Compare to raw pu-erh, ripe pu-erh has an extra step of piling fermentation and different quality accordingly.
“Wo” in Chinese means to water something, and “Dui” indicates the fermenting method. After near 2 months, those leaves get ripe, just like fruits, while still able to get riper. So, ripe pu-erh is a dynamic procedure instead of being cooked. In other words, ripe can express this procedure properly. It is exactly the point to learn Chinese culture bilingually from the other perspective.
Piling fermentation does not achieve the sophisticated and mellow flavor, but also creates unique medical compounds. What we can see the browning reactions, the changes of color, the smells or tastes, however, what we can’t see is the complicated reactions triggered by numerous microbes. During the whole piling process, microbes dominate the reactions, thermalization and residual enzymes work side by side.
Microbes are groups of complicated and mysterious microorganisms, they work on the tea indirectly, or participate in tea’s bio-reactions directly, achieve its flavors and produce some unique medicine materials, like lovastatin. Since the 1980s, scientists started to research those microbes, which has gained big progress late 10 years. So far, they have found and identified the following microbes: Aspergillus(like Aspergillus niger group), Penicillium, Rhizopus, Mucor, Saccharomyces, and Bacterias. Those microbes work on pu-erh tea during the piling processing to storage separately.
In traditional, there needs 5 to 10 tons of sun-dried mao cha for each pile, because all the microbes have a mutual character -- Quorum Sensing. By living on the wet tea leaves, those microorganisms grow fast, meanwhile cause heat, and gather rapidly till large enough to react simultaneously by releasing a special bio-signal.
Nature is amazing that each creature in the universe obeys its natural order, even microbes have their own well-organized world and own languages. They can not only calculate the quantity but also recognize different species by communicating with each other through a special 5-C catalyst, further, to cause series of reactions. Piling fermentation is still a primitive fermenting mode, there are lots of researches to discover the unknown microbes’ world. As a result, there take 45 to 70 days to accomplish the whole piling procedure.
Where do those microbes come from? They exist everywhere when planting, processing, and storage, and artificial-growing technologies are still available. Therefore, it is very important to grow and maintain those microbes in the piling environment, meanwhile, prevent them from contamination, so do the whole pu-erh procedures. Actually, it indicates the biochemical meanings of original cellaring.