Puerh tea history in China is indeed fascinating, and it involves a combination of historical events, royal patronage, and the preservation of tea leaves over centuries. Here’s a summary of how aged Puerh tea, often centuries old, has come to be cherished in modern times:
Origins of Puerh Tea
- Puerh tea cultivation began before the Tang Dynasty but became more widespread during the Tang Dynasty’s golden-age period.
- Initially, Puer production was limited due to technological constraints and transportation difficulties, making high-quality Puer a rare commodity.
- Valuable Puer tea was often presented as gifts to government officials and the emperor as a sign of respect.
Storage in the Emperor’s Palace
- High-quality Puer tea was given to government officials as gifts and accumulated within the emperor’s palace.
- The emperor’s palace became the largest storage hub for Puer tea in China.
- Tea reserves in the palace grew substantially over time, and specially designated areas were created to store the tea.
Puer as a National Treasure
- Puer tea was considered a national treasure in China due to its rarity, cultural significance, and perceived health benefits.
- It was so scarce that it was sometimes considered rarer than gold.
- Chinese officials highly respected Puer tea and its associated culture.
Tea Reserves Over Centuries:
- The accumulation of tea reserves continued through the Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
- Teas, including some of the oldest Puer varieties, were stored away and neglected for hundreds of years within these reserves.
The Transition Period
- In 1911, the Qing Dynasty collapsed, bringing an end to the imperial rule in China.
- China underwent significant political and cultural changes during this period, with the introduction of modernization, science, and technology.
- Many preserved artifacts, including centuries-old teas, were sold into the market as China sought to embrace new ways of thinking and modernization.
Emergence of Aged Puer Tea
- The sale of these ancient teas, some dating back hundreds or even over a thousand years, caught the attention of tea enthusiasts.
- Tea collectors acquired these aged Puer teas and began storing and preserving them for future generations.
- These collectors shared their knowledge and possessions with students and passed down their teas to those they deemed worthy.
- This practice continued for generations, and books and literature on aged Puer tea began to emerge in the market.
Evidence and Legacy
- There is substantial evidence, including oral traditions, literature, and preserved teas, to support the history of aged Puer tea in China.
- Public tea gatherings, auctions, and sharing among enthusiasts have further promoted the appreciation and preservation of aged Puer tea.
Puerh tea history in China is a testament to the enduring legacy of this unique beverage. While some may remain skeptical, the evidence and traditions surrounding aged Puer tea continue to captivate scholars and tea enthusiasts alike.