Last week I reported about awfull tasting pu-ers. I asked Teaparker and my puer merchant where this ashtray smell/taste came from. (Their insight came pretty handy!)
They both told me that this problem occurs with puers that were pan fried during the withering stage (when the freshly harvested leaves are dried). The best process is natural sun withering. But it takes longer (time is money) and requires more skills than pan frying or baking (a third option).
The ashtray smell will go away after 10-15 years, if you're willing to wait... Baked pu-ers don't have the smoky smell, but they don't age well.
For Teaparker, sun withering is a MUST for green pu-er, if one wants to taste good qualitea.