Pu-erh Tea

Poo – what?

Proper, authentic pu-erh tea (pronounced “poo-air”) comes only from the Yunnan province in China. Although it is also produced in parts of Taiwan, the tea purists insist on the genuine Yunnan provenance.  Pu-erh shares same origins and parent plant Camellia Sinensis with oolong, black, and green teas, but that’s where the similarity and any collective parentage end.

Why is it special?

While oolong tea is slightly fermented, black tea completely fermented, green tea not fermented at all, pu-erh tea haughtily looks back over its shoulder at its younger cousins and gets special treatment by being post-fermented.

Fermented vs. oxidized tea

Sometimes, all types of black tea are generally dubbed fermented, even though not all of them live up to the name. In the industry jargon, the two terms oxidized and fermented are being used as synonyms and unfairly so. Oxidation is a purely chemical process: the tea leaves interact with oxygen and turn “black”. Fermentation, on the other hand, assumes involvement of living bacteria. Compare this to utilizing the ferments in yogurt or leavened bread production. Pu-erh tea is the only type of tea that is not only oxidized but actually fermented, inhabited with healthy microflora.  Thanks to hard work of the bacteria, aged pu-erh tea would evolve with time like a fine wine.

Sounds like an odd thing to do to tea…

This aging process is unique among all teas, but not unknown in epicurean gastronomy. It can be linked to vintage wine or aged cheese in the way that the products only get better with age, rather than going stale like yesterday’s bread.

So, how is Pu-Erh tea made?

Let’s compare the gestation of pu-erh to that of mainstream teas to help you understand where it sits on the tea spectrum.

  • White tea leaves are simply cut and dried – no further processing required
  • Black tea leaves are cut and then left to oxidize until they turn black
  • Green tea leaves are cut, withered, and then steamed or pan-fired to halt oxidation
  • Oolong tea leaves sit between black tea and green tea with the oxidation stopped halfway before they turn black
  • Then, there’s pu-erh. In fact, there are two types of pu-erh. These are the twins that happened to get different upbringing.

The first type, Sheng – row, green pu-erh. It starts out as a slightly oxidized tea that is then getting moistened and compressed into bricks or cakes, preserving natural bacteria inside. This is your young Sheng Pu-erh. It might be sharp, astringent, and bitter, but some connoisseurs prefer it this way and it is available for sale at this stage. To bring it to maturity, Sheng would be stored in the proper environment for years and decades while it is getting oxidized and fermented (“ripened”). The longer this process lasts, the more complex, mellow, and smooth the taste becomes. The result is the aged or ripe Sheng Pu-erh, the most respected of all Pu-erh family.

The other type is Shou – ripe, black pu-erh. It is also oxidized and fermented, with a “bootcamp” approach. To speed up the processing, dry tea leaves are piled up in warm and humid conditions. Moisture is constantly added to encourage effective “composting”. The time of ripening gets down dramatically (from decades to months), so does the price of the final product… as well as the complexity of its flavors. Make no mistake, Shou Pu-erh is a wonderful tea with luscious body and soothing, earthy aromas. It is just thicker, darker, and more straightforward than its sophisticated twin sibling, aged Sheng Pu-erh.

How does a Pu-erh tea taste like?

Pu-erh is not everyone’s cup of tea. Like a moldy cheese, it requires an acquainted palate. First time drinkers complain about its “musty” or “moldy” taste. That’s not a far cry from reality, since throughout the fermentation process living bacteria interact with the tea leaves. As a result, pu-erh acquires this kind of an earthy flavor. If your preference is for fresh, floral, and herbaceous notes, you’d better look elsewhere.

Don’t get discouraged though.

Seasoned pu-erh drinkers consider pu-erh tea as “very complex and layered in flavor”, “smooth”, “velvety with no acidity or astringency whatsoever”, “full-bodied, earthy”. You might pick up “notes of moss”, “wood”, “autumn leaves” to its flavor.

Beyond the unusual taste: health benefits of Pu-Ehr tea

Like many other teas, pu-erh tea has been touted as medicinal. Besides that pu-erh contains healthy bacteria, which are good for your digestive system, it is also high in antioxidants. Pu-erh lovers cite improvements in a range of conditions from lowing cholesterol to better mental acuity. Plus, pu-ehr is useful in fighting the belly fat, detoxing and aiding digestion, reducing stress and curing a hangover.

Who makes the best Pu-Erh tea?

There is a difference between factory produced pu-erh and tea from boutique suppliers. Factories tend to make pu-erh from younger tea bushes. The tea could be flat in flavor and even bitter. Smaller producers nurture the tea plants from generation to generation. Some of those trees have been growing for tens and hundreds of years on the mountain ranges of Yunnan. As a result, the teas come out sweeter and smoother, with layered complex flavors.

Is there an expiration date to Pu-Erh tea?

Don’t worry about the production or sell-by dates on the packaging (it’s likely to be in Chinese anyway). With pu-erh – the diva of teas –

– age is just a number, darling.

(see our top 15 picks below)



-Which way I ought to go from here?

-That depends a great deal on where you want to get to.

Black Tea

Black Tea

What is black tea? In short, black tea is fully fermented leaves of the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. How ...
Oolong tea

Oolong tea

What is Oolong tea? Oolong tea is partially oxidized and intricately processed leaves of tea plant, Camellia ...
Green Tea

Green Tea

What is green tea? Green tea is unfermented leaves of the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. How is green tea ...
White tea

White tea

What is white tea? White tea is made from fresh young leaves and buds of the tea plant Camellia ...

