History of Shou Puerh Tea

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Shou puerh tea has a special place in my heart. Its rich earthy flavor continues to remind me of my love for tea. Today we will be taking a closer look at where shou puerh comes from and how it is made.  


What is Shou Puerh?

Shou (熟) puerh, often called "cooked", "ripe", or "black" puerh, is produced through a process called "wet-pile fermentation" (wo dui, 渥堆), which ferments the tea before being compressed. During this process, the tea is piled, moistened, and then covered with thermal blankets to increase and maintain internal heat. The result is a dark, full-bodied brew with a relaxing energy.

Origins of Shou Puerh

Records suggest that methods of fermenting tea leaves were experimented with as early as the 1930s. In Menghai, a county in Yunnan known for its tea production, tea leaves were piled and subjected to multiple fermentation cycles. 

What is wet Piling? 

Wet piling is a process of controlled fermentation. Freshly harvested tea is heaped into piles and kept moist and warm for several weeks to several months. The moisture and warmth create an ideal environment for microbial fermentation. When activated the microbial break down the organic compounds in the tea leaves, transforming the flavor, aroma, and appearance of the tea. Some unique characteristics of shou puerh tea that you may be familiar with include its smoothness, richness, and earthy flavor. Once the fermentation process is complete, the tea leaves are dried and then aged to further develop their flavor profile.


Evolution of Techniques

Over time, Yunnan tea producers continued to refine their fermentation processes, addressing issues such as under-fermentation, over-fermentation, and temperature control. Despite challenges, the wet-pile fermentation method remained the preferred approach due to its stability and cost-effectiveness.

While wet-pile fermentation became the dominant method for producing shou puerh tea, historical records suggest that alternative techniques, such as steaming fermentation, were also experimented with before the 1970s. These early innovations laid the foundation for the diverse range of puerh teas available today.


Shou puerh tea continues to be a beloved and integral part of Chinese tea culture. From its origins in Yunnan province to its widespread popularity worldwide, shou puerh tea stands as a testament to the resourcefulness and craftsmanship of tea producers throughout history.

Chanting Pines 

Here at Chanting Pines we bring to you some of the finest shou puerh teas available on this planet. Sourced directly from dedicated farmers with a deep-rooted passion for tea and a commitment to sustainability. 

Shop here 


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