While puerhs appeared in marketable quantities around the year 2000. Before 2000, white teas of any sort were produced in such limited quantities that to even dream of experimenting with them was unheard of. Certainly, extremely small quantities of white puerh had been produced in the past, but these were generally scooped up by the cream of Chinese society, government officials or tea loving high rollers in Hong Kong and Macau. This all changed with the democratization of the Chinese economy. This development saw a rise in the overall standard of living in China and with it, new interest in rare specialty teas. These rare teas, with puerh among them, are generally only produced for the internal market. From time to time however, they can be purchased and brought over to the West.
Wenshan White Puerh, grown at 5200 ft. above sea level in Yunnan, China, is something of an art where artisans hand select the buds and top leaf of the broad-leafed white tea genus. Next, the crop is piled on a table and selected leaf-by-leaf for perfect color and form. The tea is then fermented very mildly and hand sorted a second time. In order to be officially labeled as puerh, even traditionally unfermented teas, white varieties included, must be fermented. According to the Bureau of Standard Measurement of Yunnan Province, puerh teas are officially: “products fermented from green tea of big tea leaves picked within Yunnan Province.” After fermentation, the tea is pressed into traditional puerh molds, steamed, packaged and stored. The finished cup is superb, weaving sweetish layers that hint at musk, earth, damp moss, leaves after rain, and subtle orchid leading to a light lingering finish. It is a stunning tea.
Like fine wines, puerh can be aged for many years. As the tea ages it continues to ferment. Its profile reacts to its environment and the leaves take on new characteristics. Interestingly, white puerh, since it has only been produced in large quantities for a handful of years, has not built up a vintage history. As such, there is much speculation as to how time will treat the delicate cakes. The general consensus in the trade is that white puerh will age gracefully, developing a wonderfully sweet, noble, musty character and body with light creamy nut notes
It is perfectly acceptable to enjoy this tea now. In fact, white puerh is often recommended to new puerh drinkers because of its mild flavor.
Click on this Google Link for vendors supplying this tea.
By Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll