I love tea! I mean what is more calming and soothing than a hot cup of tea to start your day, or end your day for that matter?
I am currently experimenting with exotic herbal teas that are fermented or oxidized. They have an intriguing unique flavor of their own.
One that has caught my attention is called Pu Er Tea. The name is sometimes written as Pu-erh tea, Puerh, or Pu’er tea. But they all refer to the same tea.
What is pu er tea?
Pu er tea is a tea that comes from the Yunnan Province in China. It is produced by drying and rolling the tea leaves and then allowing them to ferment. This fermenting process creates oxidation which causes the leaves to turn black and acquire a strong and unique flavor profile.
Let’s find out more about this sensational tea.
The history of Pu er Tea
Pu er tea can be traced back to the ancient dynasties of China. It was known during the Eastern Han Dynasty, as far back as 25-220CE.
Traders in the time of the Ming Dynasty would carry Pu-erh tea in mule or horse caravans along a route that was named the Tea Horse Roads.
Because the tea remained fresh for so long and improved with age, its popularity grew immensely. Merchants would use Pu er tea to barter for other goods, making it a valuable commodity.
The ancient process to make Pu er tea
Pu er tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant. There are two processes that result in a raw pu’er or a ripe pu’er. In Chinese these are known as shēng, raw, and shóu, ripe.
To make raw Pu er, the green leaves are harvested, roasted, and dried in the sun. They are then compressed into cakes or balls and steamed. As the cakes age, oxidation occurs due to the bacteria in the leaves.
Black tea leaves are used to make ripe Pu er tea. The leaves are harvested, roasted, and dried in the sun. The leaves take on a twisted shape and are a dark reddish color.
They are then placed into piles that are up to 25 to 30 inches (60cm to 75cm) high. The piles are sprayed with water and covered with linen cloth. Under the cloth, heat builds up and causes oxidation which gives the tea a unique color and flavor.
After this process, the tea is compressed into bricks or bird-nest shapes.
How to brew your Pu er tea
When brewing Pu er tea, I like to use an authentic container! I have a beautiful Yixing teapot that I bought on a trip to China many years ago.
You can also use a normal teapot or a Chinese tea bowl.
- If you have a solid cake or brick of tea leaves, break off a small amount and use your fingers to separate the leaves
- Use about 1 to 2 teaspoons of leaves
- Rinse off your leaves by placing them into your container and covering them with hot water for a few seconds
- Immediately pour out the water
- This will ‘wake up’ the leaves and cause them to open, imparting their bold flavor
- Fill your container with 8oz (250ml) of just-boiled water
- Allow the leaves to steep for a short time, maximum 3 to 5 minutes
- You can now remove the leaves and keep them aside for further steeping
- Strain the liquid into your cup or glass for serving
- Add raw honey to sweeten if you find the flavor to be very intense
Pu er tea is also delicious when served iced cold. After preparing as above, pour over ice cubes and allow it to cool down before sipping.
Health benefits of Pu er tea
Like most herbal teas, Pu er tea may offer a host of health benefits. Although these claims are not necessarily scientifically proven, many people find that they do get health benefits from drinking Pu er tea.
Pu er tea may help to reduce cholesterol and regulate high blood pressure.
The lower caffeine component in Pu er will help to boost energy levels while not giving you those jitters that coffee offers. It will also help you to focus in a more relaxed manner.
Pu-erh tea contains micro-organisms that help the spleen to cleanse the blood and get rid of free radicals. It also helps the stomach to filter out toxins.
The polyphenols in Pu er tea help to strengthen bones and develop bone mass.
Being rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, Pu er tea is a great way to boost your immune system and ward off illnesses like the common cold and flu.
Frequently asked questions about what is Pu er tea?
Where in the world does Pu er tea come from?
Pu er tea originates from the Yunnan province of China. The name comes from the trading town where it was first developed.
Is black tea and Pu er tea the same?
Pu er tea is made using the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This plant is also used to make green, oolong, and black tea. Although the same plant is used, the method to make the tea differs. As such, although many people see Pu er tea as black tea, it is a different type of tea altogether.
What does Pu er tea taste like?
Ripe Pu er tea has a bold, smooth flavor with an aroma that is earthy, peaty, and mellow. Sip it and be transported to the lush valleys where the leaves are picked and fermented in the hot sun. The color is a striking burgundy-red.
Is Pu er tea healthy?
Pu er tea has many health benefits including reducing blood pressure and lowering cholesterol. It aids digestion and soothes the stomach after a heavy meal.
Does Pu er tea have caffeine?
Pu er does contain small amounts of caffeine. Older Pu er teas have less caffeine as it tends to naturally diminish with age. The longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine you will have in your drink. The amount of caffeine is far lower than a cup of coffee and rather than giving you the jitters, it will boost your energy in a positive way.