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18 June 2006 @ 05:48 pm
As with all esoteric habits/interests/addictions, ours involve a fair bit of jargon coupled with a foreign language that most people don't know. I thought it might be useful to compile a list of terms that can be referenced to here for the beginners who might be reading this site. Between all the neifei and the qi and all that, people can get lost pretty quickly. Some of this overlaps with other sites' info (such as Mike Petro's and Guang's).

So here's an initial attempt, there are going to be errors/omissions/mistakes, so please point them out!

7542 (or 7582, 8582, 7532, etc etc etc) -- recipe numbers of puerh cakes. The third digit is the grade of the tea leaves blend (not all are grade 4 in 7542), and the fourth digit is the factory number. The first two digits is the year when the recipe first got started. Just because two cakes have the same number though doesn't mean they'll taste the same, especially as factories revive old recipes.

beeng 餅(properly spelld bing, but beeng seems more common) -- a beeng usually refers to a baked dough that is round and thin (think pizza without toppings), but can be used to refer to any number of "cakes" or baked goods in a variety of context. In puerh parlance, a beeng is a round compressed "cake" of puerh leaves. This is the most common form of compressed puerh, and range in size from 100g a piece to 3000g a piece (or more). The most common sizes are 357g or 400g. In the case of 357g, they are sometimes call qizi bing 七子餅(sometimes spelled chi-tsu).

cha qi 茶氣(or just qi) -- literally the "qi" (or in some cases "chi) of the tea (cha). It's a pretty elusive concept, and some will dispute whether such thing exists at all, but essentially, it is a quality that some people look for when buying puerh (or any tea in general) and can be most conveniently translated as the power of the tea. Immediate effects of a tea having strong qi is that it makes you sweat, usually in the back (especially lower back) and you feel a sort of rush/buzz that comes from the tea. It is independent of the caffeine and temperature of the water, or at least it should.

dapiao 大票 -- the big piece of paper telling you the manufacturer, name of the tea, often year, and other vital information of the tea in question that usually comes with a jian of tea (although I think I've seen dapiaos on just each tong of tea?). Us non-vendors probably won't see this too often.

gan 甘 -- often also called "huigan" 回甘 -- gan is a taste that is best described as bittersweet. This is a good attribute in a puerh -- causing a huigan. It is a taste that shows up after one has swallowed the liquor, and a sort of sweet sensation will appear at the back of the tongue, perhaps even producing a little extra saliva.

jincha 緊茶 -- literally "tight tea", this is the mushroom shaped compressed tea that is so often associated with Tibet.

maocha 毛茶 -- raw material of puerh, and refers to the processed but as yet uncompressed tea leaves. Some puerh, however, is left deliberately loose, and in Chinese it is called sancha 散茶. Most modern day (i.e. post 80s) sancha is in the form of shu puerh, but if you go to places like Hong Kong it is still possible to buy aged, sheng sancha.

money -- qian 錢 in Chinese, also taking the form of renminbi 人民幣, xintaibi (New Taiwan Dollar) 新台幣, or meijin (US Dollar, literally American gold) 美金 -- substance that begins to disappear from your wallet and bank account at an increasing velocity as you sink deeper into the habit of drinking puerh.

neifei 內飛 -- "inside ticket", literally, this is the little piece of paper, usually about an inch by an inch or so, that is stuck on the compressed puerh. It is usually only present on beengs on the front (convex) side. Sometimes though, a particular beeng can have two neifei, one on each side. Often that is because it is a more valuable cake. Neifeis are used to determine the authenticity of a cake, but can often be faked and is more of a guide than a proof.

neipiao 內票 -- this refers to the larger piece of info ticket contained in the wrapper of a bing (or brick, or other teas), but is loose rather than embedded in the tea itself. Usually they tell you that they picked the best leaves, that the tea brews clearly with nice aromas, and it will cure your (fill in the blank) cancer while helping you to gain appetite and lose weight.

puerh 普洱(or puer) -- why I'm wasting time typing this up in the first place.