15 great pu-erh teas to buy online

our price rating$

How the tea is priced? ⇒

1970’S Zhong Cha Iron Cake Simplified Letters

1970’S Zhong Cha Iron Cake Simplified Letters

This rare and classic cake was made during the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970's. It's wrapper is the Simplified Chinese Characters variety. It is a Green Aged Pu-erh that has matured over the years. The fine mellowed taste is a real prize or special gift tea. About 330 grams.

2
Tealyra – Ripe Pu erh Tea Loose Leaf – 5 Years Aged – Organic

Tealyra – Ripe Pu erh Tea Loose Leaf – 5 Years Aged – Organic

This Naked Pu- Erh organic tea is aged for five years before being released, and hails from the Yunnan province in China. It is a popular drink among tea enthusiasts in both the Western and Eastern worlds. Certified organic, this tea has a wide range of benefits and is renowned for lowering ...

2
Yunnan Longrun Pu-erh Tea Cake -Dali (Year 2010,Fermented, 357g)

Yunnan Longrun Pu-erh Tea Cake -Dali (Year 2010,Fermented, 357g)

About the Product May help lose weight May help blood circulation May help to create a youthful complexion. may help fight the efftects of aging May improve your eye version

2
Golden Pu’Erh

Golden Pu’Erh

Yunnan Golden Pu'erh Origin: Yunnan, ChinaAged over 10 years. Our Golden Pu'erh is hand-picked competition quality, loaded with golden tea tips. It brews into a superbly robust, earthy flavor, which is strong, while yielding a smooth full-bodied brew. This aged and fermented, darkest of tea types ...

1
Antique Pu Er Organic Tea

Antique Pu Er Organic Tea

YunnanOrganic pu er tea Healthy,Earthy, Malty. This is the daily tea for my girlfriend. We buy it again and again.Our organic Antique Pu Er was harvested from ancient tea trees in Yunnan. Its large, dark leaves hold scents of cedar, fallen trees, loam and mosses. The brew is ruby-black and nearly ...

1
Sun-Dried Silver Tips Raw Pu Er

Sun-Dried Silver Tips Raw Pu Er

Yunnan Calming, Healthy, Refreshing Citrus, Fruity, Earthy, Nutty, Smokey, Sweet. For the first time ever, American Tea Room has sourced and packaged our own signature Pu Er cakes from Yunnan, China. The Sun Dried Silver Tips is a raw, or Sheng Pu Er, meaning the tea was simply sun-dried, rolled ...

1
Pu-Erh

Pu-Erh

Aged Organic Pu-erh Tea. Aged and fermented to provide an earthy flavor and a deep, rich body

1
1990S Bai Zhen Jin Lian Small White Needle Golden Lotus Pu-Erh

1990S Bai Zhen Jin Lian Small White Needle Golden Lotus Pu-Erh

This is a fine leafed tea that offers a sweet and clean taste of the finest Royal Pu-erh's. Hails from Manghai, factory unknown. The taste won't lie, it is great.

1
Pu Erh Pearls

Pu Erh Pearls

Generously sized for teapot brewing, this extra large pearl gives the term tea ball new meaning. Compressed fermented five year old shou style pu erh leaves are wonderfully earthy, smooth and comforting. They take second infusions well as they slowly unfurl or pop one in your travel tumbler for ...

1
Yunnan Pu Erh Gold

Yunnan Pu Erh Gold

Pu Erh teas are aged, undergoing a natural fermentation process, which yields a deep, rich cup with zero astringency. Our Masters-grade Pu Erh is a rare find, composed of long, golden leaf buds, which are difficult to maintain through the aging process. Its damp forest aroma foreshadows flavors ...

1
Decorative Pu-Erh Tea Cake

Decorative Pu-Erh Tea Cake

Pu-erh Tea. Long before western culture began, tea bricks were carried via camel back and were used as commerce and consumption throughout the Orient. Ancient sources suggest that it is one of the first forms of money known as 'Tea Money.' Many use it today to bring a sense of good fortune into ...

1
Naked Pu-Erh

Naked Pu-Erh

Organic Pu-erh Tea. Naked Pu-erh stems from Yunnan, China and delivers a deep red infusion with a sweet woodsy aroma and mild earthy finish. The finish is a medium thick body with slightly floral notes and a lingering hint of honeysuckle. It can be steeped multiple times in a sitting without ...

1
Rich Raspberry Pu-erh

Rich Raspberry Pu-erh

Potent raspberry fruit blended with earthy Pu-Erh. From the field to your teacup, discover a raspberry tea unlike any you’ve tasted before. Our Raspberry Pu-erh Tea fuses the sweet, subtle taste of fresh raspberries to the deep, earthy taste of exotic pu-erh leaves for a naturally inviting taste ...

1
Pu-Erh Tuo Cha Tea

Pu-Erh Tuo Cha Tea

Pu-erh Tuo Cha's leaves have been hand-formed into the shape of tiny bowls or tuo cha ("birds nests") and individually wrapped. This tea brews a reddish cup with a mild and slightly sweet earthy flavor.*Pu-erh, known in old Chinese as "black tea", is tea that is actually

1
2011 Qiu Xiang Shen Yi Ripened Pu-Erh Beeng Cha

2011 Qiu Xiang Shen Yi Ripened Pu-Erh Beeng Cha

This is a great cake that was processed in 2011 with a leaf crop from 2008. It is ready to drink now and it will even mellow nicely over the next few years. A good daily cake that good for you too!

1

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