• Pu'er is Pu'erfect for Fall

    November is here and we're surrounded by falling leaves, stiff winds and our first frosts. This time of year makes me think of one of my favorite teas: Pu'er. Pu’er--an umami, earthy, forest-floor kind of tea--is known as “aged tea” and, unlike other teas that get stale over time, pu-er gets better. Think fine wine.

    The history

    The name comes from the town, Pu-er, in the Yunnan Province in southwest China and can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618-907). Historically, these teas traveled far distances into Tibet and Mongolia on horseback, so a processing method was devised to compress the teas into cakes to make them last longer and transport more easily. The most famous Pu’er comes from the mountains in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan, where the leaves come from wild tea trees, centuries old. To protect its appellation, Pu’er is defined as “ fermented green tea obtained from the large leaves of tea trees harvested in the Yunnan province.” 

    The process

    It takes several years for the aging process to improve the taste of these teas, and there are two major types.

    • Pu’er traditionally begins as a raw product known as "rough" Mao Cha and can be sold in this form or pressed into a number of shapes and sold as "raw" Sheng Cha. Both of these forms then undergo a complex process of gradual fermentation and maturation with time.
    • The Wo Dui process developed in the mid-1970s created a new type of pu’er tea which involves an accelerated fermentation into "ripe" Shou Cha which is then stored loose or pressed into various shapes. All types of pu’er can be stored to mature before consumption, which is why it is commonly labeled with year and region.

    The taste's not for everyone

    With tasting notes like peat, roots, spruce, seaweed and mushrooms, and dried fruit this tea will definitely not be for everyone. However, they are all quite mellow in taste, with a lot of the tannins and acidity "aged out." There is also great variety--with some tasting closer to green tea and others closer to black. It's one of those teas, you'll need to taste, and taste a few to be sure!

    Many shapes and sizes

    Pu-erh is generally molded into different forms of small nests, bricks, cakes; and even pumpkins, mushrooms and other fanciful shapes.

    And, yes, it's good for you

    In traditional Chinese herbalism, pu-er tea is considered to open the meridians, 'warm the middle burner' (the spleen and stomach) and be beneficial to 'blood cleansing' and digestion. For these reasons, it is often consumed after heavy meals or drunk as a hangover cure/preventative. Some studies have shown that pu-er may lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and increase metabolism. If that weren't enough, Pu-er is touted as a 'diet tea.'

    How to prepare (don't be scared)

    • Break apart the leaves from the cake with a Pu’er knife (a letter opener works just fine)
    • Use 1-2 teaspoons (2.5-3 grams) per cup (250 ml)
    • Rinse the tea with water that is right off the boil for 5 seconds and then discard the water
    • Now steep the tea in water that is right off the boil (about 205 degrees) for 4-5 minutes
    • Or, you can do multiple steepings of the same tea (20 seconds; 2 minutes longer; then 2 minutes longer)




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