sheng 生 -- sometimes also referred to as qing 青, which means green, sheng is the term that denotes the lack of post-compression processing of the tea. This type of puerh is the ones that we rant and rave about -- it is usually what people buy for further aging at home, and if it is originally of good quality and kept well, can become great in the future. Of course, whether they last 30 years or not is another matter. Younger sheng puerh will brew a yellow-green liquor, and will become increasingly darker over time. The leaves will also turn from green to brown. The taste differ radically depending on aging, quality, etc, and this variation is the primary reason why you see so many reviews here.

shu 熟 -- literally "cooked", it refers to puerh that has been post-fermented artificially before being compressed into their shape. Their aging potential is limited, and is usually best drunk now. The brews tend to be sweet, earthy, and very dark -- almost pitch black a lot of times.

tuo 沱 -- one of the shapes of compressed tea common for puerh. A tuo is usually 100g in weight, and is dome-like. Usually of high compression and hard to break, and the taste of younger tuo tend to be smoky.

wet-storage -- a process where the sheng cakes are put into a storage space with artificially inflated humidity/temperature to encourage fermentation of the tea. If done well, they can taste all right. If done poorly, they taste like crap.

wild arbor -- in Chinese it is yesheng qiaomu 野生喬木, this is often something that a tea maker advertises on their wrapper as something special about their cake -- that the leaves are from wild arbor trees. Cultivated tea trees are usually bushes, and supposedly, wild arbor trees (and the street knowledge is the older the better) will provide superior aging potential and better flavours.

wrapper -- the piece of paper used to wrap the puerh beeng/brick/tuo. It contains vital information such as the make of the tea, where it might be from, and can often give hints as to when it was made, depending on little details on the wrapper. Of course, since it's just a piece of paper, it can be easily (and is often) faked.

zhuan 磚 -- another form of compression for puerh, zhuan means brick, and are really brick like -- usually rectangular shape, about 3/4 of an inch thick and weigh about 250g, but there are bigger ones too.
Steveneskimo_steve on June 18th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Good job on the common puerh words list. When I first started drinking tea, there's all these words people would use like tuo, bing/beeng, mao, zhuan, so I kept a text file of translations. After a while I got them memorized and finally stumbled upon Mike Petro's list.

One question about leaf grades. Is low number good, or high number good?
marshaln on June 18th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
Right, I decided to make this when I saw a number of random google searches leading to my blog.

Low number is generally higher quality tea, but it doesn't actually mean the tea will taste better, especially when aged
davelcorp on June 18th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
Good work!

Here is another useful resource:
marshaln on June 18th, 2006 11:18 pm (UTC)

Who made that?? Someone has lots of time
thsu on June 19th, 2006 02:49 am (UTC)
I think Lew did that. Not a lots of time, but a lots of Passion!
(Anonymous) on June 18th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
I think "dapiao 大票" and "neipiao 內票" are different things. Dapiao refers to the piece of label on each "jian" (1 jian = 12 tongs or sometimes 6 tongs, 1 tong = 7 cakes). On the dapiao it would indicate the name of the factory , name of the cake, recipe and batch number (such as 7542-501), weights, etc.

marshaln on June 18th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
Ah, you're right. Indeed, I've only seen dapiao on the top of a tong -- not thinking that they are not on the rest of the cakes :)

Thanks Guang, I'll amend it.
(Anonymous) on June 18th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
You are welcome : )

psychopuncture on June 18th, 2006 11:36 pm (UTC)
money -- what begins to disappear from your wallet and bank account at an increasing velocity as you sink deeper into the habit of drinking puerh.

nice addition to the vocab list...


[on a more serious note, unfortunately, these days it may be necessary to include words like "fraud," "forgery," and "bootleg" in the vocab list. eesh...]
thsu on June 19th, 2006 12:58 am (UTC)
cha qi 茶氣
Great Job Professor!

