One of the problems I find quite common these days is what I’d call “green tea puerh.” This is stuff that, basically, have been through too much/too hot a kill-green process, and the tea has consequently turned into green tea. Some of you might ask “well, isn’t puerh basically green tea?” Well, yes and no – greens, such as Longjing, have been through higher temperature firing than things like puerh. Whereas puerh will age into something because it’s still alive, teas like Longijng are cooked – fixed in form, and need to consumed as soon as possible.
It’s not entirely clear what the reason for the proliferation of green-tea puerh is, but as Scott of Yunnan Sourcing recently described, it’s as if all the farmers bought a tumbler machine to help them fry the tea leaves, and nobody learned how to operate it properly. So what happens is that they do it too hot or too long, and the tea gets cooked.
The result of such cooking is bad, very bad. Initially, it will yield a pleasant tasting tea with good floral or beany aromas, sweet, and perhaps smooth. What hits you though is if you try the tea two, three, or four years down the road – it’ll be bitter, nasty, thin, sour, all the things you don’t want in an aged tea, because it’s aged green tea. I recently tried a sample given to me by a vendor two years ago. At that time the tea tasted a bit off – but it’s called “honey sweet.” Well, honey sweet has now turned into massively bitter. It’s terrible, and it’s a shame, because the raw materials were good.
I just had a tasting with some friends of five newly made teas. Of the five, three were of the “way too green” variety. This is not a regional thing – this is a processing problem. Two of the teas are fine – one is from Xishuangbanna, while the other is from Menghai. The rest were all green teas in disguise, and no doubt, in a few years, the people paying good money for them (and good money it is – one is selling for 5000 RMB on Taobao a cake) will regret it. Or, they can keep fooling themselves and say it’s aging well.
Pictures were taken with the phone, so pardon the varying lighting.