What is Pu'er (or Pu-erh) tea?
Pu’er tea, 普洱茶(Pǔ'ěr chá), is a special type of aged and fermented tea. It is from the Yunnan province, 云南省 (Yúnnán Shěng), which is located in southwest China (南 means ‘south’). The name of pu’er tea is actually protected by the Chinese government to be a product of specific regions of the Yunnan province, which goes to show how special this tea is. In the past, drinking pu’er tea was for the royalty, and only the finest of tea leaves were collected for the emperors’ pu’er tea. It also became a popular trade product, partially because it is a dark tea. Most importantly, pu’er is unique for its extremely useful health benefits.
What Makes Pu'Er Tea A Big Deal?
It's old. (Or as we like to call it, "mature.") Pu'er tea goes through a specific aging process. While Western countries have a good grasp on the fermentation process (such as using it for yogurt, wine, and cheese), applying the aging process to tea is something that Eastern countries jumped on first.
The "aged" value of pu'er tea is the same concept as a well-aged bottle of scotch. In 2013, a bundle of 2083g of pu'er tea from the 1900s was auctioned off. The winning bid? A whopping 1.5 million US dollars.
Health Benefits of Pu'er Tea
Pu’er tea is most sought-after for its abilities in lowering cholesterol. What is interesting is that the longer the tea is aged, the better the health benefit. However, when aging pu’er, it is important to store the tea properly in unglazed clay containers. When pu’er is more aged, there is more lovastatin. Lovastatin is a medication used for lowering levels of bad cholesterol. As a result, pu’er tea is also useful for reducing cardiovascular disease risk. A study has also found that pu’er can actually increase the level of good cholesterol.
Another benefit of pu’er tea is in its cleansing properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is known for its effect on the spleen and stomach, as there are blood cleansing and digestion benefits. Pu’er fermentation produces micro-organisms and simple sugars that can actually help remove toxins in the blood. The micro-organisms can also increase the levels of healthy bacteria in the stomach and intestines. This means that drinking pu’er tea after meals can be helpful with digestion.
In addition to aiding digestion, pu’er tea can also aid in weight loss! Pu’er tea is found to be useful in suppressing fatty acid synthesis (FAS), your body’s fat production. Another way it blocks fat is by blocking fat accumulation. This is possible by emptying out contents of fat cells. Lastly, pu’er tea can help in accessing and using your body’s stored fatty acids—which means burning body fat!
Something interesting that pu’er tea can help with is sleep. Yes, contradictory, right? Pu’er tea still has caffeine, as any other tea would. However, sleep benefits are possible because there are elements in pu’er tea that reduce stress levels and increase levels of melatonin, which assists the body in better sleep cycles.
Different Kinds of Pu'Er TeaThere are several different varieties of pu'er tea, but they fit into two common categories: Ripe pu'er tea and Raw pu'er tea. Ripe pu'er (also known as "cooked pu'er") is tea that has gone through a man-made fermentation process, as opposed to being naturally aged. Raw pu'er that hasn't been aged tends to taste more like green tea.
How To Steep Pu'er Tea
Pu'er is often sold in pressed "tea cakes." First, break the tea cake apart. Then put a small handful of the tea leaves into a teapot. Pour boiling water just to cover the leaves, then immediately pour this water out. This is called "rinsing," and is used to get rid of any dirt or dust collected on the leaves, as well as wake up the tea leaves. Pour more hot water, and let it steep for 15-30 seconds.
Pu'er tea can be re-steeped for up to a dozen times, especially if it is a good quality tea.
Tea is known to be great for cleansing the body and preventing illnesses, and it can help with the typical caffeine needs. However, pu’er tea in particular is a holy grail among the wide variety of teas available because of its versatile benefits. If you have high cholesterol, unreliable digestion, unwanted excess fat, or unstable sleeping, then consider trying pu’er tea for its extraordinary health advantages.
However, like many other teas, there are fake Pu'er teas for sale as well. In order to reap the true benefits, make sure to buy from a reputable website or seller!