What is the meaning of "Pu-erh"?
Pu-erh is a town in Southern Yunnan where pu-erh tea was collected, compressed and traded in the ancient times. The term "pu-erh" derives from the Ahka dialect, the language of one of the minority ethnic groups in China. Pu (普), means hamlet; erh(洱), means bay. Together, the term "pu-erh" means “hamlet by the bay” and reportedly has the connotation of "homeland" in the local dialect. Another version of the meaning of pu-erh, coming from the Wa minority group, is that it means "brother" or "brotherhood." According to some experts, pu-erh (formerly known as bu-ri 步日) was how the Wa people referred to the Bulang people. Both groups are believed to be the earliest tea cultivators in history.
Why is 357g the standard weight of a Pu-erh cake?
The purpose was to standardize the weight of tea cakes for easy accounting and management. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the weight of each pu-erh cake was set to be 357g. Seven cakes (which weighs 2.5 kilos) were wrapped into a stack (called a tong 仝) using bamboo shoot leaves. Twelve tongs were placed in a basket called one jian件, totaling 30 kilos. A horse carried two jian on its back, one on each side totaling 60 kilos, to transport the tea from Yunnan to faraway destinations. Prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the weight of pu-erh cakes were measured in the ancient units of jin 斤
(catty or Chinese pound) and liang 両(tael of Chinese ounce). Each cake at that time weighed 7 liang which is equivalent to 262.5g. One tong of seven cakes weighed 3 jin. 32 tong made one yin 引, which total weight was 100 jin.
Why are Pu-erh tea cakes called "Seven-sons" tea cakes?
Seven is an auspicious number in the Chinese culture. Having "sons" is also a desirable goal for Chinese couples. Thus the combination, "Seven-sons," represents fertility, which was important in an agricultural society. In the old days, a tea cake weighed 7 liang (tael or Chinese ounce) and seven tea cakes were wrapped into one tong. Hence, the name “Seven-sons” tea cake was born.