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Pu erh Grading Standard

Pu erh Grading Standard

Each tea has its own grading standard based on its quality and condition. Pu erh is the same. Due to the quality of raw material (mao cha / 毛茶) and the difference in process, Pu erh is sorted into ten grades.  From the highest grade to the lowest, there is Gong Ting Pu erh (宫廷普洱 / the Imperial Grade), the Gift Tea Grade, the Special Grade, 1st Grade, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th grade and 10th Grade.

Generally, the higher grades of Pu erh have more buds, while the lower grades contain larger and less tender leaves. Let’s check out the grading standard:

GradeDry LeavesLiquorTaste & AromaBrewed Leaves
Imperial GradeTightly rolled, straight, fine golden budsRed and dense with rich fragranceHeavy and mellow, 10+ steepsThin and tender
Gift Tea GradeTightly rolled, straight, relatively fine golden budsRed and dense with rich fragranceHeavy and mellow, 10+ steepsThin and tender
Special GradeTightly rolled, straight, relatively fine golden budsRed and dense with rich fragranceHeavy and mellow, 8+ steepsRelatively thin and tender
1st GradeTightly rolled, tender with some budsRed and dense with  rich fragranceMellow, 8+ steepsTender
3rd GradeTightly rolled, tender with some budsRed with rich fragranceMellow, 6+ steepsTender
5th GradeTightly rolled, tender with few budsRed with rich fragranceMellow, 6+ steepsUneven in size
7th GradeTightly rolled with few budsDark red with pure fragranceMild, <6 steepsUneven in size
8th GradeLoosely rolled with few budsDark red with pure fragranceMild,  <6 steepsRough, uneven in size
9th GradeLoosely rolled with no budsDark redMild, <6 steepsRough, uneven in size
10th GradeLoosely rolled with no budsDark redMild, <6 steeps Thick and rough, uneven in size

Final Notes

Gu Shu Wild Trees

Please note that the above grading doesn’t apply for wild pu erh teas (gu shu). The leaves of those teas are generally larger and they’re classified based on mountain of origin and the age of the tree.

Grade and Taste

Lower grades of pu erh doesn’t necessarily mean that the tea isn’t good. It’s just that the material used is less fine and more uneven. However, good processing is as important and can still compensate for less quality raw material. Preference for tea is very personal. Regardless of the grading, hope you’ll find your favourite Pu erh!

Do you want to try pu erh yourself? See the curated offerings of pu erh teas by Teasenz.com.



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