(Pǔ'ěr chá also known as "Pu-erh")
Pu’er tea is produced mainly in the Yunnan Province, in the southwestern part of China. Pu’er is a variety of fermented dark tea. Pu’er tea is made from the leaves and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant. This is the same plant that is used for making green, oolong, and black teas.
Though the same source plant is used, the different teas are made by using different processes. Green tea is not fermented, oolong tea is partially fermented, black tea is fully fermented, and Pu’er tea is post-fermented. This means Pu’er tea’s processing includes both fermentation and then prolonged storage, or “aging,” under high humidity. Pu’er tea that is aged for a longer period of time is supposed to taste better.
The Chinese people have been drinking Pu’er tea for almost 2,000 years. According to historical records of China, the ethnic Pu people in Yunnan began to grow tea and served it as tribute to the emperors as early as in the Chinese Shang and Zhou Dynasties (1066 B.C.- 221 B.C.). Yunnan began to process tea in the Three Kingdoms period (220-360). Allegedly, at this time Zhu Ge Liang from Sichuan, a clever tactician, encouraged the Yunnan people to cultivate tea to improve their lives. Still, Yunnan people call Zhu Ge Liang their tea god.
In the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), Pu’er County became a famous market for trading tea and horses. In the former part of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), reputation of the Pu’er tea reached its climax.
Yunnan is a land of rugged mountains and steep valleys which meant that Pu’er was transported strapped to horses and could take months before it reached its destination. This was the beginning of the Ancient Tea Horse Road and during the slow journey the Pu’er would naturally ferment. The people enjoyed the richer full-bodied taste as well as the fragrant aroma, and the Pu’er we know today was born.
For more than 1,700 years premium Pu’er was offered to the Emperor of China as Tribute Tea. The Chinese Imperial Army traded Pu’er bricks with Genghis Khan and the Tibetans for their strong horses. Traders have used Pu’er bricks as money in China, Mongolia, Tibet and Russia. Pu’er was even well known among the native people of northern Canada who were trading across the Bering Strait. It was greatly prized by the Tang Dynasty, and today the best Pu’er per ounce sells at auction for many times more than the price of gold.
It quickly became a daily necessity for Tibetans to supplement their basic diet of meat and cheese. Tibetans say: 'Living without food for three days is better than going without Pu’er tea for a single day.
In accordance with historical documents on Xishuangbanna, Dai people living there planted the tea trees some 1,700 years ago. A tea tree planted 800 years ago is still growing on Mountain Nannuo in Menghai county of Xishuangbanna. In 1961, a large wild tea tree was discovered in the primeval forest on Mountain Dahei of Menghai County. That tea tree is 105 feet high with a diameter of 4 feet, and its age is over 1,700 years old. Exuberant and verdant, it still can yield quality tea leaves.
The typical production process of green/raw Pu'er involves:
- Wok roasting to deactivate the enzymes
- Rolling / Kneading
- Sun drying
- Grading and separating of leaves
- Blending (if desired)
- Lightly steam and then compress into various shapes and sizes
- Dried naturally on racks, or aided with heat during rainy and humid environments.
- Packaging and storing/shipping
Light, gentle flavor with light fragrance, long lingering sweet aftertaste. A deliciously mellow and deeply earthy flavor.
Pu’er tea is like wine. The longer you store it, the richer it becomes. Storage for at least three to six years is optimal.
You can also test the quality of your Pu’er tea by the stain it leaves on your cup after drinking it. If you see a stain surrounding the rim of your cup, that means you are drinking regular or low quality Pu’er tea. If your cup is left with no stain after consumption, you are drinking Pu’er tea of high quality.
Health Qualities of Pu’er Tea
For centuries it has been considered to be a medicinal tea. There is interest in using Pu’er tea for lowering cholesterol because, unlike other teas, it contains small amounts of a chemical called lovastatin. Lovastatin is a prescription medicine used for lowering cholesterol. Investigators think that bacteria that sometimes contaminate Pu’er tea may somehow make the lovastatin in the course of their normal life cycle. Animal research suggests that Pu’er tea reduces bad cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. In one study in laboratory animals, Pu’er tea was the only kind of tea which could actually raise the level of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the level of bad cholesterol (LDL.).WebMD
Pharmacological Elements: Vitamins B1, B2 C and E, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, lysine, arginine, histidine and cystine, linoleic and linolenic acids and trace amounts of zinc, sodium, nickel, iron, beryllium, sulfur and fluorides.
Pu’er tea has been touted for many years as a great weight loss tea because of its ability to help us burn fat and shed pounds. May reduce blood sugar levels significantly and help prevent diabetes.
- Reduces arteriosclerosis, reduces plaque in the heart, and helps to prevent strokes.
- Improves circulation.
- A source of antioxidants which helps fight cancer and promote cell health.
- Aids in weight loss.
- Pu’er tea is used for improving mental alertness and sharp thinking
Has anti-inflammatory properties, including the amino acid GABA, which may help to alleviate arthritis, asthma and arteriosclerosis. The chemical theophylline, which is naturally occurring in tea leaves, is a key component in some asthma medications.
Drinking Pu’er tea at the correct times will help you shed unwanted pounds by helping your body to metabolize fat. If you drink Pu’er at the wrong times, it is said that it will actually cause you to gain weight instead. The best time to drink a cup of Pu’er tea for weight loss goals is one hour after a meal, so that the Pu’er tea can remove excess grease and help your body eliminate unwanted and leftover, hard-to-digest fats.
Treat Pu’er tea like a digestible detergent to flush all the grease away. Always pair oily food with Pu’er tea. Dim sum, no matter steamed or fried, contains lard. When you eat shrimp dumplings, there is always a piece of fatty pork in there to add flavor and fragrance.
Pu’er tea helps you rinse all the grease from the food out of your system. It aids digestion, blood circulation and lowers cholesterol levels. If you don’t have detergent at home, boil some Pu’er tea and use it to wash your dishes.
Brewing Pu’er Tea
Remember that the proper proportion of tea to water is generally 1 gram of tea per 50 milliliters of water. Since Pu’er tea only steeps for a very short period of time, you only need to steep the first cup for about 15 to 20 seconds. Each time you re-brew the leaves, simply add another 15-20 seconds of brewing time for each additional brewing of the leaves.
There are many different types of Pu’er tea, and each type can be steeped multiple times. The higher grades of Pu’er tea can be brewed up to ten times, and each time you will gain the health benefits of the Pu’er tea.
It is recommended to use Yixing clay teapot for brewing, as the yixing clay can bring out the Pu’er tea's flavor and taste much more than other kinds of teapot. But if you don't have Yixing teapot, you can use porcelain gaiwan.
Don't need so much tea? I have 6 and 16 oz. of Pu'er Tea available. Enough to brew 173 or 346 cups of tea. This tea can be brewed several times and you still receive the health benefits.
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