Shou Pu-erh is a modern invention, dating from the 1970’s. This process of shou Pu-erh manufacture was created to meet the needs of tea drinkers who wished for Pu-erh that was ready to drink right away and that offered a bold, hearty taste. Prior to the advent of this new-style of Pu-erh, all Pu-erh was sheng Pu-erh, which required decades to age in order for it to reach its dark, strong, and full-bodied style. The new process – shou Pu-erh – came close to that taste in just a few months time and the tea was ready-to-drink when it arrived in the marketplace.
Shou Pu-erh met that demand and has become a very popular style of Pu-er ever since. This accelerated development of flavor is accomplished by exposing the mao cha to a fermentation method in the tea factory that is known as wo dui.
Shou Pu-erh will, under good storage conditions, keep well, mellow and deepen in flavor, although it will not age and undergo the natural microbial changes that sheng Pu-erh does. It is made primarily for fairly immediate consumption, and is sold as loose-leaf tea, and compressed shapes such as beeng cha, tuo-cha, rectangles and melons.
This is the type of Pu-erh drunk daily by people in China. Just as a noble, vintage bottle of Chateau-produced wine is not a daily drink in the West, aged sheng Pu-erh, which can be extremely costly, is drunk for special occasions and given as celebratory gifts.