04 May 2011

Pu’er isn’t the only type of “ripe” tea – Aged Teas V

Pu’er tea comes mainly as green/raw, cooked/ripe, or a blend of those, but pu’er isn’t the only type of tea that can be considered cooked or ripe.  So can oolongs. 

Oolong teas that have received a healthy-dose of roasting can be called “shou” tea as well.  These teas often have a good level of oxidation to boot (a sufficiently-oxidized tea makes for a more complete and stable roasted tea).  While “shou” can be interpreted as ripe (such as with a banana), shou also connotes something that is ready to eat (such as steamed fish, prepared meats, etc) or “cooked.”  The cooked class of oolongs can include such teas as roasted Wuyi Yancha or traditional Tieguanyin. 

I like all kinds of good-tasting tea.  Lighter oolongs, such as Taiwan high mountain oolongs, contemporary mainland Tieguanyin and Baozhong can taste very good when fresh.  They can have a plethora of flavor notes and scents that show up beautifully in both gaiwan or pot.  The problem for me and many tea drinkers who down pot after pot of tea is that green and green-oolong teas hurt our stomachs.  Ten+ pots of a roasted tea wouldn’t faze us whereas 3 or 4 pots of greener tea wouldn’t feel so nice. 

Aged oolongs tend to have been oxidized and roasted.  If you go on Taobao and search for aged oolongs, the vast majority of the teas (that are at least 10 years old) will have been roasted (be prepared, you will get an enormous number of hits).  These cooked teas are easier on the stomach.  I’ve mentioned before that some people call aged teas “laoren cha” or old folks’ tea.  The fact that aged oolongs tend to be cooked also makes them more appropriate for tea drinkers that have sensitive stomachs.   

Why not just drink cooked pu’er?  It’s cheaper, tastes good, is easier to find, and each pot goes quite a long way.  All true and valid points, but an aged oolong can be enchanting in a multitude of different and additional ways.  It’s really just a matter of personal taste, since a good ginger or chamomile tea might beat both pu’er and oolong for soothing a stomach.

Drink good tea and enrich your life.


  1. Yeah I've heard of a saying for many times (and think it's very possible true) that the term "ripe/shu" for puerh originated from the Taiwan oolong term meaning deeper oxidation. A Taiwan roasted oolong I bought last year was labeled "ripe" too.

  2. Hey Gingko, you're right, that reminds me, another meaning or implication of shou/shu is that the tea is the result of skilled work or processing (such as with the deeper oxidation). I didn't know that this widely-used pu'er term could've originated from oolong...cool!