorful tea and presently sought after by many Puer tea connoisseurs. The two Puer teas that I have discovered as Superpower tea are from Yiwu mountain produced in 2001, both of them are wild spring Puer tea.  It is the similar batch of tea produced by the same producer in different packaging.  One of them in yellow mark Chitze and the other in the producer own label.

Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea wrapper
Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea wrapper

However, not all the wild spring tea can be considered as a Superpower tea. The probability is higher for those tea harvested from the wild for the first time or a biodynamic wild or old ancient tree. The harvest has to be in very low frequency during spring and they should be well processed and stored. These are probably some of essential criterias for Superpower tea.

Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea leaves
Wild Puer Yiwu 2001 tea leaves

Brewing a Superpower tea is a little bit tricky. Initially I made some mistakes brewing the tea in the usual amount which I normally used which is around 2-3gms per 120ml of boiling hot water, subject to the accuracy of my hand pinching.


The tea turned out to be extremely strong and powerful to the point of being too concentrated; overwhelming in taste, aftertaste, aroma and body to a degree of being undesirable.

I realised later that to express it correctly, the tea needs to be stretch widely or thinner in the brewing. The Superpower tea is like an 3 hour orchestra piece condensed into 30 minutes. So the quantity of tea leaves used is reduced drastically, perhaps to a third of the normal amount with shorter brewing time using in a bigger tea pot.

2001 wild Yiwu brewed tea leaves
2001 wild Yiwu brewed tea leaves

With this moderation in brewing, the tea is still very strong, full bodied, with complex aroma, smooth and flavorful, and highly desirable brew after brew. The brew transformed into a superstar tea.

Superpower tea
Superpower tea

Superpower tea is a very high quality and rare tea.  The quality of the tea may be due to a few essential criterias i.e. a very well processed and stored tea, biodynamic wild tea that are harvested in low frequency during Spring. Enjoying a Superpower tea is a real joy, it lasted brews after brews for a long time.

The lengthy brew makes the tea bow gracefully into obscurity and transcending the tea ceremony into a spiritual level of enjoyment.


An ambivert is an intermediate character between an extrovert and an introvert.  It is an easy character to relate to, having the best of both worlds in different situations. Sometimes we need to be quiet and sometimes we need to be assertive. Tea behaves this way too. I often use the term “ambivert stage” to describe Sheng Puer tea that is in the transition phase of changing from the vibrant young to the mellowed aged tea. This is one of the most exciting stage in the aging of Puer tea.

I have been following the aging process of sheng Puer for many years.  It is the real joy in tea appreciation. Most of the time when a new tea is vigourously tested and approved to be in my good book, I would procure a dozen or two pieces of the tea. From the day of purchase, I will drink the tea often and experience its’ aging process. I often drink them leisurely but every quarterly, I would be more rigorous and thorough in the tasting process to enhance my understanding of the tea.

A Sheng Puer should be tasted frequently to experience its aging process. It is like growing and maturing with it. At every stage of its aging process, it will reveal new personality, talk to you differently and sometimes surprises you. Sometimes it makes you smile and sometimes it challenged you to accept its’ new character. The guessing game of what it would turn out be next, is equally exciting. Even iconic tea like Lao Banzhang is still in the questionable stage and there is not certainty that it will be a great tea until proven so in future. That is the joy and beauty of keeping and aging tea, which is to grow with it. There is no point buying a Puer tea and hoping to enjoy it many years later or bet that it will be great when it is old. Just like life, we must enjoy the journey, not the destination.

Da Xue Shan 2002
Da Xue Shan 2002

At ambivert stage, the Sheng Puer is usually around about 10 years of age plus minus one or two years. It is the period of when the tea is approaching maturity, but still have its youthful vigor.

I recalled a special tea, a 2002 wild spring Da Xue Shan, 大雪山野生荼, which make my life so wonderful for many months when it reached 10 years of storage. The tea was changing its character every few days. It is at the stage of mellowing down to a smooth aged tea while still revealing its vigor and youthful vitality. The dynamism and  constant struggle between being introvert and extrovert is really so exciting. The taste, the texture, the aroma, the body and whole language of that tea changes and evolve in every few days. It was really a wonderful experience beyond description.

Da Xue Shan 2002
Da Xue Shan 2002

Eventually after that ambivert stage, the tea will mellowed down to something more constant but the complexity,  Qi  and the spiritual growth of the tea will continue further for many years.

Enjoy your tea from day one and grow with it so that you will understand and appreciate it even more.  Just like our children, we don’t put them in childcare and collect them only when they grew up. Grow with them and have a wonderful life journey with them. Likewise for your tea.

Ambivert stage is the most exciting stage in aging Puer tea. It is the stage when the tea changes dynamically over a short period of a few months, erratically  revealing all its personality, potential, vigour and vibrancy.  It is the most exciting and joyous period of enjoying the tea beyond any description.

