Friday, 24 July 2015

The packaging of Puerh

Puerh is an interesting tea. The packaging of puerh is uniquely different from all other tea types produced in China. No other tea type has such a diversification in packaging.

The packaging of the tea into various forms and sizes is both complex and interesting. For instance, it can be sold in loose form or compressed shape. In the compressed form, it can be shaped like bricks, square tiles, biscuits, bowl, mushroom or golden melon. It can also be loaded into a section of bamboo and sold as bamboo puerh tea.

Loose puerh tea

Common shapes of puerh tea

100 g square puerh
250 g bricks, 4 in a bundle

Unusual form in bamboo

Golden melon shape
Not only the shape of compressed puerh tea is so diversified, it is also sold in different sizes ranging from a few grams to a few kilograms. The smallest being 3 to 5g in small toucha and tiles.

Little square bricks of 5g

This tiny toucha is good for single brew
Huge antique golden melon puerh from the Qing dynasty
Ever wonder why puerh tea is processed into compressed tea that take so many shapes/sizes?

The Horse Gang on Tea Horse Trail

The photo above showed how puerh tea was transported from Yunnan to the rest of the world. As horses were the only means of transportation, the puerh tea was compressed into the shapes and sizes that horses could carry. This gave rise to the Horse Tea Trail that traced the path of tea merchants in the early days as tea was transported to the rest of the world through mountainous terrain and rocky path. It was easier to transport solid compressed tea over long distances of several thousand kilometers. Sometimes it took these merchants (called the Horse Gang) more than a year to complete the journey on horses back. The journey was very tough as the merchants would face harsh terrain (through mountains) and dangers from the attack of wild animals and robbers. Some had even lost their lives halfway through the journey. This is what make the tea previous and valuable during those days.

Currently, the puerh tea is processed into 7-a-piece bundles and 12 bundles are contained in a bamboo basket called 1 piece. Each piece of bamboo basket will carry a big ticket detailing the year of manufacture, the label such as 7542 and the total weight.

7 pieces of puerh cakes in a bundle

One Piece (Zhi) contains 12 bundles

Big ticket inside the basket
Xiaguan tea factory produces toucha which is packaged into round boxes for the European market.
 For local market, five touchas each 100g are wrapped up in a bundle in brown bamboo leaves or paper.

Puerh bricks also packedin paper boxes in the 80s
Four happiness puerh tea

Huge melon puerh tea
Featuring the Olympic Games in Beijing
Unusual size of 500g in this raw puerh
Now, puerh tea cakes also come in non-conventional sizes, 500 g to 3 kg weight are not uncommon.

This raw puerh cake weighs 3 kg

Big and small square puerh tea are available for your selection. The choice is really unlimited. The packaging has also improved significantly. It is ideal to buy puerh tea as a gift set to give it to your friend on your return from a tour to China.

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