Pu-erh, pronounced pu’air, is the fine wine of teas. Though it can be immediately consumed, since its origin Pu-erh tea has been most valued and relished as it ages. It can be stored for years at a time, retaining all properties and health benefits of Pu-erh. And, incredibly, even grows in taste. The tea will actually get better as it ages.
What is Pu-erh? How is Pu-erh made?
To be considered a Pu-erh tea, the leaves must be from Camellia sinensis var. Assamica from China’s Yunnan Province. Harvested from the same plant, the two methods of processing lead to two types of Pu-erh tea:
- Raw Pu-Erh Tea (Greener when younger and more woodsy and dark as it ages, most cherished by tea connoisseurs and experts)
- Ripe Pu-Erh Tea (A typically darker tea loved by beginners and tea lovers, especially in overseas markets where its flavour tends to be sweeter and richer)
Both types go through the same initial process. The enzymes are partially deactivated (typically via pan frying) and then rolled and dried out in the sun. Then, each type takes their own path with the next steps:
- Pu-erh Raw tea is a semi-fermented tea; after being dried out, the loose raw tea is compressed and aged by storage. This takes much longer than the Ripe process.
- To create Pu-erh Ripe tea, the loose leaf tea is fermented and then compressed to form the final product. This method was developed because it can shorten the Pu-erh process from decades to months.
Fun fact about Pu-erh: China’s government has classified Pu-erh tea as a protected product of origin.
What are the benefits of Pu-erh tea?
There are many Pu-erh tea benefits, which is why it has been valued in China’s herbalism for so long. Pu-erh is healthy because it:
- Supports Weight Loss: Pu-erh helps to suppress FAS (fatty acid synthesis), which can aid in preventing the body from fat production. In addition, the Pu-erh caffeine content promotes the secretion of hormones that increase mobilization of store fatty acids in fat cells. This means that your body finds it easier to pull fuel from the fatty cells around the belly, taking these away.
- Lowers Stress Levels & Promotes Sleep: The phyto-chemicals and microorganisms in Pu-erh tea have been seen to lower stress and even naturally increase melatonin production to the brain. This not only lowers feelings of anxiety, it aids in stabilizing mood and (despite the caffeine, funnily enough!) helps to promote healthy sleep patterns.
- Boosts Immunity: As with most teas, another of Pu-erh benefits is to help prevent you from getting sick. This is due to the antioxidants, which are highly rampant in this type of tea.
- Aids in Cleansing the Body: The Pu-erh fermentation process creates micro-organisms and simple sugars that help to detox body of toxins. From free radicals to acids that build up from the food we eat, a major Pu-erh health benefit is the cleansing it provides.
- Helps with Digestion: Pu-erh tea has been found to up levels of healthy bacterial flora in both the intestines and stomach, promoting extra healthy digestion./li>
How is it packaged and priced?
Commonly, Pu-erh tea is packaged as a round brick. As the aging of Raw Pu-erh can take so long, many devoted tea connoisseurs are willing to pay thousands of dollars for the more rare aged Pu-erhs. For decadent Ripe Pu-Erhs, which have a much shorter creation timeline, the cost is much cheaper!
How do you make Pu-Erh tea?
This tea should be steeped from 195⁰ to 205⁰ for up to 3 minutes. It is fun to experiment with the length of each steeping as the classifications and flavors do indeed vary.