Pu’er or Heicha or dark tea is produced using a steaming process that provokes a non-enzymatic fermentation different from black tea. Pu’er production involves microbial fermentation and oxidation of the tea leaves after they have been dried and rolled. Pu’er varieties are Sheng and Shou. Sheng Pu’er is best when aged. It can be matured in loose leaf form which requires two or three years and then pressed into numerous shapes.
Shou is processed to imitate the aged raw sheng tea and is known in English as cooked or ripe Pu’er. It is processed by a technique called wet piling. Control over the variables in the process are key to the ripening process and producing pu’er of high quality. Average ripening takes from 45-60 days on average.
Sheng pu’er has higher antioxidant properties while Shou pu’er has higher levels of caffeine.
Pu’er is generally classified by processing method, region, shape, grade or season.