Pu-erh is unique in that it is the only tea that undergoes true fermentation. (Black tea is fully oxidized, but not fermented).
Pu-erh 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. 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.
Many give this remarkable tea credit for restoring and maintaining good health. Generations of Chinese have drunk this tea after rich meals to "cut the grease." Pu-erh tea is probiotic and helps maintain a good ‘gut’. The microbes found in pu-erh tea include Aspergillus Niger, Saccharomyces and Penicillium.
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. Many report that drinking it after meals relieves any overstuffed feelings and aids digestion. 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.
Scientific studies have shown that two antioxidant compounds: theabrownin and gallic acid activate enzymes in our body responsible for fat metabolism. These antioxidants shrink fat tissue and help the body keep fat off weeks after ingestion. The caffeine in pu-erh helps speed metabolism, making the body more efficient at digesting a meal.
A study at China`s Kunming Medical College involving 55 patients found that consuming pu-erh tea 3 times a day lowered cholesterol levels by 64%; nearly as much as cholesterol medication
The method of production is: the tea leaves are rolled and pan fried or baked to remove most of the moisture. They are then steamed and compressed (without drying) into the cakes. In the course of time the tea takes on a musty and earthy character. Pu-erh that gets somewhat moldy before it naturally dries is considered the best.
Pu-erh is unique in the fact that it is aged, as already mentioned, sometimes for many years. This aging process causes its flavor and color to change over time. Many pu-erh’s are later broken up out of the cakes to make it easier to handle. Pu-erh may be re-steeped multiple times and with each infusion comes a different flavor profile.
Hot tea brewing method: Heat water to 212°F (boiling). Place 1 heaping teaspoon per 6 ounce cup. Steep 4-6 minutes. Resteep until flavor is exhausted.