Since the change in seasons, my tea preference has changed. I am now navigating to something more rich, robust and yet less bite. Pu-erh has been my drink of choice for the past few weeks.
Simply put, Pu-erh (Pooh-Air) is an aged black tea. When we think of black tea we typically think of bitter and harsh. The aging process affects tea just like a couple of days affects stew. That is all the sharp flavors mellow into a nice smooth wholesome broth. The same holds true for aged Pu-erh.
Digging deeper into the history and process there are two types of Pu-erh. The most traditional Raw Pu-erh uses tea from the Yunnan Province in Southern China. The un-aged tea is very bitter so the aging process was born out of necessity for drinkability and storage. Raw Pu-erh is packed in compressed disks called cakes and aged a minimum of 15 years. These leaves hold up to several infusions and is often used in Gong Fu which is a Chinese method of preparing tea utilizing many infusions.
Ripe Pu-erh is a product of the modern age. This tea is typically found in loose form and produced by using moisture controlled rooms to speed up the aging process. Ripe Pu-erh can reach drinkability in 5 years. The downside is that Ripe Pu-erh tends to be generic in flavor where Raw will have more variability from cake to cake.
So whether you knew about Pu-erh or not hopefully you’ve learned something about this very important tea category.