What is Pu Erh Tea?
Pu Erh is a tea that originates from Yunnan, China. It can be sold in loose leaves (Mao Cha), brick or cake form (pressed into discs). Pu Erh is arguably the oldest cultivated tea in the world with evidence of use within Yunnan, China reaching back over 2000 years! The ancient peoples of this area most likely used the tea leaves for medicinal use. Pu Erh was given as tribute to various emperors of China for centuries and in recent decades has seen a re-ignition of interest within China and the West because of its unique flavour characteristics. We could go into medicinal properties and this tea’s effects on the body but we prefer to admire Pu Erh for its flavour and hobby of collecting! Grades of Pu Erh are roughly set out as:
Raw Pu Erh tea?
Raw or ‘Sheng’ Pu Erh has gone through minimal processing which means that natural bacteria and fungi that were present on the leaves of the tea are still around, alive and producing enzymes. Over time, these enzymes will ferment the tea, changing the flavour from youthful, floral, fruity bitterness to more aged, sweet, and complex notes. These teas, just like cigars, require a level of humidity (55-70HR) to be aged for the best results.
Ripe Pu Erh tea?
Ripe or ‘Shou’ Pu Erh is a Raw Pu Erh that undergoes an accelerated fermentation process or (wet piling). This takes 7 weeks or more. In the early 80s, factory owners in Yunnan wanted to replicate the taste of a heavily aged Raw Pu Erh using this method. The results were similar, but not the same! Ripe teas will be dark, smooth, sweet and earthy. With age, these teas will become more rounded, smoother, sweeter, perhaps with hints of mushroom or camphor. Again, Ripe Pu Erh needs a level of humidity to help it reach its full potential – 55-75RH is best.
Because someone who buys loose tea must, unlike someone who buys non-loose tea, individually measure it to use it in a cup, mug, or teapot, this person can more easily control the flavour and strength of the tea that they will drink. Loose tea can be brewed effectively with the use of a Gaiwan – a Chinese lidded bowl that is used for infusing tea leaves and consuming tea.
Discover the taste of real tea!
Generally, these teas should be brewed ‘Gong Fu Style’. A series of short infusions through the use of tea ware that
we stock at Tea Guru, including a Gaiwan or mini teapot. This way, the tea will express its true flavour with less
unwanted bitterness and astringency.
So what’s the big deal?
When a fresh voyager embarks on their tea journey and starts to appreciate and explore tea, Pu Erh is where the ocean meets the sky. This is the place where ‘proper tea heads’ can hang their hat and say ‘I’m home’. Why is this? Pu Erh always keeps your palate on its toes with a vast spectrum of flavours within. The taste of your tea will evolve from month to month, revealing nuances that make all the difference. That, coupled with the fact that brewing tea in a controlled way can be challenging, means that every tea session you have will most likely be unique in one way or another. Raw Pu Erh is highly regarded for its pleasant after taste that can linger for 20 minutes or more. With a good tea, such as Gu Shu (Ancient Arbor), you may notice a returning sweetness after drinking. The hobby of collecting and appreciating your tea as it evolves is both enjoyable and beneficial. Don’t forget to brew with a Gaiwan (lidded bowl) and short infusions. Always use filtered water to make it the best cup it can be!
Annual China tea trips
We regularly visit Hong Kong and Guangdong, searching out new and interesting teas for your tea table! Our store gains additions all the time as we make sure to keep track of the new stock section. Our current selection of Pu Erh tea is the widest in the UK, and we also stock Oolong, White, and Black tea.
Tips for a tea noob!
When embarking on your tea journey, keep in mind that appreciating a genre of tea takes time. For instance, Raw Pu Erh alone carries a breadth of flavours and taste profiles. Add to that the changing character of the tea over time, and you have an ever-changing selection available. At the end of the day, this journey is about having fun and savouring the ride!
For more tips and advice, check out our blog.
And if this doesn’t suffice, feel free to get in touch and we’ll gladly answer your questions.