Don’t miss it.

Tribute 貢


Finding an old or ancient tea is definitely determined solely by fate. On one fateful day, a tea collector brought a tong of early 1980s unopened Guǎng Yún Gòng Bǐng, 廣雲貢餅. I have found similar tea from similar era before offered by another collector but sadly it was badly stored and was kept exposed to hot and humid environment.  It tasted funny and bland and I  have to reject that tea with great reluctance. What a pity! 😦

Now, a totally sealed tong, unopened since early 1980s was presented to me (in 2013) to open it. What a great opportunity! 🙂

Early 1980s Guangyun Gong Beeng - Sealed tong
Early 1980s Guangyun Gong Beeng – Sealed tong

This tea is call Guǎng Yún Gòng Bǐng, 廣雲貢餅, which is made from tea leaves from Yunnan and Guangdong since the 1960s and the production continued to 1990s. The cakes from 1970s onwards are made solely from tea leaves from Guangdong. It is made using special recipe and the tea was so good that it can be used to pay tribute to the Emperor. That is why the word Tribute or Gòng 貢 is added to its name.

Of course those 1960s or 1970s ones are said to be special and superior but to have a perfectly stored tong of early 1980s tea right in front of you is really a blessed opportunity.

The tong was opened and the tea leaves were brewed.  The taste was really sensational and special… sweet, aromatic, full of flavour and has many of the character of a great tea…good yun… great Qi…captivating complexity and mesmerizing. Indeed it was a really special and wonderful experience.

The brew
The brew

The tea leaves are fresh, due to its well kept condition which allows it to age gracefully whilst keeping all its goodness intact. It is almost perfect in many ways.  The collector was kind enough to offer me a piece and it has been one of the precious tea in my collection since then.

Brewed tea leaves
Brewed tea leaves

This experience was one of the many opportunities for me to taste aged dry-sealed vs. exposed storage condition of the same tea.

I also have a few pieces of the same source 1970s Cultural Revolution Brick from 2 different collectors who also stored them differently for 4 decades, one exposed and the other, dry-sealed. The dry-sealed tea tasted so much better than the exposed one.

Storage for aging Puer has been a widely debatable topic but it would be a more fruitful debate if all parties have the experience of tasting decades old tea stored in different conditions.  Otherwise, it is just a debate of presumptive perceptions.

Many would agree that the choice on how we store and age Puer tea depends largely on the climatic conditions of the place we intend age the tea.  In the place where I aged the tea, the climate is constantly hot and humid around 31.1°C (88°F) , RH  83%, throughout the year.  After years of relentless of studies and experiment and also the tasting opportunities offered by different collectors on different storage methods,  my preference is definitely aging Puer tea in dry-sealed storage in this climatic condition.  This method appears to achieve what I wanted in aged old tea, i.e. hygienic, clean, smooth, sweet, mellow, captivating complexity whilst still preserving its original vigour, aroma, body and taste.

Nonetheless, we are all free to choose any storage method we perceived to be right. However, in whatever storage and aging method we choose for aging Puer tea, it is very important that we must monitor, taste and analyse the teas’ changing character throughout its’ aging process.

The only way to understand this is through constant and habitual due diligence to monitor the tea changing character over the years under different storage conditions. Don’t just store the tea and hope that it will be good in future. Follow its’ aging process and understand it. Taste other tea that has been stored in different storage conditions too.  There is no shortcut or other way apart from our own relentless pursuit and studies over a very long period of time.


Tea Astronomy

What does astronomy and iconic tea like Lao Banzhang, 老班章 ,  has in common?  Both has something to do with the sky, one is sky gazing and the other is sky-high price.

I really couldn’t understand how the price of new high quality Puer tea shot up so high and fast over the last few years.

In the year 2007-2009, I tasted the Lao Banzhang tea and like  the tea very much. It was very powerful tea,  complex in a nice way, full of flavors,  high aroma and full- bodied.  After 2009,  I thought the quality has dropped and stopped buying those later tea. I probably have enough of those 2007 to 2009 Lao Banzhang to last for a long time. I brewed the tea quite frequently to appreciate its changes throughout the years.

LBZ price for 375gm as of April 2014
LBZ price for 375gm as of April 2014

After that, the big publicity came and the tea industry focus on this tea and the price went up steadily until  recently (April 2014), I was really shocked to discover that this same piece of 2007 Lao Banzhang I bought is currently selling at US$4670 (29,000RMB)  for a 375gm piece. Gosh! This price insanity really cause some distraction to the joy of enjoying tea humbly.  Currently, a lot of other high quality teas are  also going through the same price launching pad.  Wow! A new form of astronomy.

2007 LBZ
2007 LBZ

Nevertheless,  to me a tea is still a tea and I will continue to brew this tea for enjoyment and also to share with my tea friends. It is good to cut off all the noises and focus on the  joy of appreciating a nice and enjoyable tea.

