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Pu-erh Tea

Wikipedia: Pu-erh_tea | Teaviews: puer-tea 
Last Updated: Jul. 12, 2017 

About Pu-erh Tea

Compressed tea cake in paper wrapping, dark brown brewed cup of tea, clay teapot, and red cylindrical tea packagingShou (Ripened) Pu-erh from Menghai Tea Factory, showing a typical dark color. Photo © Copypaiste, Wikimedia Commons, 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

Green tea leaves compressed into a square shape with Chinese characters printed on it, against a wooden background with Chinese charactersRaw Pu-erh typically shows a color more similar to that of green tea. Photo © Jason Fasi, 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.


Recent Pu-erh Reviews — RSS rss icon

76 / 100

I'll be surprised if I ever give more than 3 stars for aroma in a ripe puerh review. They all smell the same to me, excluding the odors of too fresh, poorly made, or improperly stored examples. The taste, though, is something else. Each one tastes noticably different in both subtle and obvious ways. What they all seem ...

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78 / 100
Picture of 2017 Old Reliable

2017 Old Reliable from white2tea

Style: Ripened (Shou) Pu-erh – Region: Yunnan, China
Jul. 23rd, 2018

At first, this mostly smells and tastes like generic ripe pu-erh: wood, leaves, earth. It's sweet and syrupy, but the interesting flavors aren't immediately obvious. It does have subtle, non-generic-shou flavors that can be brought out depending on how you brew, though: caramel, cherry cola, dried fruit. Typical gaiwan...

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86 / 100
Picture of 2017 Little Ducks

2017 Little Ducks from white2tea

Style: Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh – Region: Yunnan, China
Jul. 21st, 2018

While the dry leaves have a rather muted scent, the wet leaves and brewed tea both have an amazingly sweet aroma, like if flowers were candy. Like the Daily Drinker, this is on the mellow side, but this one can be pushed further if you can tolerate bitterness. Brewed normally, the first couple steeps are grassy and veg...

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77 / 100
Picture of 2017 Daily Drinker

2017 Daily Drinker from white2tea

Style: Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh – Region: Yunnan, China
Jul. 19th, 2018

This tea has a wonderfully bright, fresh, floral fragrance, and a light bittersweet (more sweet than bitter) taste. It's moderately astringent, so be careful with brew times. As the name suggests, this won't be the greatest tea you've ever tasted; it's called Daily Drinker for a reason. It is quite good for the price, ...

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84 / 100
Picture of Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013

My favorite pu-erh so far out of the half a dozen or so I've tried, but it's also the most expensive. It does smell fruity (not sure what kind of fruit), but it also has a sweet rocky aroma, sort of like smelling the aftertaste of a good Wuyi oolong. Once brewed, it's strong and sweet without being astringent or bitter...

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Most-Rated Pu-erh

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
52
7 Ratings
No image of this tea

2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
98
3 Ratings
Picture of Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
79
3 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
11
3 Ratings
Picture of Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013

Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh
Region:Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
31
3 Ratings

Top-Rated Pu-erh

No image of this tea

2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
98
3 Ratings
Picture of Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Puerh Brick Tea 2005

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh
Region:Fengqing, Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Compressed
79
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
52
7 Ratings
Picture of Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013

Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Raw (Sheng) Pu-erh
Region:Yunnan, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
31
3 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
11
3 Ratings

Varieties, Kinds, or Types of Pu-erh Tea

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