There are six main categories of Chinese teas, classified based on the degrees of fermentation. The first five categories are more or less clear cut: Green tea, white tea, Yellow tea, Oolong tea and black tea.
There are however some confusions around the 6th category. As we know by now, the Chinese Red Tea (红茶) is equivalent to the black tea in English, and the Chinese Black Tea (Hei Cha 黑茶) is referring to a group of teas that are compressed and fully fermented, typical examples being Fu Brick (Fu Zhuan 茯转) and Liu Bao tea. So where does Pu-erh tea sit?
I have come crossed different tea books with various definitions for the sixth category:
- Compressed tea. By this definition, Pu-erh tea and Chinese Black Tea (Hei Cha 黑茶) should all belong to this sixth category as they are mostly compressed, and any other tea that is compressed.
- Chinese Black Tea (Hei Cha 黑茶). With this definition, technically only the fully fermented ripened (Shou熟) Pu-erh belongs to this category. The newly produced/unfermented raw (Sheng生) tea is more of a green tea, and the aged raw (Sheng生) Pu-erh may even be part of the Oolong tea group (classified as semi-fermented)?
The next question is therefore, do we really need to know what tea category Pu-erh tea belongs to? By the end of the day, the only thing really matters to a tea consumer is to discover his/her cup of tea, regardless what categories they belong to.
Please join us for a discussion or shared experiences at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/puerhtealovers