What is Pu-erh Tea?
Pu-erh tea has become really popular in the West, in all its forms. It is a tea lovers favourite and is often described with terms such as rich and earthy or ripe and mellow, some would even say old tasting in, a complimentary sense.
The fast growing interest in this wonderful product has persuaded us to put together a few really good examples for you to try. In time we will expand the representation of Pu-erh teas on the list.
Pu-erh is a tea that is purposely left to age, and like a fine wine the older it gets the more prized it becomes. It's not uncommon for Pu-erhs to be many years old, usually between 1 and 5 but much older is possible, and each year that passes will only fortify its character and further mellow its flavour.
The journey from unfermented leaf to Pu-erh Tea is a remarkable one as it bears no resemblance to the methods used for making Green Tea. The leaves are withered in a similar way to Green Tea, but before all the moisture has gone they are piled into heaps to allow bacterium to react. A thin layer of mould will often develop and this is wholeheartedly encouraged as it benefits the overall character and flavour of the tea.
Pu-erh is then formed into bricks or cakes, gently wrapped in paper, and stored outside on racks to age. The final stage ensures the Pu-erh bricks mature to the full as they are then stored underground, and this is where they can lay for many years to mellow and evolve.
The medicinal benefits of Pu-erh are not without substance either, as according to scientific research it helps reduce cholesterol, increase metabolism and aids in digestion, especially that of fatty foods. Pu-erh has been highly regarded in Traditional Chinese Medicine for many years, maybe the health benefits are in the abundant microbial activity, in which case it's similar to other living foods we hold in high regard, such as live yoghurt for example.
Pu-erh gets its name from its birthplace, therefore the small county of Pu-erh in China's Yunnan Province can be thought of as its true home, and to this day Yunnan Province is still a major producer of these exceptional teas.
Today Pu-erh teas can be purchased as loose tea, and as small and larger cakes and larger cakes of compressed teas.
Brewing pu-erh tea:
- When the bricks are extremely tightly pressed it is best to use a strong knife to carefully pry out some leaves. The technique that works best is to insert the knife into the edge of the brick and then gently work it up and down until the tea loosens and falls off.
- Add about 3-4 grams per serving of tea (the amount depends upon type of pu-erh) to your teapot.
- Add hot boiling water at a full rolling boil.
- Steep for 2-3 minutes. Once the tea seems ready, give it a stir and then pour and taste. If necessary, adjust the steeping time for a stronger taste.