Green Pu-Erh Tea Versus Aged/Ripe
Which Is More Authentic?

What's the difference between green and aged/ripe pu-erh tea? Which is more authentic?

The world of pu-erh is an all-emcompassing one.

Broadly speaking, it refers the teas produced in the Yunnan region using the pu-erh tea plants.

Therefore, it covers the entire universe of Chinese teas, ranging from the least oxidized (green, white, yellow) to heavily oxidized. It can also be loose-leaf or compressed.

No wonder tea drinkers are being confused!

Adding to this complexity is the advent of wet piling process to help raw pu-erh tea mature faster i.e. ripen pu-erh tea using microorganisms and moisture.

This gives rise to an important question:

Which is more authentic - green or ripe pu-erh tea? What about an aged pu-erh tea?

(In the pu-erh tea health benefits article, we explained why a green pu-erh tea has more health benefits than a ripe or aged pu-erh. This article will compare them in term of authenticity and flavors.)

Green versus Raw - What's the Difference?

A green pu-erh tea is also a raw pu-erh.

The reason it is raw is because the tea has just come out of the factory, and has not undergone aging.

A raw pu-erh tea can be made in different ways.

If it is made with little or no oxidation, it is a green pu-erh tea. The chemistry will be similar to a green tea.

If it is made into a white tea, then it is called a white pu-erh tea. Again, the chemistry will be similar to a white tea.

Thus a raw pu-erh can be green or white - depending on how it is made.

A green-pu-erh is effectively a green tea.

Green Pu-erh Tea

Green pu-erh tea is graded according to the quality of the leaves.

Tea buds that are plucked earlier in the season are younger and more tender. They have a higher grade.

New Green Tea Drinker?

If you are just starting to drink green tea, we would recommend that you start with a small-leaf variety tea such as Maofeng or Silver Needle, but not with a Pu-erh.

This is because a raw pu-erh can taste bitter and astringent. For a starter, it can be unpalatable.

This is why it is left to mature for 5 to 8 years before consuming!

Aged (Natural) Pu-erh Tea

When a raw pu-erh tea is left to mature by itself, it becomes an aged pu-erh tea.

This process is known as post-oxidation. It is a slow process. But this is the only way to make a truly authentic pu-erh tea.

A raw pu-erh tea can taste astringent and bitter.

After 3 to 5 years, some rawness still remains, mingled with some other smells.

After 5 to 10 years, you can detect ripeness in the dry leaves, which also acquires a tint of red. The tea liquor tastes sweet and mellow.

After 20 years, you can longer detect ripeness in the dry leaves, which now shines with a luster. A rich, powerful aroma emerges from the liquor, carrying many fragrances that you would never imagine exist.

Ripe Pu-erh Tea

While a raw pu-erh can take 5 years to smell ripe, this process can be shortened to 4 weeks using the wet-piling technique.

Tea leaves are piled up to a height of one meter. Water or mists are sprayed on the leaves. The wet conditions cause bacterial and fungal to multiply. They produce heat and enzymes, which in turn oxidizes the leaves.

If you are new to pu-erh, this is a good way to get into pu-erh. You need not wait for 5 years. And it is cheaper than an aged pu-erh!

Just bear in mind that a ripe pu-erh will be lower quality than an authentic aged pu-erh.

Here are some ways to tell them apart.

The liquor of an aged pu-erh is dark red with a luster. For a ripe liquor, it is darker.

The wet leaves of an aged pu-erh is soft and full. For a ripe liquor, they can be hard, dry and dark. When heavily oxidized, they can appear burnt.

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