Using the angle of a Wine Advocate: Robert Parker wrote about something very similar to "Cha Qi", the French concept of "Terroir". Parker quoted: " The ability to reflect the place of origin." A terroirist will argue that a particular piece of ground contributes a Character that is distinctive and apart from that same product grown on different soils and slopes.

The suggestion of terroir is merely one of many factors that influence a tea's style, quality and character. Soil, exposition and micro-climate (terroir) most certainly impart an influence, so do these matters: Rootstock, yields and tree age, harvest philosophy, processing techniques, storage conditions, region climate and most important the passion and commitment of the producers.

Phyll might be able to correct me if I am off.
phyll_sheng on June 20th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣
Tim, before I rant about terroir, I'm *not* sure if the elusive term "Cha Qi" has the same implication as "terroir." Stephane Erler's Teamasters blog has an interesting discussion about Cha Qi.

As far as the definition of terroir goes, I think you're dead on correct. Long ago, however and imho, the term "terroir" didn't include "rootstock, yields, tree age, harvest philosophy, processing techniques, storage conditions" and other attempts by the winemakers to control the end result, no matter how passionate or not the winemakers were. With globalization, commercialization and competition, there has been a huge shift in the philosophy of winemaking to include man-made related factors into the philosophy of "terroir." More and more "great" wines are no longer made in the vineyards, and FWIW Parker has as much to be praised as blamed upon. Monsieur Aimé Guibert of Daumas Gassac in Nossiter's wine documentary "Mondovino" said "Wine is dead!" for the very reason I just mentioned.

As for teamaking philosophy, my understanding is a bit choppy, and I would like to learn your take on it. I guess it wouldn't be far off from the general concepts of winemaking philosophies. Both are, after all, agricultural commodities elevated to art by aficionados like yourself and others here.

My 2 cents.
(Deleted comment)
marshaln on June 21st, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣 continued...
That sounds right. I just drank a lot of the Lao Banzhang, and I have to say it's got one of the strongest qi I've tasted in a while. It was very obvious, very present, and doesn't go away even after quite a few infusions. This is definitely stuff that you can't fake. Even if the leaves look right, if you taste it and the qi isn't there, you know it's not what it claims to be. I'd imagine the Taisui cake from Best Tea had amazing qi?

There can only be so many old, wild tea trees, everywhere. Some are bound to be older than others. Who's really old tree, and who's sort of old tree?

That's part of the reason I'm getting more into tasting these younger puerhs -- to learn about these differences.

Soil, climate, all that affect the tea. The most obvious is the TGY from Fujian and the TGY from Taiwan. Same plant, different flavour.
thsu on June 21st, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣 continued...
Don't get me wrong. The High mountain Taiwanese have a lot of Qi or terroir as Stephane mentioned. Specially from DYL and Li Shan or overall higher ground harvest. The climate contribute to slower growth, another words, longer mature state and higher qi in the tea. That's why it can only harvest 2 times a year instead of 4.

TGY from Anix are different then Wuyi. Anix TGYs and most high mountain Taiwan TGYs are both under the category of Min-nan tea, a soil based tea. Wuyi is rock based. Different plant, different character, but same idea for cha qi.
thsu on June 21st, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣
I'm glad that we started this illusive topic of "Qi". Wine connoisseur has been long documenting the properties of wine in western manner. Unfortunately, tea culture is still very young to the westerner. Learning from wine advocate might shed some light into this century old culture. Comparing cha qi verses terroir the theory in my opinion is very similar. Most important is the soil and micro-climate/environment where the vine or tree grows. Cha qi to my understanding referred to more older trees in their natural environment. Terroir also referred to vineyard which is more ancient and unpolluted. Tea harvesting from this natural environment produce more character/qi. This is an effect of its natural habitat. for example Pu-erh tea eg.: Camphor tree, orchid flower, bamboo and other natural habitat growing around a big-leaf arbor tea tree. All these examples produce the characteristic of a wild arbor Yiwu tea.

