Pu'erh, Formosa, Aged Oolongs--Whats the difference?
Hello, Im relatively new to what I call ‘advanced tea drinking’. I’ve been drinking my tea gong fu style for about 3 years now, and mostly consume shou pu’erh, a few whites, and a few oolongs. All vetted favorites at reasonable price points. More recently I have been trying to learn a little bit more, go outside of my wheelhouse to try new things, and to start trying to grapple the teas into some sort of general context. One of the things I have been really confused by in my reading is the term formosa which seems, as far as I can tell, to be a pu’erh from Taiwain? I know than Yunnan is the ‘home’ of pu’erh but I didn’t think the term was terroir defined? Anybody out there able to help me out?
Formosa is categorized as an Oolong. Finishing processes are different that Puerh. Puerh is classified as being “only” from Yunnan and I think it includes as no being a man made hybrid but only naturally occurring hybridization. Teas from Laos and Cambodia are brought across the border I am sure to pump up harvest quantities.
I think “formosan” (referring to the old name for Taiwan) teas are those cultivars indigenous to (or being grown in) Taiwan, regardless of processing style. I’ve had formosan black tea (red tea). An example of the term being used loosely to merely indicate a cultivar
grown in Taiwanese soil, is the “Formosa Assam” sold by BTTC. https://beautifultaiwantea.com/collections/dark-teas-black-tea-taiwan/products/formosa-assam. In that case it is an assamica cultivar taken from Burma, grown in Taiwan, and processed into a black tea. Many or most pu-erh teas are assimaca cultivars too, and “assamica” refers to a botanical variety with large leaves and having wide geographic distribution in nature, so-named because of its prevalence in the Assam region of India (Camellia sinensis var. assamica). “Formosan”, however, is not a formal botanical variety. Another major botanical variety is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, which has smaller leaves and accounts for most other Chinese (and Ceylon) teas. I would agree with what mrmopar wrote above (but am less strict about formosa teas always being processed as oolongs).
Also, be aware that pu-erh teas are not grown in Taiwan. However, some traders like to store and age their pu-erh tea in Taiwan because of the hot & humid climate (and possibly the microflora), which accelerates and (some say) improves the flavor. Expert tasters can tell and better describe the differences between a Dayi Tea Co. puer cake aged 20 yr in Kunming vs. a Dayi cake of the same batch aged 20 yr. in Taiwan. This is my understanding, but I am not an authority.
Thank you for all the extra information. It seems like my general instincts about terroir were correct but I hadnt connected the dots that all pu’erh are from Yunnan. I just thought that was the cradle/origin. Are there circumstances/examples you can think of where pu’erh (and more particularly shu pu’erh) are produced outside of yunnan province (but not as a counterfeit)? Basically is the shu process used outside of the province and called something else or is pu’erh from yunnan, regardless of processing, ignoring illegal activity?
They make Puerh outside of China. To technically be called puerh must be from Yunnan providence. Teaside does some stuff outside of China I know. A couple of others but you just have to dig them up.
Puerh outside of China? Like Champagne from California! I note that there is a city of Puer in Yunnan province (check Google maps) and I speculate that may be where the style originated or became famous.
Yeah thats where it all began. I think that is where the tea was first harvested and processed I think.