THE PU ER (AND PARALLEL UNIVERSE) CLUB | 01.23-06.23
Enter a universe that fascinates (for different reasons) whisky lovers, yoga practitioners, coffee geeks, and… us, tea aficionados. Whether you’re looking for insane aromatics, the almost impossible-to-describe ‘gan’ feeling (more on that below), or tea to accompany your daily meditation practice, we can’t recommend Pu Er enough.
NOTE : your tea for ALL 6 MONTHS will be shipped within December, in a wooden chest..
What’s in your Membership?
1. Engraved, pinewood chest.
2. 6 packs of Pu Er tea (up to 50g, no fewer than 15g, depending on the value of each tea). The combined value (in Guangzhou's market) of the tea cakes that we will explore in this chest exceeds $1900. This is an excellent opportunity to sample them all!
3. Data cards for each tea, with as much information as we can gather about those leaves.
4. Access to a monthly 20% discount code, applicable for any Pu Er tea in our collection.
5. Monthly group tasting session (on Zoom or at our tea bar) to explore the ‘tea of the month’. These will be ~45 minute 'tea parties' where Bailey, Geoff and Daniel brew and analyze each month's offering. Guests are welcome to join the discussion too! Please see the meeting dates below.
You will receive all six teas, in a wooden chest, which will arrive in a single shipment BEFORE the tea club’s tasting sessions. All orders received before December 15 will be shipped within that month. Please order before Dec. 1 if you would like to receive your shipment before Christmas.
What is Pu Er?
Pu Er is a group of teas which fall under the ‘dark tea’ (嘿茶) category; this category encompasses several styles of fermented teas. Strictly speaking, the term Pu Er should only be used to describe tea that grows in China’s Yunnan Province.
The Name: The Chinese characters 普洱 are romanized as ‘Pu Er’ in Pinyin (China’s official system since 1958) or ‘Pu Erh’ in Wade-Giles (an older system). In Mandarin, the pronunciation of 普洱 is quite close to ‘Poo Arr’.
Pu Er is also the name of an ancient tea trading town in southern Yunnan; according to some sources, it was this town that gave the Pu Er name to all the tea grown in this region.
image: tea picker in Yiwu, Yunnan, within the traditional 'Pu Er' territory
In other countries: you may hear Japanese people refer to Pu Er as プーアル茶 (Pu A Ru Cha), and Koreans as 보이차 (Bo Hee Cha); within China, Cantonese people call it ‘Bo Lay’.
Please consider: tea growers in the countries that border southern Yunnan (Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos) often call their tea ‘Pu Er’ too. We know a good number of both Chinese and Western folks who would strongly disapprove. However, it is worth considering that national border lines in the region have varied significantly over the centuries. What may not be ‘officially' Pu Er today may have been completely acceptable to a tea drinker in the 18th or 19th centuries.
giant tea tree in Ha Giang, Vietnam, close to the Chinese border
Parallel Universes | What else will we study?
You will often hear people using the term ‘Pu Er’ loosely. Tea growers and merchants in the countries that border southern Yunnan (Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos) often call their tea ‘Pu Er’ too, to the chagrin (justifiable, in our opinion) of traditional Pu Er scholars and Chinese producers. It is also true that tea grown in countries like Vietnam and Laos is often imported to China and sold as ‘Pu Er’.
Furthermore, many hear tea producers in other countries with completely different ecosystems (Shikoku Island in Japan and Boseong in South Korea) calling local fermented or compressed teas ‘Pu Er’.
In this particular club, we will NOT call fermented tea grown beyond Yunnan Pu Er; however, in future installments, we may choose to share tea selections from countries that border Yunnan (e.g. Vietnam, and Laos), where tea trees, ecosystems, and tribal societies are very similar to their Chinese counterparts in Yunnan. We will, however, exclude fermented and compressed tea grown in any region that does not border Yunnan.
Types of Pu Er
In the phenomenal, wide world of Pu Er tea, there are two main variants: 生 (sheng) and 熟 (shou), or raw and cooked. The former can be consumed ‘young’ (unfermented); it can also be aged, allowing micro-organisms to do magic, slowly fermenting the tea and creating a smoother and more complex drink. Until the 1970s, tradition dictated that Pu Er should be made this way.