LBZ 2007
LBZ 2007

Care to join me for some tea astronomy ? i.e. enjoying good tea whilst gazing the sky. 🙂


1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha
1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha

When the tea, especially Puer is selected from the  finest grade of tea leaves and processed in the best possible way, the word 甲級 Jiǎjí is often added or stamped on the tea wrapper.

1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha
1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha

The  second grade is called Yǐjí 乙級 and the third grade is called Bǐngjí, 丙級 but nobody is going to label their tea as third grade. However, due to lack of control on these labeling in the tea  industry and some tea producers may blatantly use them, irregardless of the quality of the tea and processes.  

As a tea consumer, it is very important to learn how to identify a good tea by looking at the tea leaves instead of the wrapper when purchasing tea.  By learning how to taste and studying the tea leaves, one can ascertain the quality of the tea.   It is definately not advisable to look at the label of tea wrapper or worst still, buy any tea just by listening and reading too much of it. Most tea merchants will never say anything negative about their tea.   The general description on any tea are always good but realistically there are  good and bad tea.

So if you go for the finest grade, make sure it is not the finest wrapper or finest sales pitch but always the finest tea. Wrappers, stories and marketing can lie but not the tea leaves.

Jiǎjí 甲級, Yǐjí 乙級, Bǐngjí 丙級 or Lājī 垃圾 can be quite obvious if you look at the tea leaves carefully and taste the tea prudently.

1998 Yiwu Sheng Red Mark Jia Ji
1998 Yiwu Sheng Red Mark Jia Ji

Big Mouth Centre 大口中

Ta Kou Zhong

Icon always comes with interesting nickname. Likewise, the iconic  Puer tea nicknamed Ta Kou Zhong , 大口中, which is directly translated as Big Mouth Centre.  It refers to the character of Zhong 中 in the wrapper of Seven-sons Puer tea cake made in 1970s to 80s and also some tea cakes wrapper of the early 90s made by various producers.

The stylized rectangle character of Kou 口 in the character of Zhong 中 is bigger than normal, and therefore Ta 大  is used to describe the unusually bigger size of  Kou 口 in the word Zhong 中.   That is how it gets its nickname from.

This iconic Puer tea is said to be of higher quality and some described it as the tea that possess the dynamism and vitality of a galloping horse.  Wow!

Today, I will brew this (1970s 大口中) tea just to find out the truth behind its description.

This piece of tea that I kept  is very well stored. The tea leaves are clean, reddish dark maroon and smell fresh without any undesirable odour.   After  removing some tea leaves carefully, I refreshed the dry tea leaves and let it settle for a while before brewing it.  The tea is really wonderful and last many brews. The colour of the brew is translucent golden amber. It is really very beautiful.

This tea has a pronounced  enticing taste of lotus and bamboo leaves aroma and sweetness with tranquil complexity.  It also has hints of similarities to the 1950s Liu An tea that I had tried.  The overall impression is quite far from any galloping horse dynamism or vitality as described by others, but close to something that we would  describe as perfect. Voilà!

Now, I just like to enjoy this tea without getting distracted by writing too much technicalities…

Patiently, respectfully and attentively, as I sip this tea, just like when we are in the company of an honoured veteran.

Hmmmm… Viva el té!

Lao Banzhang (LBZ) 老班章

I started this blog at the request of many friends who wanted to learn about tea. So I thought it would be even better to share the knowledge with the world.  I was really lucky to be able to travel so much to explore tea and learn from many teamasters.  But I am still humbled by the vast knowledge of tea, tea culture and the art of tea. I am still learning and hope to learn more by sharing.

This is my first blog on tea after a few decades of dedication to tea. Tea was just a pastime to me and it made me really curious. So my journey started with the fascination on tea and my thirst for tea knowledge. I drink all types of tea that I can possibly get access to i.e. Darjeeling, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Taiwan and Chinese tea.  My current dedication is for Puer and Yancha tea which I religiously spent hours every day on them.

So for the first blog post, I will write about something iconic.  Currently, the most talk about Puer tea is the Lao Banzhang.  I chanced upon Lao Banzhang in 2007 when it was pretty unknown and was said to be a crazy undrinkable tea.  Nevertheless, it became famous.  Personally I love this tea from day one and I was impressed by its strength, rounded bitterness, sweetness but mostly by the hint of kombu seaweed when it was young.  I brewed this tea every few months since 2007 and it never fail to impress me every time I drink it.   I often served this tea to novices,  oldtimers, teamaster without mentioning about it and most of them said it was a great tea. I always belief that a great tea should always taste great to everyone from novices to seasoned tea drinkers.

Here is a photo of the 2007 Lao Banzhang, an iconic tea now, insanely priced, vastly imitated and fiercely speculated.  To me, it is simply just tea and a really great tea that often make a great day greater.

Lao Banzhang