The Earthiness of Pu-Erh
It isn’t often that people know what pu-erh (pu’er) tea is. It is one of the most asked questions in the Tea Loft and when I am out in the community.
Pu-erh tea is a type of tea that is only grown in the Yunnan province of China. It is also the only tea that takes on a secondary fermentation process. These two factors make pu-erh the real thing.
Let’s discuss each one.
- First, it HAS to be grown in the Yunnan province. There are other teas which are fermented the same way but if it isn’t grown within the Yunnan province, it is not allowed to be called Pu-erh. It is instead called “Dark Tea”.
- Second, the tea takes on a secondary fermentation. This means after the tea is dried, it is then re-wet. In re-wetting the leaves, beneficial microbes start forming on the tea. When the tea is wet, it is sometimes pressed into bricks, cakes, tuo chas (tiny cakes) or other shapes. It is then allowed to dry.
Pu-erh can be made from raw tea (i.e. a white or green form) and it is called Sheng Pu-erh.
Or it can be oxidized like a black tea and then re-wet and that is called a Shu Pu-erh.
The flavors that come out of the pu-erh range from fishy, to damp basement to musky to peaty and so on. It doesn’t sound appetizing, right? It is certainly an acquired taste, but once you are hooked, you will never look back!
My first taste of pu-erh was when I was in China. We bought these leaves that looked like needles. The leaves had been rolled long ways instead of the way I was used to seeing them, in a ball. A few of these needles in my cup and that was all I needed for many, many glasses.
One day I made a cup and picked up a friend.
She asked, “What is that?”
I said, “Pu-erh”
She replied, “Well it definitely is POOOO AIR”
My needles tasted a bit like leather mixed with cologne.
On my first glass I couldn’t believe I was choking it down.
The second glass was wanted but I wasn’t sure why.
By my third glass I decided not only did I like this tea but I was going to drink the whole damn container…… and I did so in the weeks to follow.
While this is not everyone’s cup of tea- It is definitely one you should try. There are many health benefits from drinking pu-erh (next post).
If you are afraid to jump in with both feet, start with one of the “entres into pu-erh”, i.e. one of our flavored pu-erhs. You won’t even know you are drinking pu-erh until it is too late and you are hooked.