Pu-erh tea stands out from other true teas thanks to its unique production process. This tea is an aged tea, which gives it a rich flavor profile with complex flavors. Tea lovers can appreciate the artistry and tradition that goes into making this tea while savoring the earthy and woody flavor.
The Chinese tea has continued its rise from the shores of Asia to the western world. Today, this tea can be found in local coffee shops and online in loose tea and compacted cakes. Read on to find out more about pu-erh tea and how it makes it from leaf to your cup. Want to try pu-erh tea today? Check out our collection of the best pu-erh teas right here.
Pu-erh tea, or puer tea, is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It is one of the five true teas along with white tea, green tea, black tea, and oolong tea. The tea leaves are harvested from the plant from early spring to late summer. The tea trees are regularly pruned to encourage the growth of new shoots.
Once the tea leaves are harvested, they are transported to a production facility, typically on the tea plantation. The leaves are withered to reduce moisture content.
There are two types of pu-erh raw and ripe pu-erh, which undergo different production methods. Raw pu-erh undergoes a natural fermentation process while ripe pu-erh is post-fermented. Raw pu-erh can be aged for more than 50 years and typically the best pu-erhs begin to develop rich flavor after three to four years.
Raw pu-erh leaves are fired in a large wok or metal basket to decrease enzymes that trigger oxidation. The leaves are then rolled and shaped by hand. At this point, the leaves are naturally oxidized for a predetermined amount of time guided by the expertise of a tea master.
Ripe pu-erh undergoes a manufactured aging process that speeds up the oxidation time. The result is a similar flavor to pu-erhs that age for years, without the long wait. Ripe pu-erh leaves are withered and then placed in large piles. The piles are covered with wet linen cloths, which encourage the formation of microbial bacteria. Theses microbes being the oxidation process and emit heat. Once the leaves reach a certain temperature, the piles are mixed around to spread out the heat and good bacteria.
Once the tea leaves reach a desired microbial fermentation level, the leaves are transported to a separate room to dry completely. The leaves are then packaged into loose leaf tea packaging, tea bricks, tea bags, or tea cakes.
Raw pu-erh tea boasts a flavor that is earthy and woody. Good quality pu-erh with taste mildly sweet with a mellow body. The longer raw pu-erh ages naturally, the more rich and nuanced the flavor becomes. Like fine wines, this tea gets better with age.
Ripe pu-erh, or artificially aged pu-erh, also offers an earthy and woody aroma. Since the oxidation process is must faster, it also develops notes of savory taste. It tends to be smoother and features a more full-bodied flavor.
Pu-erh tea is largely produced in China. The best pu-erh teas come from the Yunnan province where tea masters have perfected the art of this tea over centuries. Some of the oldest factories can be found in Menghai county, in the southernmost region of Yunnan province.
Other popular Chinese pu-erh regions include Hunan, Jinggu Dai, and Guangdong. Among the most famous factories are Xiaguan Tea Factory, Kunming Tea Factory, and the Changtai Tea Group. The tea is also produced to a lesser extent in Laos, Burma, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
The best pu-erhs and highest quality teas are thought to come from the Six Great Tea Mountains, which include Yiwu, Yibang, Manzhuan, Mangzhi, Gedeng, and Yōulè. There are nine additional mountains in the region that have more recently been used to produce pu-erh tea.
Pu-erh tea may help accelerate weight loss by speeding up metabolism and decreasing caloric intake. Pu-erh tea is a great replacement for sodas and sugary drinks that can pack on the pounds. That's because this tea type is naturally calorie-free. Drinking true tea also encourages chemical reactions that signal the body to break down fast rather than glucose. This can help speed up metabolism, thus helping you shed pounds faster (1).
Research shows the weight loss benefits of this type of tea may be more pronounced in certain populations. Most studies show the largest impacts on populations of Asian ethnicity. However, tea can be used to increase hydration and reduce calorie-intake by anyone. Just make sure to skip the extra additives such as sugar and honey to keep calories low.
Pu-erh tea may help lower the risk of heart disease in certain individuals and when consumed over long periods of time. The benefits of drinking tea may include lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels.
One study showed that pu-erh tea helps to lower cholesterol thanks to the presence of tea polyphenols and lovastatin. The animal study also showed that regular pu-erh consumption helps to decrease triglyceride levels (2).
Pu-erh tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine that can help increase alertness and improve focus. This tea type also contains an amino acid known as L-theanine, which inhibits the absorption of caffeine. This results in a slower energy boost that is longer lasting than traditional coffee.
A study published by Liang Zhang found that the microbial fermentation process of ripe pu-erh increases the level of caffeine in the tea (3). If you're looking for the best energy boost from pu-erh, opt for ripe pu-erh.
Pu-erh tea may also help to protect the brain and mind by reducing anxiety. This tea contains GABA, also known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, which produces natural anti-anxiety effects. Pu-erh tea can help decrease anxiety by reducing inflammation and increasing alpha wave activity (4).
Discover the earthy flavor and woody aroma of pu-erh tea. Opt for raw pu-erh to enjoy the traditional methods of aging and taste rich, nuanced flavor profiles. If you don't have the budget for exquisitely aged raw pu-erh, opt for ripe pu-erh tea that offers a similar flavor. Ripe pu-erh is produced much more quickly than raw pu-erh and thus commands a less hefty price tag. You'll love the deep flavor profile that is more savory than raw varieties.