Pu Erh Tea Blend Versus Single Origin
When buying pu erh tea, some people care whether the tea is a blend of leaves or single origin tea. There's a lot of negative perception on the word 'blend' amongst tea lovers. The common belief is that low quality leaves are blended, while good tea is pure. However, blends aren't necessary bad. Big brands like Xiaguan and Dayi both offer pu erh that are mostly blended. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of pu erh blends versus pure pu erh.
Pure and single origin defined
There are lots of buzz words in the pu erh industry such as the name of famous mountains. The word 'pure' is also one of these buzz words. Though it sounds beautiful there's also a lot of misunderstanding created by this term. Should the tea leaves be from the same region? or even the same tree? Should it be picked around the same time? And does it matter if the leaves are in different grades? There's simply no official definition of pure tea and it all depends on how far you want to go.
In theory, pure tea could also be poor quality. Leaves from a low quality tea garden are all from one place are 'pure', but it won't produce good tea.
Blending pu erh is all about the art of mixing different types of loose leaves to get a more balanced end result. Blending, when done well, can also give the resulting tea a more layered flavour.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Pure Pu Erh Tea
- Obvious and highly recognisable character. There's a higher chance you'll either like it a lot or hate it, which is a lot of fun for tea connoisseurs who're looking for an adventure.
- Shape and size of the leaves are consistent and good looking.
- Easier to predict, anticipate and control aging.
- Uniform colour.
- Flavour might not be as layered, compared to a well blended pu erh.
- Every year's taste might be influenced by weather conditions.
- Prices can fluctuate a lot dependant on harvest quality and quantity.
- More expensive, and harder to buy because there are a lot of fakes in the market.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Pu Erh Tea
- For manufacturers blended teas can be produced in larger quantity.
- Prices are more stable.
- Stable flavour year on year.
- The flavour is more liked by the majority of pu erh drinkers.
- When blended well, the resulting tea can achieve high price-quality ratio.
- There are endless ways to blend different teas allowing the producer to create new and unique teas.
- Blending good teas require skill and quantity.
- The appearance of a blended pu erh looks less consistent.
Different ways to blend pu erh
There are different ways to blend pu erh tea leaves. The tea master can experience by blending leaves from different:
- Seasons: for example mixing Autumn and Spring pu erh together.
- Cultivars: to enhance the flavour
- Trees: for example to mix leaves from young trees with old trees.
- Grades: this is often to reduce the cost of coordinating quality.
- Years: this makes the tea stable in taste.
- Fermentation levels
So is pure or blended pu erh tea better?
There's no correct answer to this. There are tea lovers who're so fascinated with the real stuff that they're always in pursuit of pure tea from only one region or even a single ancient tree. Others are in love with the continuous improvement of blended teas and see this as another alternative form of art. It has its own matching charm.
Our recommendation is to start out with buying blended teas first. Use the experience of drinking those as a benchmark to compare more unique pure, single-origin teas.
Please note that in this article we only discuss the blending of different pu erh teas. In practice, pu erh leaves might also be blended with different herbs such as Chrysanthemum and rose flowers. Also a special kind of herb is used to create rice flavour pu erhs, which is called nuo mi xiang.