First, What Is Hei Cha?
The origin of Hei Cha dates back many centuries, and the methods used to make it are a somewhat iconic part of Chinese tradition that has been passed on for many years. Hei Cha is a post-fermented tea category that includes in itself teas like Shou Pu-erh, Liubao, Liu An, Hua Juan, Ting Juan, and Tian Jian.
What is the difference between Hei Cha and Pu-erh?
The answer is that Pu-erh is Hei Cha. But it’s not as simple as that...
The tea leaves used to make Hei Cha are fully oxidized, so on the spectrum of tea types Hei Cha is actually the most oxidized tea, with White Tea being least oxidized.
So if Hei Cha is fully oxidized then what makes it different from black tea (red tea)?
What takes Hei Cha a step further from black tea is the wet fermentation process, which exposes the tea leaves to high amounts of moisture and humidity in the tea factory.
Similarly to Shou Pu-erh the older the Hei Cha is, the more it is prized, as it is known to gain more sweetness and complexity with age.
Hei Cha is in fact an ancient tea with a rich tea history. Especially Liu Bao Hei Cha. The processing techniques of Liu Bao actually served as the basis for modern-day Ripe Pu erh preparation (which is quite new and wasn't developed until the 1970s).
Read more about Liu Bao Hei Cha here.
What Is Pu Erh?
Originating in Yunnan, China, Pu-erh tea has an ancient history of more than 2,000 years.
There are two distinctive types of Pu-erh: Sheng Pu-erh (the raw or green type) and Shu Pu-erh (the ripe or black type). Both Shu and Sheng Pu-erh teas are made from a sun-dried tea called Saiqing Mao Cha. After fermentation and roasting, pu-erh tea is aged, often for many years, resulting in its dark color and bold, mellow flavor.
To learn more about Pu-erh, you can read our article on it here.
Pu-erh is a sub-category of Hei Cha. It is produced exclusively in the Yunnan region of China, and if produced anywhere else using the same methods, it technically couldn’t be called Pu-erh.
Sheng (Raw) Pu-erh, on the other hand, is not fermented during the production process thus is not generally considered to be Hei Cha, unless it lives long enough to become fermented post-production.
What Is The Taste Difference Between Hei Cha and Pu-erh?
One difference between Sheng Pu-erh and most Hei Cha is that while Hei Cha gets sweeter and more mellow with age, the taste itself doesn’t change so drastically after 5, 10, or even 30 years. Many people describe Hei Cha as having a "fresher" taste when compared to Pu-erh.
While the flavor of Pu-erh, on the other hand, keeps changing drastically with age, gaining more complexity and variety of flavor notes.
Do you prefer Pu-erh or other varieties of Hei Cha? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!