We can also draw parallel to traditional herbal chinese medicine, for example, wild grown ginseng in korea produced much medicinal effects than a cultured commercial specimen. This is because of the rare earth consumed by the ginseng plant in wild environment. Cultivated lands are more alike to lack this properties because of commercial harvesting. Similar to wine, a new cultivated vineyard is likely to produce the balance and refined body of a historical vineyard.

Just acquire this information from a Wuyi tea farmer that cliff oolongs from Wuyi are divided by two main categories: older tea tree and newly cultivated tea tree. 30 years old trees are now considered as "Old Tree" and said to produce more cha qi / higher quality than the younger planted trees. And the difference between 200 years old trees from northern cliff to the 30 years "Old Tree" is night and day. This is only my humble experience from research.
phyll_sheng on June 21st, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣
I concur with everything you said in the 1st and 2nd paragraphs above, Tim.

Wines made from grapes coming from older vines do have more complexity, balance, intensity, and character. Everything else being equal, the taste of of a wine coming from older vines (15+ years) is very different from wine produced from young vines. Bear in mind that the life cycle of vines is much shorter than that of tea bushes and tea trees. A 100 year-old zinfandel vine, for instance, is considered quite ancient and its fruits are highly priced and sought after. There will be a point of decline when the vine becomes too old to produce fruits with enough "qi," if I may say so. You could also say that a balanced "qi" is required for a wine to age gracefully in the bottle over a long period of time.

I think this is parallel with what you mention above, Tim. Sorry I'm throwing in too much wine talk in a tea discussion. And thanks for the tea insight!!!
davelcorp on June 22nd, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣
This leads to a question that I have:

It is my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong Phyll) that terroir is a quality that is inherent in a wine from day one, and is reflective of the microclimate that the grapes were grown in. Factors such as processing, barreling, aging, bottling, etc have an effect on the wine, but are not reflective of the terroir.

Now, how about chaqi? Is it only the qi found in the maocha? Or can it be added/subtracted during processing, aging and brewing? To my understanding, terroir is only one aspect of chaqi. Anyone disagree?
thsu on June 29th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
Re: cha qi 茶氣
Cha qi from a good puerh can surely be acquired during aging. That's why in the olden days, Chinese doctors stored good puerh with pearl, gem, ginseng, deer horn and precious items. I was told this is the way to let the tea suck in precious qi and turn to a high value medicine.
mike_petro on June 19th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC)
Nice Job
Nice Job marshaln!

Do you mind if I add some of those to my listing?
marshaln on June 19th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Nice Job
Thanks, and it's not a problem if you want to use some of it, so long as you tell peeps where it's from which I'm sure you'll do :)
phyll_sheng on June 20th, 2006 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Nice Job
Yes, Marshaln, it's a very useful reference! Thank you.
(Anonymous) on June 21st, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
some additions
越沉越香 - ye cheng, ye xiang i.e. Like Red Wine, Pu-erh gets Better with Age
人工发酵 – fermentation process
晒青 – sun dried
烘青 – wok/heat dried
古树茶 – ancient tree tea
野生茶 – wild tree tea
茶山 – tea mountain
海拔 - altitude
乔木 – tea from tall tree
灌木 – tea from bushes
饼茶 – cake shaped tea
砖茶 – brick shaped tea
沱茶 – bird’s nest shaped tea
xiefeilaga on December 3rd, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
Some additions
Wet Storage 湿仓 Shi Cang
Dry Storage 干仓 Gan Cang
Just thought that it would be good to add the Chinese.

樟香 Zhang Xiang - Camphor aroma. Some people talk of this as the aged aroma, but it originally comes from the camphor trees that the ancient tea growers of Yunnan planted around the tea as a form of ecological pest management. The flavor is only usually found in leaves from older trees or more bio-healthy plantations with other plant life (such as the trees). -correct me here if I'm wrong.

Broth color 汤色 Tang Se. Literally, the color of the tea broth (or liquor, if that's the word you prefer).

Cake surface lines 条索 Tiao Suo. These are the lines made by the leaves on the surface of the cake, and are considered a good indicator of the quality of the craftsmanship in a tea cake.