Drinking a shou puerh brick with friends, we noticed the character 青 [qing] in the description. 青 can mean “green”, “black”, “young”, “grass”, or “unripe crops”. I knew that this character was used when describing production methods of green tea, so I thought I’d summarize those here.
Green tea is produced by halting the oxidation of the leaves by the application of heat. This process is generically called 杀青 [shaqing] or “killing green.” In the same way that “green” implies “young” in English, 杀青 also contains the sense of completion or maturity. The different production styles are characterized by the heat-adding method. “The Story of Tea” by Robert and Mary Lou Heiss has a helpful chart of green tea processing methods with pinyin names. I’ll try to attach these to the Chinese characters that make sense.
炒 [chao] is “stir-fry”. Longjing tea looks flattened, as it’s pressed against the sides of a hot wok.
China produces Japanese-style sencha by using 蒸 [zhen], “steam”.
This must be 晒 [shai], “to sunbathe”. Since sun-drying is a relatively benign heat source, some oxidation typically occurs in sun-dried teas, aligning them with white teas.
烘 [hong] means “dry”, and oven-drying is a modern way to dry large quantities of tea quickly and cheaply.
Basket-fired/charcoal fired: hongpei, yaoqing
I suspect pei is actually 焙 [bei] “roast”, or “dry over heat.” Add that to 烘 [hong] above. I assume yao is 窑, “kiln” or “charcoal pit.” Basket-fired teas like Pi Lo Chun are shaped in woven bamboo stand-baskets which are placed over charcoal embers or an electric element.
So since shou puerh is ripened, or artificially aged, we weren’t sure why it was being described as “green” or “young.” It seems like a sheng, or “raw” puerh would be described as such. Are the leaves picked from young bushes? Is this cake “suitable for additional aging”? Instead of the typical musty flavor, this pu-erh tasted of noodles, with a clean finish. Brandon speculated that this was a return to the fashion of the earliest shou puerhs that sought to emulate the aged sheng taste, as opposed to later shou styles that play up their uniqueness. Is this “early style” what’s meant by qing? Watch Wrong Fu Cha for further developments, and better pictures….