Shou pu-erh is fermented or “ripe” tea. A posting on the Pu-erh Tea Club group page on Facebook concerning a Bu Lan Chun Xiang shou pu-erh from 2010 sparked a mild debate on whether aging is needed. A quick online search made the issue even more debatable.
|Anna Nosochenko Shou Pu-erh images (screen capture from Facebook)|
Ripened pu-erh is often a result of the Wo Dui process, as discussed in a previous article (Is Speeding Up Aging of Máochá a Good Thing?). In a way, that means the tea leaves are already “aged” but in a speeded up manner. You can, therefore, steep it up and enjoy right away, as the person posting on the group page stated. So it seems that aging isn’t necessary. But wait, there is another side to this controversy. Not all shou pu-erhs are created using the Wo Dui process. They are fermented naturally over several years. Surprised? Read on to see why you should not be.
The confusion in this area is caused by the dual meaning of shoú as both “fully cooked” and “fully ripened.” A bit of a mistranslation. So, in effect, whether shou pu-erh needs to be aged will depend on what that tea really is: fully cooked or fully ripened. You will need to depend on the tea vendor for this. One such vendor has a 2000 Shou Pu-erh available and states that “age has given the tea a woodsy, leathery character with hints of barrel aged bourbon and cocoa…”.
An additional note: as always, personal taste is key here. Even fully cooked pu-erh will improve with aging, if done properly. You will need to be the one to decide if you want to do this or not.
Stop on by our Pu-erh Tea Club group page on Facebook to weigh in on this topic! Your input is very welcome!