When browsing your local grocery isle you may not see Pu-erh tea. You may not know what it is to look for it at all. It’s a less common type and many Americans are only now hearing about this very special tea even though its been consumed in Asia for hundreds of years. Pu-erh Tea is named after the region in Yunnan, China where the tea was first grown, which as you may have guessed is called Pu-erh. Pu-erh tea is considered to be a very ancient variety of tea and is indeed special for more reason than one.
Special tea leaves:
The first reason is the tea leaves themselves. Pu-erh tea is traditionally made from the rare leaves of the wild broad leaf tea tree. These trees grow only in the certain area of the world and their leaves have an entirely different chemical composition than other tea leaves. This difference makes the tea especially good at aiding in digestion, and recent studies show the tea actually reduces cholesterol. It also makes Pu-erh tea age well like a good wine, though the tea can be consumed immediately or aged it is well known for changing flavor over time. Unfortunately due to the decline in wild broad leaf tree most Pu-erh tea is now made with a blend of the traditional leaves and other high quality Yunnan leaves.
Special production process:
The second reason Pu-reh tea is so different from other tea is its production process and classification. You see when Pu-reh tea is served aged it is technically a green tea because it is not oxidized, but when the tea is served immediately or cooked it’s considered a black tea because it’s heavily oxidized. The real catch here? Pu-reh tea is actually neither black nor green tea. Pu-reh tea is so unique it actually falls into no known tea classification. Why? Fresh or age Pu-reh tea oxidizes itself meaning even aged the tea has been oxidized and if cooked it has undergone a second oxidization.
Forms of Pu-erh tea:
You may be wondering why Pu-erh tea is served in two different forms. The aged form of Pu-reh tea is called Sheng pu-erh sometimes called raw or green Pu-erh. The product is designed to be aged and needs to be to meet its flavor requirements. Pu-erh tea in its young form is called Mao Cha. The second form of Pu-reh tea was a result of demand. Pu-reh tea was so popular tea drinkers couldn’t wait for it to age, so in the 1970’s Shou pu-erh was born. Shou pu-erh is oxidized or cooked to achieve a ready to use state, because of this it is sometimes called black or cooked Pu-erh. This form is cheaper, but far less complex.
The flavor of Pu-erh tea is impossible to describe, because like wine generally no batch tastes quite the same when it comes to high quality Pu-erh tea. The best way to find out is to try it yourself, and hey, even if you don’t find the special tea to your liking, at least you lowered your cholesterol.
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