We use Chinese way to describe and categorize our teas , however this might also differ from the area not only within China but even in Yunnan. We summarized briefly descriptions commonly used in Kunming tea markets among the tea vendors or Yunnan tea farmers.
Chinese tea market ( Xiong Da tea market, Kunming, Yunnan )
Feel free to contact us if some part is not clear for you or if you are familiar with any difference with written below. The overall tea business / marketing in China is developing all the time and so the terminology or categorizing.
Bush Tea ( approx. age: 3 - 70 years ) - 台地茶 “tai di cha“
Bush tea is used for any type of tea ( green , red, pu-erh etc. ) . From all those 3 types the "Tai Di" － Tableland tea is generally the cheapest one. Simply because of the amount available, simplicity of harvesting and in many occasions of the taste / quality. Generally speaking , the bush tea leafs don't hold it's flavor / taste for many steepings ( brewing steps ) as the other two. Also the astringency and bitterness are more than likely to be in present much noticeable way , which in certain amount is considered as a downside of the tea quality.
Nowadays various techniques of processing can significantly reduce those not welcomed ( for many pu-erh tea drinkers ) astringent and bitter notes. But same way unfortunately reducing the ability of aging ( changing the taste with age ) . Means , those kind of teas are good for drinking at all the time , but not gaining better taste with long term storage.
Arbor tree ( approx. age:10 - 300 years ) - 乔木 “qiao mu” ( read : chao mu , “q“=ch )
Arbor tea tree is on Chinese tea market usually divided into the 3 more subcategories :
小乔木 “xiao qiao mu” - small ( young ) up to 100 years ,
乔木 “qiao mu” - regular 100 - 150 years
老乔木 “lao qiao mu” - old arbor 150-300 years old.
There is also a category called 大树 "da shu" - big tree , which is basically same as regular arbor , only the tree is taller. But in our opinion this is just another comercial trick how to make pu-erh tea market more “colorful“ ( more choices ) . However, we still follow the producers labeling and naming.
In most cases “qiao mu cha“ is not too astringent and keeps it's flavor body quality longer than "tai di cha"
Old ( ancient ) tea tree ( approx. age: 300 + years ) - 古树茶 “gu shu cha“:
As you can imagine, how many over 300 years old tea trees are growing in China now and what would be a price per 1 kg ( aprox. 4kg fresh tea leafs ) of this tea.
With growing demand of "gu shu" tea material the following facts are happening in tea market:
1) tea from old trees is mixed with regular arbor or even bush tea in order to get cheaper price / larger amount ..or just both.
2) the bottom line of term "gu shu" has been shifted from 300+ years down to 100+ years , in order to sell anything with this so commercially successful label " Gu Shu Cha “ - The Ancient Tea .
For sure you can see many vendors , not only Chinese ones, to sell so called Gu Shu Cha for whatever cheap price. It takes a while for beginner to have an idea about the prices of old tea tree material to avoid buying fakes. The best and definitely safest way is to buy sample first and make judgment yourself how much "gu shu" material is actually in the pressed cake or in "mao cha" ( loose leafs ) .
We also have some teas called "Gu Shu" which would be from around 150y old only tea trees only, but despite of that in detailed specifications they are marked as "Lao Qiao Mu" - old arbor instead of ancient tree.
We are trying to stay a bit on the ground with this commercial hit , rather than writing some stories about 500 years old "gu shu" , which more than likely is not available even in local tea market and price per kg is in thousands dollars.
In most of the places the tea harvesting is spring and autumn , but some places also have summer and winter harvest. Spring and autumn also can be sometimes divided on early or late spring / autumn harvest .
Spring – 春茶 “chun cha“
Summer – 夏茶／雨水茶 “xia cha“ or “yu shui cha“ - rainy season ( 雨水 “yu shui“ - rain water )
Autumn – 秋茶 ／ 谷花 “qiu cha“ or “gu hua“ - its the time when millet starts to blossom ( 谷子 “gu zi“ - millet , 花 “hua“ - flower ) .
Winter — 冬茶 “dong cha“ - it's actually late autmn harvest if in Yunnan , other places like Gu Dong where is Dan Cong tea harvest is in various times in the winter.
This is pretty simple. Small,medium, big leafs and buds ( tips ) . Tips are are basically not developed / fully opened leafs . Still closed in the shape of needle and it is the most valued part of the tea material. Apart of those , there is also a tee tree flower 芽孢 “ya bao“ which can be brewed as it is or can be mixed / pressed with some tea ( black or pu-erh ) .
黄片 "huang pian" yellow leafs which usually being selected out from pu-erh tea after all processing are used as daily drinker for farmers.
In our shop you can also find a section Flower Tea. It's actually not a tea but pressed flowers which can be brewed as a tea.
马蹄 "ma ti" - horse's hoof , its not a leaf but a wooden stem of the leaf in shape reminding horse's hoof. This type of stem (wooden) can be found in the tea from arbor trees.
Since our store is located in Kunming where weather is generally dry, the most of our teas are dry storage. In China we distinguish in to the 2 categories : Dry ( KM ) and Wet ( GZ ,HK ) storage. Some of the teas are stored in places like Menghai , Simao ( Puer ) or Lincang where weather conditions are not dry like Kunming but also not as humid as in Guangzhou (GZ) , Shenzhen (SZ) or Hongkong (HK).This kind of tea has usually well balanced dry & wet characteristics so we created another category called semi-dry storage. Please note: if we have wet storage or semi-dry storage tea in our shop, we specially write that in description. Other than that , the tea is Kunming dry storage .
