Sheng Puerh, or Raw Puerh, is a very unique category of tea made from the leaves of Camelia sinensis var. assamica in Yunnan, found in Southwest China. Puerh/Pu'er has a long history of production and use in Yunnan, some estimate over 1,000 years. Sheng Puerh is typically pressed into cakes, called Bing Cha (餅茶), for ease of transport as well as the facilitation of long term storage.
Historically, Sheng Puerh generally has been consumed after extensive fermentation (15+ years) that occurs due to natural microbial/fungal growth in the pressed tea over time. The time Sheng Puerh takes to reach maturation is highly dependent on storage location, tightness of the pressed material, temperature, and humidity. With proper production and aging the natural fungal growth is very beneficial for our health. In modern terms, we can say that a well aged and fermented tea has pro-biotics that are beneficial for our digestive system and overall body constitution.
An aged Sheng Puerh often has earthy/woody/camphor notes, is sweet, has an agarwood/chen xiang smell, and can be very warming when consumed. Authentic, high quality aged Sheng Puerh (25+ years old) is worth large sums of money, and is collected, auctioned, gifted, etc. In modern times, Sheng Puerh is often consumed when it is still very young (a few months to a few years). In this form, the tea will tend to be more bitter/astringent than its aged counterpart, and the flavor profile will be more vegetal and fruity.
There is large variability in quality of Sheng Puerh in the current market; due to modern agriculture methods a large portion of Sheng Puerh comes from Tai Di Cha (太地茶); the meaning is essentially plantation tea, typically grown at low elevation. The tea plants are usually cloned (not grown from seed), receive large amounts of nutrition, and very often are sprayed heavily with pesticides and herbicides. Because they grow at low elevation, there is typically little fog and protection from the sun, and too much sun is well known to cause tea to be more bitter and astringent (scientifically, sun causes the tea leaves to grow faster which causes more caffeine/tanin content in the tea). Also, the plants are cut, pruned, and cultivated in a way to increase the plants production and prevent it from growing tall, so it is easier to pick the leaves. From our point of view Sheng Puerh made from Tai Di Cha will never be good, simply because the growing conditions are not good. Also, Tai Di Cha will of course not have big trees, old trees, ancient trees, wild trees, etc. Tai Di Cha typically has tea bushes, or at best small trees, and there is not enough room for the roots to mature and provide great nutrition to the trees. Thus, we focus on producing Big Tree, Old Tree, and Ancient Tree Sheng Puerh.