Theory on Pu-er Tea Making and Culture in the Ming Dynasty

Background: the fifteenth year of Hongwu in Ming Dynasty, after the Ming Dynasty conquered Yunnan, the dynasty has sent the armies to the frontier and let the residents from Middle and South parts of China to Yunan and clean the wild land for cultivation. There were three types of the land, “Land for army”, “Land for residents” and “Land for business”. With the large number of immigration from the south part of China, it brought the advanced techniques of making the tea.

Back then, in terms of tea making technique, it was impossible for Yunnan to be more advanced than the middle part of China. From the background described above, I speculate that the several tea beverages in Yunnan are listed below:

  1. The tea products (loose tea) made from the white tea technique we talk about nowadays, has follow process: picking the fresh leaves, drying the leaves (sun dry), collecting and storage. Then, you can brew with boiled water.
  2. Baking tea, washing the freshly picked tea leaves, and then dry the leaves in the pot on the fire. Then you can boil the tea in the water. You can drink the tea once the water is boiled.
  3. Lapacho tea, boiling the freshly picked tea leaves with water. After a while, take the leaves out of the water (sun dry the leaves). Then collect them and put them in storage. You can drink the tea with boiled water.

Of course, during this time, most of tea in middle part of China were brewed by boiled water. The most famous tea is the Longfeng tea, which is mixed up with some spices. IT is not just tea. In terms of process, the most advanced technique is the tea steaming. It solved the problem of grass smell and the weak smell. The tea during the same time are: loose tea, green tea, tea cream, tea cake (Tuan tea) and others.

Even though, the loose tea appeared during that time, the tools had not invited for frying tea in Tang Dynasty. The tools were mainly for boiling and steaming. The thin bottom iron pan, which can be used for frying, only appeared after Song and Yuan Dynasty. According to the tea frying technique recorded in the “Agricultural Book” of Wang Zhen from Yuan Dynasty, has given the clear description on the “tea rolling” that roll the tea into the shape of strips. However, the process of shaqing (fixation/kill green) was still used by steaming. Later in the book of “Tea list”, “Tea bible”, “Tea illustration”, “Tea explanation” and others started to explain the making process of tea frying in detail.

Yunnan is relatively rural region compare to the middle part of China. The tea making process that Yunnan was able to get in touch with was relatively varied. The names of tea made from the process were many. The technique during this process has many similarities compare to the Pu-er technique used by folks, such as the punching technique, stirring technique and others. The tea cake technique was not first used by Yunnan tea. From the technique perspective, Pu-er or the green tea is not the earliest tea in Yunnan.