Cooked Pu Er is a newcomer. In 1973, tea masters at the Kunming Tea Factory (currently known by the super cool name of 'China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import & Export Corp’) documented a process to ferment Pu Er tea in 6 to 7 weeks. The tea produced happened to be very mellow, earthy, and very pleasant to one of the most important Pu Er tea audiences: Cantonese people both in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Another legendary tea company, the Menghai Tea factory, adopted this process… and then everyone else did, too.
This very interesting process can be summarized by piling tea leaves in a controlled moisture and heat environment. It is very labour-intensive and involves turning the leaves multiple times to ensure homogeneous results. Once the tea is fermented, the leaves are aired, dried, and very often pressed into tea cakes and bricks.
To be clear, the Kunming Tea Factory was not the first one to ever ferment tea in piles; Shaanxi, Hunan, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan (Ya An), and Guangxi all have examples of fermented tea that have been around much longer. Kunming Tea was, however, the first to commercially apply a technique of this style to Pu Er.
In more recent times (i.e. after 2010) DC Tea 颠茶 has made the most significant change in processing cooked tea. This company developed and trademarked a fermentation process in baskets, off the ground.
Friday January 20, 2023, 7pm – 8:00pm PST
Friday February 17, 2023, 7pm – 8:00pm PST
Friday March 17, 2023, 7pm – 8:00pm PST
Friday April 21, 2023, 7pm – 8:00pm PST
Friday May 19, 2023, 7pm – 8:00pm PST
Friday June 16, 2023, 7pm – 8:00pm PST
You may reserve a seat to attend in person (first come first serve, 604-558-000) or join via Zoom.
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84723586317?pwd=alg2UklKdzRTMmhNdDM5M01WWTJrdz09Meeting ID: 847 2358 6317
Focus: January to June 2023
During our first six months, we will explore the work of an old friend, 卢志明 (Lu Zhi Ming); along with 扬四 (Yang Si), Lu is widely responsible for O5’s mad love of Pu Er.
We met Lu in Guangzhou in 2008; he had a very unassuming (yet very richly supplied) tea store. Like many native Cantonese, he was a life-long tea drinker; being in love with tea mountains, sunsets, and exploration, he decided to dedicate his professional life to tea in 2003.
By the time we met Lu (barely 5 years into his tea career), the guy was already a walking encyclopedia. He devoured old manuscripts about tea as well as modern texts; more importantly, he spent significant time each year living in Yunnan, climbing mountains, and sharing tea and food with countless local friends.
Lu is the guy who introduced us to many of the friends that we play basketball and ping pong with in Yunnan; he’s also the guy who demonstrated the value of bringing a large case of Thai Red Bull (much more valued than regular Red Bull) as a gift to tea growers in Bulang Shan.
Lu lives by his motto: ‘keep climbing to the top!' It is an expression of fascination about what we can discover every day (new mountain, village, sunset, recipe…). You may find that these words have strongly influenced O5.
The parcel for January to June 2023 will include chunks of the following teas, some of which are no longer available for sale in China.
2020 喜爱的F8, crafted with leaves from ~400 year old trees in Bulang Shan.
2021 簇茶标准版, which captures flavours from 2015-2019 in Bulang, Mengsong and Yiwu.
2020 无界, the 2020 edition of one of DC’s most successful product lines since 2012, with leaves from 6 mountains that include Yiwu and Banzhang.
2019 有易, a stunning ‘vertical tasting’ of Yiwu, expressing harvests from 2009 to 2016.
2017 芙蓉冠, featuring leaves from 500 year old trees, carefully stuffed in dragon bamboo and slow roasted over charcoal.
2021 天脉, an iteration on the 2020 F8 recipe, adding layers of Nannuo Shan tea leaves on a base of ancient Bulang Shan tree leaves.
Tea Bar HoursSUN 12:00PM - 7:00PMMON - THURS 12:00PM - 6:00PMFRI - SAT 12:00PM - 8:00PM
Location2208 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC1.604.558.0500
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