Most tea is best fresh. Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea will lose flavor and become stale as they get older. Pu-erh tea is quite different – it is meant to be aged, and the older it is the better it gets.
Pu-erh is a fermented tea that originates in China’s Yunnan province. It is named after Pu-erh county where the tea was originally produced. The earliest reference to Pu-erh tea is in documents dating from the Tang Dynasty (618 AD – 906 AD), and it has been an important trading item for centuries.
Pu-erh tea is produced from the broad, mature leaves of older tea trees. This is quite different from other types of tea such as green tea or black tea which are produced from the tea buds and new leaves.
After picking, the green leaves are fried or baked to remove most of the moisture. The tea leaves are then steamed and pressed into cakes. This type of pu-erh tea is stored in a dry environment where it slowly oxidizes. This process continues for several years and the pu-erh tea improves in taste the longer it is aged.
This type of pu-erh tea is sometimes called “green pu-erh” or “raw pu-erh” and is the traditional method of making pu-erh tea. There is another type of pu-erh tea called “black pu-erh” or “cooked pu-erh” that is processed differently
Black pu-erh tea is made from the same broad-leaf tea trees as green pu-erh, but the leaves are allowed to ferment under controlled conditions to simulate the aging process. This technique was first developed in 1972 by the Menghai tea factory as a means to imitate the taste and color of aged green pu-erh tea.
This type of pu-erh tea can be consumed immediately after processing, but it also benefits from aging. It is available in both pressed form and as loose leaves.
Health Benefits of Pu-erh Tea
Pu-erh tea is rich in microbes which are beneficial for human health. The microbes found in pu-erh tea include Aspergillus Niger, Saccharomyces, and Penicillium. The microbes contribute to the taste and health benefits of pu-erh tea.
Chinese tea drinkers have known of the health benefits of pu-erh tea for centuries, and recent scientific research have bolstered many of these traditional claims. Pu-erh tea is effective in lowering blood cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure, and preventing intestinal infection.
Pu-erh tea is also high in antioxidants which are necessary to protect us from a whole range of diseases including cancer and heart disease.