Pu-erh tea is a unique class of Chinese teas, with a fundamental difference from other categories of teas being the tea leaves are harvested from arbour tea trees instead of tea bushes.
This nature of Pu-erh tea leads them to many characteristics that differ distinctively from other teas, such as the harvesting and processing, special aging/post-fermentation process, storage and consumption etc.
One of the terms that is head frequently in the Pu-erh community is Gushu Cha (古树 – ancient tea tree teas).
The Pu-erh tea trees all grow along the Ling-Cang river (临沧江) of the Yunnan Province, south-west of China. The tea trees range from wild tea trees grown in the native forests which are over a thousand years old to tea trees cultivated on the plains during recent years.
- At least 100 years old (some define as more than 300 years)
- Most growing 1600m above the sea level
- Most growing in the native forests
- Generally over 3m in height
The tea leaves harvested from these ancient tea trees have following merits:
- The tea trees have lived/survived the local conditions for at least 100 years, adopted to the local environment and no need for fertilisers, pesticides or even watering.
- The tea trees have cumulated abundant nutrients over time, producing tea leaves with rich and long lasting flavour and additional nutrients
- With deeper roots in comparison to the smaller trees - able to collect nutrients otherwise not available
Ecological concerns of Gushu
There has been serious concerns during recent years that the Gushu trees are over plucked due to the high demand. For example, It has been reported in Chinese media that a contractor paid 680,000 RMB (from 320,000RMB/Kg last year) for 1kg of the Pu-erh Maocha harvested from the Bang-Zhang king tea tree in Feb 2018. The local tea framers, most are uneducated and had lived a long period under poverty, see it as a gold rush. Just like the animals however, without human intervention, these Gushu will extinct in front of our eyes very soon.