When I first visited O5 tea bar in Vancouver I knew that Pu erh tea was an aged, fermented tea from China with earthy qualities but not much more. I was interested in the selection of Pu erhs that they had on the menu so asked about them and soon got to learn quite a bit more. The main thing I learnt was that there were actually 2 types of Pu erh, Sheng Pu erh and Shou Pu erh. Sheng Pu erh is sometimes called raw Pu erh and is typically aged for longer period of time. The leaves are harvested, steamed, pressed in to cakes which are wrapped in rice paper and then left age and ferment in a hot humid environment for hundreds of years. Over time and with the increase popularity of Pu erh the teas have been left to ferment for shorter periods of time.
Shou Pu erh is sometimes referred to as cooked Pu erh and are usually harvested and then placed in a pile for a period of time to ferment, and it is then processed in to cakes to be sold. Shou Pu erh was initially created to mimic Sheng Pu erh which is ages and transforms slowly over time.
I decided that I would buy one of each type of Pu erh so that I could take them home and try them alongside each other to see the differences in them. I asked the staff for their recommendations and got Bamboo Summit Scroll, a Sheng, and F8-Favourite, a Shou.
Bamboo Summit Scroll – Sheng Pu erh
This tea is young for a Sheng Pu erh as it is from 2014 from Naka Ancient Trees. The tea was pressed in to a long thin round and stored inside Bamboo, the tea leaves were quite light in colour and some almost looked like a green tea. When steeped the tea was light in liquor and body. It had very subtle aromas but I found that it had an earthy sweet aroma. I found that this tea was quite bright with sweet nutty notes reminiscent of bamboo and it almost had a floral hint to it. I preferred this tea of the two but I found that after a couple of steeps it became quite astringent.
F8-Favourite – Shou Pu erh
This tea from 2012 came from Bulang Shan 300 year old trees. The leaves had a much deeper and darker colour to them and the liquor was also much darker and almost had an orange colour to it. It has much stronger and earthier aromas to it with a tangy, earthy flavour. It had a sweet earthy nuttiness to it that got sweeter, mellower and softer with more steeps and i found it reminded me somewhat of licorice root. I enjoyed this tea and found that it was longer lasting with no asringency coming through.
It was interesting try these teas side by side and in doing so learn about Pu erh and the different types. I would like to try an older Sheng Pu erh to further understand how the flavour develops but I was more than happy with my experience with these teas and with the understanding gained from trying them.