How to differentiate pu-erh tea qualities

Someone (anonymous person) has listed the following aspects when considering a pu-erh quality that I believe is worthwhile sharing.

Aspects to pay attention to:

  1. Refreshing: aroma (dry tea) has to be refreshing (vs mouldy and mixed smell)
  2. Clear: tea brew has to be clear and bright (vs cloudy and dull), colour from yellow to dark red (vs black)
  3. Uncompromised: storage has to be dry, clean and with right conditions (vs wet, mouldy, mixed ordors, too hot or too cold)
  4. Qi. A good tea should leave you with a refreshed and nourished sensation.

Aspects to be read with caution:

  1. Age of the pu-erh tea claimed, especially the ‘very aged’ teas. It is generally believed the teas over 50 years only exist in museums. It is unrealistic and not practical for tea merchants to store teas for more than 50 years before releasing them to the market.
  2. Brand and age of the packaging can be easily faked.
  3. Light or dark colour of a tea brew is not necessarily associated with its quality.
  4. Tea aromas are naturally produced by the tea leaves during their processing and conversion. They should be subtle and pure, but never overwhelming.
  5. Wet storage is a method used by certain merchants to speed up post-fermentation, and subsequently claim that the ‘mouldy’ smell/taste is a characteristic of ‘aged’ Pu-erh tea. Aged pu-erh aroma is a rich, mature, natural woody/date aroma with a gently sweet taste that is pleasant, nourishing and up lifting, nothing to do with 'mouldiness'.
  6. Tea tree age (eg ancient tea tree, Gu Shu 古树茶) is a piece of very misleading info on the current market. It is believed only 3% of the Gu Shu teas on the market actually meet the Gu Shu criteria: from tea trees of at least 100 years old and teas made of leaves from Gu-Shu only without mixing with other tea tree leaves.

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