You Le Mountain

Sheng Puer Cake 400g 2013

The ancient tea trees give this puer cake a robust flavor and long finish, and the forest setting where these trees grow adds a complex floral aroma.


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Related Years:

Tea Origin
You Le Mountain Tea Area, Yunnan Province

Tea Bush
200-300 year old tea trees

Tea Master
Yang Guangqing

Harvest Time

Picking Standard
Sprigs of one bud with two leaves growth


This puer cake comes from the Jinou minority group on You Le mountain, one of the six famous puer tea producing mountains of Yunnan province. In Jinou culture, tea is called either labo (tea leaves) or jieze (money tree), as they have always used tea for trade and did not have paper money until the 1970’s. According to one legend, tea began to be grown on You Le Shan during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) when some soldiers settled there after traveling through the area with Zhu Ge Liang, a famous military strategist. He gave the soldiers some tea seeds to plant, as no other crops would grow up in the mountains. Many people on You Le Shan still worship Zhu Ge Liang for providing them with their way of life.

The tea for our 2013 You Le Mountain green puer cake was harvested in March from ancient trees (average age of 200-300 years), with a picking standard of one bud to two tender leaves. Ancient trees provide greater, more complex nutrition in the leaves, as the central root of the tree goes deep into the soil to gather nutrients from many layers of undisturbed earth. For centuries, people have enjoyed tea from You Le mountain for its rich taste. The ancient tea trees give this puer cake a robust flavor and long finish, and the forest setting where these trees grow adds a complex floral aroma.

Notes on this year’s tea

Due to continual drought in the Yunnan province, this has grown to be a stronger flavored tea. The lower quantity of water has a direct affect on the growth of the tea tree, as one might expect. These effects span from a lower amount harvestable of leaves, down to the density of the nutrition and mineral content in each individual leaf. In this comparing 2013’s tea to prior years, you’ll notice less silver buds and more mature material, giving the cake a slightly quicker infusion. The thinner leaves of this year also make for relatively snug compression. Given the very dense flavor of this year’s tea, we expect this cake to develop well as it ages.


Tea pickers collect fresh tea leaves in large bamboo carriers that rest on their backs. Once they are finished picking, they carry the leaves back to the factory. The leaves are piled together and left under the sunshine for a couple hours to remove some of the moisture naturally. A large, deep wok is used to fry the fresh leaves. These woks are not as hot as the ones that are used for hand making green teas. This allows some of the natural leaf enzymes to remain intact in the leaves. Once the leaves are fried, they are very soft and withered. A small broom made from local weeds is used to sweep the tea leaves from the wok on to a large bamboo tray. The leaves are kneaded by hand, which is the traditional way of making tea. Puer is not kneaded with a machine, instead are twisted and rolled by hand into their shape. During the kneading, a lot of moisture is released from the tea. Squeezing out the tea juice can help reduce bitterness in the processed tea. Finally, the leaves are thinly spread onto large bamboo trays and dried under the sunshine for 3-4 days, depending on the weather. The weather in Yunnan changes often, so some farmers have built sunrooms that still allow sunshine to continue drying the leaves indoors. If the leaves are rained on, the additional moisture could create mold. Tea masters must be very attentive as they supervise the process to make good tea. After the drying process, the twigs and unfolded leaves are sorted out of the tea. The whole twisted leaves are put into fabric bags and stored for buyers. Some farmers will compress cakes themselves, but not everyone has the skills and factory to do so.

To compress puer into cakes, the loose tea leaves are portioned into a specific weight. The traditional weight was 357 grams, but now many factories use 400 grams. A piece of cotton fabric bag is placed inside a special 1-foot-deep tin bucket that has holes on the bottom. The weighed, dry tea leaves are placed inside the fabric — enough to almost fill the bucket. The leaves are steamed for about 3-5 seconds at first. At this point, the workers place a one inch square paper that is stamped with the company’s logo on top of the pile along with a small handful of leaves to hold it to the finished cake. The tea is passed to the next worker in line, who sits in front of the steamer, and after about five seconds of steaming they will remove the wet leaves (still wrapped in their fabric bag) from the bucket. At this point, the dry tea leaves have been transformed from being very loose and puffy to a condensed three inches thick. The next person then will quickly tie the fabric, making a knot at the end (if you look on the back of a finished puer cake, you can see the indentation left by this the fabric knot during compression) The whole bundle of leaves is then subjected to compression under traditional stone molds or a mechanical press. It takes the perfect amount of pressure to push the wet tea leaves tightly into about an one inch-thick cake.

After a few hours, the wet cakes are removed from the fabric and placed on wooden shelves. The cakes slowly dry for a few hours at a temperature of about 40 degrees celsius. Once the tea is dry, the cakes are sent to the packaging room. A skilled tea worker will use cotton paper to quickly wrap the cakes. They will fold the squares of cotton paper so there are exactly sixteen wrinkles. Clean, dry bamboo shells wrap 7 cakes together at once. Bamboo string is used to tie the shells together to secure them for transportation. This is the traditional  packing method that is still often used. The bamboo shell will cover the tea from rain, but will also allow the tea to breathe. Bamboo is a very neutral scent, and will separate other scents from reaching the tea.

As mentioned above, some producers still use the traditional way of compressing cakes using stone molds. These molds are curved to match the shape of puer cakes, are used to flatten the cakes. Someone will stand on top of the mold and evenly shake their body to mold the cake into its shape. Factories that use this method will have a designated worker whose job is to compress these cakes. The worker must be a specific weight, not too heavy nor too light, so as to not over compress (or under compress) the cakes.  The best cakes will have every leaf stuck together and while they are not too loose, it is still easy to remove chunks of tea from them. Small amounts of space between leaves will allow air to move through the cake during storage and evenly age the cake over years.


No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.

You Le Mountain 2013 brewing guidelines

Weight per piece: 400 grams
How to store: Store in a dark, well ventilated area with less than 70% humidity. Less than 25 degrees C or 77 degrees F. Store in the paper or fabric, not plastic. Keep away from odors and fragrances.
How to infuse: Any cup, pot, or gaiwan made of porcelain, glass, yixing clay, iron, or other material will work.

Brewing Guidelines:
1st infusion — Loosen and gently break off about 5 grams of tea from the brick for approx. 12 ounces water. Use boiling water (212 degrees F) and infuse for 2 minutes.
2nd infusion — Boiling water, infuse for 2 minutes
3rd infusion — Boiling water, infuse for 3-5 minutes
4th to 7th (or more) infusions — Boiling water, infuse for 5 minutes

Infusions: 7 or more times