Pu-erh Tea

Wikipedia: Pu-erh_tea | Teaviews: puer-tea 
Updated: Sep. 17, 2015 

Review RSS rss icon

Browse Pu-erh Tea (149)Read Reviews (79)Brands of Pu-erh Tea

Table of contents:
About Pu-erh Tea | Varieties of Pu-erh Tea | Best (Top-Rated) Pu-erh Tea

About Pu-erh Tea

A pu-erh cake, teapot, packaging, and a cup of tea showing a dark brown color
Shou (ripened Pu-erh) from Menghai tea factory, showing a typical dark color. Photo by Copypaiste, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Pu-erh tea (普洱茶), called bo nay (or po lei, or po lai) tea in Cantonese, and sometimes spelled Puer or Pu'er, is a type of dark tea, a tea that is usually aged.

Although it can be consumed immediately after production, Pu-erh is often aged, in a process called post-fermentation. This process involves active bacteria and fungal cultures. In China, post-fermented tea is also called hei cha(黑茶), meaning black tea; what westerners call "black tea" the Chinese call "red tea".

Shou (ripened or black) vs. sheng (raw or green)

Pu-erh comes in fully oxidized varieties (a little like black teas), called shou or shu(熟), usually translated as ripe, ripened, or cooked pu-erh, and green varieties, called raw or sheng(生) pu-erh. Both ripe and raw versions can be aged, but the aging is more central to the raw teas, which are produced with a very strong flavor, intended to mellow with age. Originally, only the raw version was produced; ripe Pu-erh was developed to imitate the aging process.

Sheng Pu-erh is frequently aged for very long time-periods. Sheng cakes in the 10-15 year age range are often still referred to as "young sheng".

Preferences for age and style of Pu-erh are largely a matter of personal taste. It is common for people to like only one or two of the classifications of fresh (unaged) sheng Pu-erh, young sheng, older sheng, or shou Pu-erh. Some people may find the strong flavors of fresh or young sheng to be objectionable, whereas other people find the aromatic qualities of older Pu-erh or shou Pu-erh to be unappealing. As the different ages and styles of Pu-erh can different considerably from each other, it is worth trying at least one example of the different ages and production types before drawing a conclusion about your opinion of Pu-erh as a whole.

Origins and production regions

A pu-erh cake pressed into a square, with Chinese characters printed on it, with a dull green leaf color
Raw Pu-erh typically shows a color more similar to that of green tea. Photo by Jason Fasi, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.
Pu-erh tea originated in Yunnan province in China. Although the term Pu-erh usually only refers to teas from Yunnan, a few other regions produce small quantities of tea in a similar style. The Suối Giàng ancient tea forest in northern Vietnam, neighboring Yunnan, produces tea similar to Pu-erh. A few other regions have produced teas in the style of Pu-erh. Disputes have arisen over whether or not it is honest to label such teas produced outside of Yunnan province as "pu-erh".

Within Yunnan, there are many important production regions. On RateTea, we classify these regions to the county level, when such information is provided by the seller. Important counties in Yunnan province include Fengqing, Menghai, Yongde, and Lancang (home of the Jing mai region).

Compressed vs loose-leaf

Unlike most teas which are usually sold loose, pu-erh is commonly sold both in loose and compressed forms. Pu-erh is compressed into different shapes, including bricks, cakes or disks (called bing or beeng), and a common form called tuo cha, which means bowl-shaped. These compressed teas must be broken apart prior to brewing, except for a few ones that are pressed into small single-serving shapes, like "mini tuo cha".

Most of the highest-quality Pu-erhs, and most raw or sheng Pu-erhs are only available compressed into large cakes. Most of the loose-leaf Pu-erh on the market is ripened or cooked, and of relatively lower quality, and similarly, most of the single-serving compressed teas are also of lower quality.

Tea bags of Pu-erh, with a few exceptions, are usually ripened Pu-erh.

Health benefits of pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea is often touted for its cholesterol-lowering properties, or for promoting weight loss. Experimental studies on rats have verified that it does lower cholesterol, by inhibiting the synthesis of cholesterol.[1][2] However, the chemicals, polyphenols, that inhibit cholesterol synthesis, GCG, EGCG, and other catechins[1], are not limited to pu-erh tea, but also occur in most types of tea, and are not necessarily highest in pu-erh. Similar results have been found for green tea.[3]

Pu-erh also has also been found to have antimutagenic and antimicrobial activity.[4] However, other types of tea have these properties as well, and it has not yet been thoroughly established whether or not there are any health benefits or medicinal properties which are unique to Pu-erh.

Read more about the health benefits of tea.

New to Pu-erh?

Pu-erh can be intimidating and complex to get into. We recommend New to Pu'er? and Pu'er by Appearance: Types & Storage on bearsblog if you are interested in getting seriously into this type of tea.

References:

1. Chi-Hua Lua, Lucy Sun Hwang, Polyphenol contents of Pu-Erh teas and their abilities to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis in Hep G2 cell line, Food Chemistry, Vol. 111, No. 1, (Nov. 1, 2008), pp. 67-71.


2. Chiang, Chun-Te et al., Pu-erh Tea Supplementation Suppresses..., Oncology Research Featuring Preclinical and Clinical Cancer Therapeutics'', Vol. 16, No. 3, (2006), pp. 119-128(10).


3. C.A. Bursill, M. Abbey, P.D. Roach, A green tea extract lowers plasma cholesterol ..., Atherosclerosis. 2007 Jul;193(1):86-93.


4. She-Ching Wu et al., Antimutagenic and antimicrobial activities of pu-erh tea, LWT - Food Science and Technology, Vol. 40, No. 3, (Apr. 2007), pp. 506-512.


Varieties, Kinds, or Types of Pu-erh Tea

Best Pu-erh Tea

The notion of the "best" Pu-erh Tea is subjective, because different people have different tastes. We present the most often-rated and highest-rated teas in this category, and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Most Often-Rated Teas

Picture of Emperor's Puerh - Black Tea

Emperor's Puerh - Black Tea

Brand:Numi Organic Tea
Style:Pu-erh Tea
Region:Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
47
7 Ratings
Picture of 2005 Jing Mai Autumnal

2005 Jing Mai Autumnal

Brand:The Tao of Tea
Style:Ripened (Shou) Pu-erh
Region:Lancang, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
41
3 Ratings
Picture of Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw / Green / Sheng Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
50
3 Ratings
Picture of 2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha

2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw / Green / Sheng Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
97
3 Ratings
Picture of Premium Pu-erh Tea - Black

Premium Pu-erh Tea - Black

Brand:My Zen Tea
Style:Ripened (Shou) Pu-erh
Region:Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
2 Ratings

Top-Rated Teas

Picture of 2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha

2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw / Green / Sheng Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
97
3 Ratings
Picture of Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw / Green / Sheng Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
50
3 Ratings
Picture of Emperor's Puerh - Black Tea

Emperor's Puerh - Black Tea

Brand:Numi Organic Tea
Style:Pu-erh Tea
Region:Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
47
7 Ratings
Picture of 2005 Jing Mai Autumnal

2005 Jing Mai Autumnal

Brand:The Tao of Tea
Style:Ripened (Shou) Pu-erh
Region:Lancang, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
41
3 Ratings

Browse All Pu-erh Tea (149)Brands of Pu-erh Tea