This article frequently references and links to babelcarp. Babelcarp is a Chinese Tea Lexicon that is an essential resource for tea nerds that want to dive in further and don’t understand Chinese! This article also sources many maps from a TeaChat thread, original sources vary.
Previously named Simao, Pu’er Prefecture shares pu’erh’s name and is one of the three principle growing prefectures for pu’erh tea. Located in Yunnan, Pu’er is sandwiched in between Xishuangbanna and Lincang and despite not being a particularly important historical growing region it is a historical hub for the tea horse road. Pu’er prefecture also borders Laos, Burma and Vietnam. Within Pu’er Prefecture, there are a few high-profile regions although the majority of the prefecture lacks the hype of the most hyped regions, especially Xishuangbanna.
A Brief History
The prefecture was named Pu’er from 1729 until 1950 when it was renamed to Simao after the communist revolution. In 2007 during the hype of pu’erh tea, the prefecture’s name was reverted back to Pu’er. Adding to the confusion, Pu’er is also the name of a city within the prefecture. Historically, this city was used as the starting point of tea transported via mule from the greater Yiwu region (principally the six famous tea mountains) to Beijing. After the 1950s, some of the materials from Pu’er can likely be found in Xiaguan or Nanjian productions.
Characteristic Taste [Raw Pu’erh]
There’s not really a characteristic taste for Pu’er prefecture. The region is large and is split up unevenly compared with Xishuangbanna, making it often looked at more by its subregions. Contributing to this, many of the subregions bleed into one another, making it confusing to differentiate. For instance, many Jinggu County teas are grown very close/on Wuliang Mountain.
Note #1: Alot of Pu’er/Simao tea doesn’t have as much hype as Xishuangbanna and can be purchased for lower prices.
Note #2: Similar to Lincang, there are large amounts of wild trees and purple varietal around Pu’er Prefecture, especially towards the east (Wuliang/Ailao).
Jingmai is a mountain located in Lancang County in the southwest corner of Pu’er Prefecture. This area is one of the subregions that fetches higher prices on par with Xishuangbanna. Similar to Yibang and Xikong, the small leaf varietal is common here. Jingmai also refers to a general growing area that is west of the Lancang river.
Corrected: Shah8 has corrected this section in the comments below.
Another fairly hot region. Also located in Lancang County (just east of the Lancang river), Bangwei is in the Northeast corner of the county bordering the Mengku region. Due to its size it shares characteristics with many of the surrounding areas (including Mengku/Lincang). It also has some supposedly ancient groves which fetch extremely high prices on par with pu’erh hotspots in Xishuangbanna/Lincang.
An area west of Jingmai and Bangwei. It’s rarer to find tea marketed as being from here.
Jiangcheng county is an area in southeast Pu’er. This area is located just north of the greater Yiwu region (Mengla County, Xishuangbanna) and is similar enough to Mengla County tea to be masqueraded and sold as its pricier cousin. Jiangcheng tends to age into sweet, fruity tea. Jiangcheng county blends heavily into both Wu Liang and Ai Lao mountains.
Jinggu is a county, village and area in central Pu’er Prefecture that neighbors Lincang and the Shuangjiang Mengku areas. It also bleeds heavily into the Wuliang mountains. Jinggu is one of the larger growing regions in Pu’er Prefecture and includes a few famous growing areas in Jinggu including Kuzhu, Puzhen, Lao Wushan, Yangta. Xiao Jinggu is also a village within Jinggu prefecture. This area overlaps with Wuliang which bleeds into the eastern part of Jinggu.
Wuliang and Ailao are mountain ranges which run approximately north/south, parallel with one another. There are several notable areas nearby that overlap with these mountains include Jinggu, Kuzhu, Lao Wushan, or Qianjiazhai (Ailao) teas. Because these more specific names usually carry a significantly higher pricetag, it’s unlikely for the teas produced in the higher-profile subregions to be sold as Wuliang/Ailao.
Historically, the majority of Wuliang tea has been processed as green tea, although that has slowly shifted in recent years. Wuliang is the home of many of the wild and purple varietals. Wuliang also extends into Nanjian county and is commonly found in many of the Nanjian Factory’s productions (might be an example of aged Wuliang).
Kunlu is a mountain located west of Jiangcheng and east of the Lancang River and Jingmai. Located along the ancient tea horse road, there is an ancient tea grove that can be traced back to tribute tea. Outside of this grove, the rest of the area is principally plantation tea. The gushu found here is extremely expensive.