Unveiling the Distinctive Types of Pu’er Tea: Sheng vs. Shou

Pu’erh tea often perplexes newcomers due to its contrasting varieties. They find that the pu’erh they purchased differs significantly from what they had previously tasted. Conversely, some individuals may initially dislike pu’erh and refrain from trying it again for a long time. The confusion surrounding pu’erh stems from the existence of two distinct types that vary greatly in color, aroma, flavor, and their effects on the human body. In essence, these two types, known as “heaven and earth,” are so dissimilar that people tend to prefer one over the other.

Basic difference between sheng and shou pu’erh

IdentitySheng Pu-erhShou Pu-erh
Color of the leafGreen brownRed brown
Color of budsYellow whiteGolden yellow
Color of brewLight green, with a hint of orangeDark brown, often cloudy
FlavorAstringent, refreshingSoft, ambient, with a hint of sweet
AromaNormally rich scent of dried fruitsKey aroma: earth-like. Can release shades of prunes, nuts, mushrooms, autumn foliage, bark
Impact on the bodyInvigorates, provides additional energy, purifies the bodySoothes, supports digestive system, helps to reduce cholesterol
Distinctions of consumptionCan disturb sleeping, therefore to be avoided a couple hours before sleeping. Better not to be taken on empty stomachNo special restrictions as to the amount. Can be taken on empty stomach and before sleeping

Intriguing Origins and Production

Before delving into the fascinating story behind the appearance and production of pu’erh tea, let us briefly explore some historical facts. Sheng (raw) pu’erh has been known for 1700 years, although it was not until the 18th century in Yunnan province that it acquired the name “pu’erh” Aged pu’erh, typically 20-30 years old, held a special value and was rumored to retain its flavor even after aging for up to 100 years. On the other hand, the creation of shou (ripe) pu’erh was a pursuit to expedite the tea aging process. The technology for producing shou pu’erh was accidentally discovered but was consciously and successfully developed in 1972, leading to its adoption by all tea factories in Yunnan.

Shou Pu’erh’s Global Popularity and the Journey to Sheng Pu’erh

Shou pu’erh gained worldwide recognition, becoming especially popular in Europe and serving as an introduction to the Chinese tea tradition. However, it is ironic that many tea connoisseurs who explore various tea types and flavors often develop a preference for sheng pu’erh.

Decoding the Labels: Sheng and Shou

The term “sheng” (生) translates to “raw,” “born,” “fresh,” “new,” or “young,” while “shou” (熟) signifies “ripe,” “prepared,” “ready,” or “mature.” Initially, freshly made pu’erh was referred to as sheng, while the aged variety was called shou. With the emergence of the two types, manufacturers began labeling the packaging of fresh cakes as sheng (生) for traditional pu’erh, and shou (熟) for pu’erh produced using new technology, intended to mimic the characteristics of aged pu’erh.

Choosing Between Sheng and Shou

To embark on your pu’erh tea journey, it is advisable to purchase samples of both shou and sheng pu’erh to determine your personal preference. If you enjoy green tea, you will likely lean towards sheng pu’erh, whereas those who prefer black (red) teas may gravitate towards shou. However, it is important to note that there can always be exceptions to these generalizations.

Embrace the Diversity of Pu’erh

As you explore the rich world of pu’erh tea, remember to embrace the diversity offered by both sheng and shou varieties. Each type carries its own allure and can captivate tea enthusiasts in unique ways.

Leave a Reply