Many tea enthusiasts wouldn't consider pu-erh which is not grown and produced in Yunnan, China, to actually be pu-erh tea. We could argue that this topic requires more examination. After taking into account the geographical location of Yunnan and neighboring countries, as well as political discrepancies, we can consider the pu-erh from Guo Gan, Myanmar, to actually be called pu-erh tea. If nothing else, it is a truly aromatic, floral, and subtly sweet tea worth the time of any pu-erh lover!
What Is Pu erh Tea?
Pu-erh originated in Southwestern China's Yunnan province over 2000 years ago.
Pu-erh tea is divided into two categories: raw pu-erh known as sheng pu-erh; and ripe pu-erh known as shou pu-erh. Unlike other types of tea, pu-erh goes through fermentation. It also goes through various other steps, including aging, which often lasts for decades. This is what produces this teas, iconic bold, earthy flavor.
Pu-erh is a geographically indicated product, quite like Champagne. It can only be produced and fermented in Yunnan using sun-dried tea from specific tea varieties found in Yunnan, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), and some parts of Thailand and Vietnam.
Pu-erh Tea From Myanmar
Myanmar is a hot country with an extended rainy season in the summer. The heat, coupled with the wet and humid environment, is perfect for growing tea. Tea farmers produce hundreds of tons of pu-erh year-round. Most of these come from the summer harvest, fewer from the autumn harvest, and only a couple of tons come from the spring harvest. Spring harvest pu-erh tea is not only rarer but noticeably more delicious. Much like any other tea type, the first harvests always produce the sweetest, most delicate and aromatic tea leaves.
While many farmers stick to a practice of mixing spring-summer-autumn tea harvests to even out production costs, pu erh tea cakes made solely of the spring harvest are rarer. Our Myanmar Wild Tree Guo Gan Raw Pu-erh is made of 100% spring tea leaves, harvested in April 2019.
Myanmar Pu erh vs Yunnan Pu erh Tea
Although pu erh tea cakes are often composed of tea leaves grown throughout Southeast Asia, some tea enthusiasts believe it is not truly pu erh tea if it wasn’t grown and produced in Yunnan province, China.
Indeed, legend has it pu erh tea originated in Yunnan province over 2000 years ago. However, the proximity of Myanmar to Yunnan is of no question. Myanmar borders with China’s Yunnan province and the region of Guo Gan (Kokang), where many wild tea trees (gushu) grow, has been a part of China at different periods throughout history. Although it is now part of Burma, many Chinese people (90% of the region is ethnically Han Chinese) continue to live and produce tea in the area.
When examining the ancient tea trees growing in Guo Gan, many are of close age to those found in Yunnan. It would be of no surprise if thousands of years ago it were all one large tea growing area undivided by the strict borders of common times. In fact, the ecosystem is the same as it is in other parts of Yunnan.
While pu-erh from Myanmar can’t officially be patented as pu-erh, most pu-erh enthusiasts will still consider it pu-erh, taking into account all the above-mentioned circumstances.
We invite you to try Myanmar pu-erh for yourself to make a decision truly!
The beauty of the tea trees which grow in Guo Gan is unparalleled. The region itself is somewhat remote and not easy to get around. While Yunnan is one of the top tea producing areas in the world, Guo Gan is still left relatively untouched. This is why we can find forests with ancient tea trees, growing wildly without the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Kokang, or Guo Gan, region to this day, faces many hardships. For years the locals have been caught in civil war and numerous battles. Until just recently, the locals could only rely on dangerous drug-trade for income. Then the government was able to make a shift towards a more organic income — namely sugarcane and tea production. The locals can’t always earn much, but it is a safer and healthier way of life. By trying teas from the region we can continue to support the region’s efforts towards tea production.
For more information on the political situation of Kokang and its relation to tea production, we recommend checking out this article.