Pu-erh is a fermented tea, quite different from oxidized teas. Fermented Chinese teas can be loose leaf or compressed into bricks.
To be considered a Pu-erh, the tea leaves must be grown in Yunnan Province. The raw material for Pu-erh, is made by pan-firing large leaves, rolling the leaves, then drying them in the sun. The leaves are put into piles, moisture added and controlled over a period of several hours to several weeks depending on the type of fermented tea being manufactured.
Pu-erh tea leaves are compressed into shapes for presentation, aging and dosing purposes.
Yunnan Pu-erh is arguably the most famous fermented tea in China. Widespread speculation led to a meteoric rise in Pu-erh popularity, with a recent tenfold increase in prices. Some regional Pu-erh teas still remain some of the most expensive teas in China.
Tuo Cha(Bowl shaped Tea) Resembles a bird’s nest.
First brewed thousands of years ago in the Yunnan province of China, Pu-erh tea is a unique fermented tea richly steeped in tradition — and some misconceptions. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about this deep, smooth, earthy-flavoured tea.
What are the health benefits of Pu-erh tea?
The growing popularity of pu-erh tea in Australia and around the world is largely due to the fact that it combines the health benefits of tea and fermented foods. Although more research needs to be done, numerous studies suggest that pu-erh tea may help with:
- Mental alertness
- Weight management
- Gut health
- Blood sugar control
- Antioxidant protection for heart and blood vessels
- Improved cholesterol levels
In the case of cholesterol, pu-erh tea boasts an advantage over other types of teas in that it naturally contains small amounts of lovastatin. This chemical is used as a prescription medication for lowering cholesterol. Preliminary studies show drinking pu-erh tea could reduce triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol while raising good HDL cholesterol. Promising research is also emerging on how pu-erh tea might boost liver health, fight influenza and inhibit the growth of cancer.
Is pu-erh tea high in caffeine?
Pu-erh tea typically has a medium amount of caffeine. Like black and green tea, it comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which contains naturally occurring caffeine.
Exactly how much caffeine is in your cup depends on a number of factors, including when the pu-erh leaves were picked, how they were processed and how long you steep. A cuppa pu-erh may contain anywhere from 30 to 100 milligrams of caffeine.
Tea lovers who are sensitive to caffeine can still enjoy the benefits of pu-erh. Try a shorter steeping time using slightly cooler water. Also, look to buy pu-erh tea in blocks or nests with increased age. During the post-fermentation process, the caffeine in pu-erh naturally breaks down as it ages.
When should I drink pu-erh tea?
Because of its caffeine content, pu-erh tea can boost mood and alertness when consumed throughout the day. However, it's best served with food. In traditional Chinese herbalism, pu-erh tea leaves are believed to open the yin and yang meridians of the spleen and stomach, which enhance blood cleansing and digestion. For this reason, pu-erh tea is often enjoyed during or after meals — and even used as a hangover cure.
Many people savour the strong, smooth profile of pu-erh tea with rich, multicourse meals or desserts. Like a glass of fine red wine, complex pu-erh is the perfect pairing for steak, stir-fries, chocolate and decadent baked goods. In the older Cantonese tradition, pu-erh tea is served alongside greasy dim sum dishes of dumplings, steamed buns and rice noodle rolls stuffed with pork, as it is known to settle the stomach.
What are the side effects of pu-erh tea?
Pu-erh tea is safe for most healthy adults when enjoyed in moderation — up to four cups a day. Potential side effects or interactions with medications are commonly attributed to the caffeine, which is naturally found in foods and beverages such as coffee, tea and chocolate.
Most people can tolerate up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily from pu-erh tea and all other sources. However, sensitivities can vary. When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause side effects such as headache, dizziness, shaking, difficulty sleeping, irritability and dehydration. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or concerned about your caffeine intake or interactions, please talk with your doctor before you buy pu-erh tea.