Pu-erh tea is a fermented Chinese Tea from the Yunnan province in China. Pu-erh Tea is unusual in that it is usually aged between 1-4 years before consumption, with some tea aged after over 50 years.
Pu-erh tea usually comes in either brick or cake form.
Pu-erh tea has an earthy and mellow flavor, due to its lengthy fermentation period. When poured, it has a dark brown to black color. Pu-erh tea can be quite strong.
Pu-erh tea is usually allowed to brew for a lengthy period before serving, to allow the flavors to steep out of the leaves. Pu-erh tea is often served Gong-Fu style (a type of Chinese tea ceremony) using special tea ware. Due to its long fermentation process, Pu-erh tea often fails to develop the bitterness of other teas, and can be brewed for a much longer period.
Pu-erh tea has been the subject of several scientific studies, which seems to suggest that Pu-erh tea can help reduce cholesterol levels and saturated fats in humans. Pu-erh tea may also assist in weight loss.
Varieties of Pu-erh tea
Pu-erh tea is sometimes erroneously classified as a black tea, but it does not belong to that category. It is also not possible to create Pu-erh tea from black tea.
There are two varieties of Pu-erh tea:
- Green (qing bing): This variety of Pu-erh tea is allowed to ferment naturally after drying. Green Pu-erh tea takes longer to mature, but is considered the superior variety.
- Mutual/Oolong (shu bing): The fermentation process of this variety of Pu-erh tea is manipulated to quicken the process.
Processing of Pu-erh tea
Pu-erh tea is traditionally made from older leaves - that is, not the first flush leaves or budding leaves - from old trees. These old trees are only found in Yunnan, and are known as broad leaf tea.
The leaves from these leaves are covered with fine hairs and are known as "broad leaf" because they are larger than other varieties.
The leaves are left either green or moderately fermented before being dried. They are then made into cakes or bricks, wrapped in paper or pomelo rings and stored outside. The outside storage is to allow the tea to mature by being exposed to outside air, moisture and heat.
Finally, the leaves are stored underground for several years.