Pu’erh tea is an exotic expensive tea that dates back to the ancient dynasties of China. It was known during the Eastern Han Dynasty, as far back as 25-220CE.
Pu’erh is made by master tea makers and is becoming a favorite with tea aficionados in the Western world. Apart from an imposing rich, earthy taste, it offers you a chance to show off your unique brewing skills using a traditional Yixing pot.
Like most teas, the color of the liquor will vary depending on many factors. Pu’erh tea can range from green to yellow and can even display a reddish-brown color.
What color is pu’erh tea?
The color of pu’erh tea depends on the fermentation process. The darker the liquor, the higher the degree of fermentation. The tea brew offers shades of yellow or green. It can also be a deeper color with reddish-brown hues. Raw pu’erh leaves are dark green while ripe pu’erh leaves are black.
How does pu’erh tea get its color?
Let’s look at the processes used to make pu’erh tea. This will explain how the leaves get their color and how this affects the color of your brewed tea.
There are two types of pu’erh tea – raw and ripe. Raw pu’erh is known as Sheng Pu’erh and the ripe tea is known as Shou Pu’erh.
The processes for making them are different and can sometimes take years as the leaves are left to ferment.
Making raw pu’erh
Picking – The leaves are hand-picked by workers in the early hours of the morning. The best time, we are told by the experts, is half an hour before sunrise. At this time the leaves have less water when they are rolled and withered.
Withering – The leaves are spread to on large flat tables and left to dry out or dehydrate.
Killing green or sha qing – The leaves are now stir-fried by hand or placed into a dryer. This process is called ‘killing green’. This will cause the leaves to ferment rather than oxidize. Killing green is a process that differentiates pu’erh tea from oolong or black tea. These teas oxidize due to bacteria, while pu’erh tea ferments due to enzymes.
Rolling – Leaves are rolled by hand or by machine to shape them. This process also removes more moisture.
Drying – The rolled leaves are placed onto large flat tables in the sun and allowed to dry out.
Aging – Raw pu’erh is aged by storing for long periods of time. This increases the flavor and aroma of the tea.
Making ripe pu’erh
The start of the process – The process starts similarly to raw pu’erh up until the leaves are compressed. It then adds an important step known as piling.
Piling – Leaves are placed in piles that are around 20 to 30 inches high (50cm to 60cm). The piles are sprayed with water and covered with linen cloths. This creates humidity under the cloth and allows the leaves to ferment.
Adding fungus – A special fungus called Aspergillus Niger is added to aid the fermentation process.
Fermentation – Depending on the tea master, the piles can be turned many times and can be left for months or even years to ferment.
Ventilation – After the required time has passed, the leaves are unpacked, ventilated, and allow to dry out.
Pu’erh tea leaves are packed as cakes or bricks and wrapped in beautiful artistic paper designed by the tea estate. You may find loose leaf pu’erh tea, but be cautious as it is often of inferior quality. P
u’erh tea is expensive. Ensure that you are buying the best brands from quality tea estates.
Raw and ripe pu’erh leaves are different colors
Depending on the time taken to produce the raw pu’erh tea, the leaves can range in color from a deep green to a dark brown or even black.
Aged raw pu’erh leaves are usually dark with a little green effect. Once the leaves are steeped they can display shades of bright green or darker brown.
Ripe pu’erh leaves are almost always a very dark brown or black color. The leaves may also show tones of red. Steeped leaves are usually a darker brown.
What color is the liquor of raw and ripe pu’erh tea?
Raw pu’erh tea will brew to offer a liquor that can vary in color from a light green-yellow to a more golden-yellow color.
Ripe pu’erh liquor will vary from a golden-yellow to a deeper brown color and can even show hints of a bright reddish-brown.
Let’s look a bit more closely at some special pu’erh teas and their colors.
Young raw pu’erh – Beginners may want to try a pu’erh tea that is less than 3 years old as a start. Yiwu 2018 Lao Raw Pu’er brews to a lovely light yellow color. The palate is smooth and balanced with a light roasted nut flavor and a floral scent.
Chun Jian Pu-erh Tea – This tea gets its name from being picked in early spring. These teas are of the highest quality and they have been storing nutrients through the winter months. The brew is a delightful green color with a rich and mellow taste.
Yunnan Sourcing ‘Gong Ting’ – This tea is harvested in the Simao area in the Chinese Yunnan Province. The cake leaves have a dark color and the liquor is a dark brown. The taste is potent and full-bodied with hints of dark chocolate and the sweetness of fruits.
Harney & Sons Ancient Tree Pu-Erh – Ancient pu’erh tea can sometimes taste musty but this quality tea does not. It was produced in 2003 and offers a mellow earthy taste with hints of walnuts and peanuts. The leaves are convoluted in shape and dark brown with tones of dark green. The liquor is a glorious deep golden-brown color.
Frequently asked questions about pu’erh tea
Why is pu’erh tea different from oolong or black tea?
The main difference is in the process of making the tea. Black teas and oolong teas are oxidized via bacteria, a process that turns the leaves to a darker color. Pu’erh tea is fermented via enzymes. This process can take months or even years to produce exceptional high-quality and rare teas.
Does pu’erh tea come in a loose leaf form?
Most pu’erh teas are packed into cakes or bricks and wrapped in exotic artistic paper that defines the tea estate. You can find loose leaf pu’erh teas, but they may be of inferior quality. Rather buy the authentic product and enjoy this rare and expensive tea like a professional.
How do you brew pu’erh tea?
The correct way to brew pu’erh tea is using a traditional Yixing pot. Heat fresh water in your kettle to 195°F (90.5°C). Put your pu’erh leaves into a Yixing pot, rinse and discard the water. Fill the pot with fresh water and allow it to steep for two to four minutes. Strain into a serving pitcher. Serve in small Chinese drinking teacups. Pu’erh tea can be steeped up to 10 times, each steep producing a deeper color and richer flavor.