Most of our teas come from trusted suppliers and some of them even directly from tea factories or official distributors. However we like to search for some unique pieces as well and as the Chinese pu-erh tea market is a bit “wild“ there are cases when we come across with a good tea but “wrong“ wrapper. Means : there could be a very nice Bulang Shan wrapped into the Laobanzhan label , or the dates ( specially with shu pu-erh ) would be marked as older than the tea actually is.
All that is happening for simple marketing reason. If we get our hands on any of those kinds and feel that it's worth the price ( the value of the actual tea not what says on the wrapper ) we will put it on our shop with an explanation. We would judge aprox.date of the tea based on our experience.
内票 “nei piao“ ( nei fei ) - paper ticket usually pressed into the cake.
The way we test the teas is very simple. We use 100 -140ml gaiwan , brewing 4-10g of tea leafs and brewing as many times it goes weak or turns bitter water like. Some teas we drink few times in different days when we are not sure about the quality or overall taste. Sometimes only me and my wife or we drink with friends / other family members to get a second opinion.
However, please bear in mind. We live in 2000m above the sea level, our water is more than likely different from yours and our taste buds don't have to match yours either.
Teas marked as certified or organic certified are from bigger suppliers holding various certifications ( Chinese , International , European etc. ) . Type of the certification is stated in Details section on product page. These certificates has been obtained by the tea company or tea supplier and we do not verify their legitimacy neither the tea it self.
Please note that Yunnan Craft is not taking any responsibility for any tea being organic unless we run the tests on particular batch our selves!
Types of certificates:
When we describe our teas , it is for just give you a hint , flavor scope , overall body of the tea liquor. Since we can't guarantee 100% match , we offer samples almost for every tea in our store. 25g should give you a rough idea how the full cake will taste and we try to keep prices of our samples reasonable low despite there is a bit work with it ( chipping off, weight it, pack it, label it ). So please be reasonable with ordering amount of these samples ( we are OK with make up to 10 samples within each order ).
Apart of the regular , commonly known terms for foreign tea drinkers we also use some specific Chinese terms as written bellow :
Pu-erh tea description :
茶气 “cha qi“ - comes from Taoism and it means something like energy of the tea. From early Tang dynasty this has been described as inner body reaction for the tea you have just drunk. It might be light, gentle, strong, powerful etc. You might find many articles dedicated to this commonly used term and many discussions on tea forums from which overall you will understand that this is very individual feeling. When we use this term is just expressing our feeling with drinking this tea which not necessarily has to occur to you when you brew the same tea.
霸气 “ba qi“ - less used term but it has been around from long time ago and not commonly used even among the experienced pu-erh tea drinkers. The plain translation would be something like “aggressive or dominant“ and we try to not using this term to often, only with more “powerful teas“.
味 “wei“ comes from 味道 “wei dao“ - taste and it has been added to the type of the taste.
水味 “shui wei“ - watery taste. This express the sensation of actual tea taste is sort of aside of the water. Feels like the tea is not too rich and gives an impression of drinking two separate liquids — strong tea and plain water . This is common with summer tea when rainy season has a big impact on the tea leafs ( 雨水茶 “yu shui cha“ described above ). This is classified as a downside of the quality of the tea but not as defect.
堆味 “dui wei“ - pile taste. It's used as term for Shu Pu-erh tea and it's not welcomed taste caused by fermentation of tea leafs. This scent / flavor can be strong or mild which also depends on individual tolerance. In any case , many new shu pu-erhs have this unpleasant taste which should diminish in some time ( months or years ) .
青味 “qing wei“ - something like “fresh taste / green taste“ is commonly used for young sheng pu-erhs and it means exactly how it calls. Some new sheng pu might have noticeable green tea characteristic ( such as notes of bi luo chun ) . This usually fades away with long term storage if it's not a matter of bad processing. ( ref. to our blog -Yiwu Puerh tea harvest )
生津 “sheng jin” - sweet feeling being distributed by saliva gathering in the mouth. No fixed location is guaranteed. It can occur on sides of the tongue with even slightly stinging experience like drinking a fizzy drink , at the bottom of the tongue or at the back sides of the tongue near the tonsils where reaction could be almost like astringent feeling after eating sour lemon when your saliva turns to the sweet juice after . Intensity of "sheng jin" has been a part of the quality measurement of pu-erh among the Chinese pu-erh drinkers.
回甘 “hui gan” - literally means “returning sweetness” and it's considered as another quality aspect of pu-erh tea. Sweetness experienced in your throat or sort of top-back of your mouth after swallowing the tea. "hui gan" as a "sheng jin" is also very individual feeling. Two people drinking same cup might have different level or location ( mouth / throat ) of experiencing it.
Qing Xiang Xing - Light fragrance. Light roasted Dancong tea bright yellow tea liquor with slight touch of tartaric acid in taste and acceptable bitterness in texture and slow sweet after taste along with sheng jing. The dry leafs are in dark green color.
Nong Xiang Xing - strong fragrance. Two times roasted ( heavy roasted ) Dancong tea with dark gold te liquor and very obvious pleasant fragrance with lasting sweet after taste. The tea can be brewed many steps . They dry leafs appears in dark brown or black color, and hold their strong fragrance after many steepings.
Plenty articles are written on internet about tea heath benefits or pu-erh tea benefits and side effects. We do not use any heath beneficial details of our tea in description of our products.