The idea of a Fermented Tea drink doesn’t sound too appealing on the surface. However, once you’ve delved a little deeper, you’ll soon find that it has much to offer. It is not nearly as odd as it comes across at first glance, which is why we’ve written the below article.

Our hope is that after you’ve discovered its potential, you’ll be wanting to try a delicious and health beneficial cuppa or two for yourself.

Whatever you decide, you can count on The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company to deliver - literally and figuratively! Indeed, since our establishment almost 40 years ago, we’ve taken tremendous pride in packing our products fresh to order.

This includes the finest Loose Leaf Tea - fermented or not - and perfectly roasted Coffee, thereby ensuring quality and consistency, time and again.

What is Tea Fermentation?

What is Tea Fermentation?

A common misconception - even within the Tea industry itself - is that ever-popular Black Tea (i.e. English Breakfast and Pluckley Tea) has undergone fermentation. The term, when used in such a context, is a misnomer.

This is because it is all too often confused with oxidation, which does occur when making Black Tea. Fermentation, unlike oxidation, is an anaerobic process. But allow us to start at the beginning.

The vast majority of those asking, “What is Fermented Tea?” are not referring to the likes of Earl Grey or Assam Tea. If they are, they shouldn’t be.

The most accurate definition involves microscopic organisms such as yeasts and other “good” bacteria that have been employed to convert one substance into another. The process occurs while utilising a specific set of conditions, depending on the desired result.

Pu erh Tea

The Most Famous Chinese Fermented Tea is Pu erh

You probably want an example to understand a little better, and so we turn to Fermented Tea from China. This country is where most varieties come from, though few have quite the same renown as Fermented Pu erh Tea (pronounced “Poo-air”).

Its name derives from the Yunnan Province city of Pu’erh, one of the primary production areas. There are two types: Sheng and Shou.

The former is Green Tea, better known as “raw” Pu erh, while the latter is a ripe, Fermented Black Tea. Shou undergoes withering, pan-firing, rolling and drying like its unfermented counterparts.

Oxidation, too, is a crucial step involved in its creation. But what sets it apart is the so-called piling/heaping stage, whereby workers manipulate conditions to simulate a natural ageing processing.

It occurs by prolonging the bacterial and fungal fermentation of the leaf - known in China as “wòdūi” (“wet-piling”). Specifically, workers “pile”, dampen and constantly turn the leaves in a manner similar to composting. The result is an infusion of highly prized complexity, depth and smoothness.

Not everyone drinks it, however, as some people keep the compressed leaves and pass them down through generations.

Tea Alcoholic

Is Fermented Tea Alcoholic?

Fermenting Tea into alcohol is also a thing. Enter the wonderful world of Kombucha Tea Benefits. Kombucha is a sweetened, fizzy, fermented and slightly alcoholic beverage that can be made from Black, Green, White or Oolong Tea.

The fermentation period creates carbon dioxide (CO2) and a variety of acids, including lactic acid, acetic acid, propionic acid, gluconic acid and glucuronic acid.

Furthermore, it transforms the Tea’s natural sugars into ethanol, thereby making it alcoholic. As for the specific Fermented Tea alcohol content, its strength varies from 0.5% to 2%. In other words, not too strong.

Yet most noteworthy, perhaps, is that the process is helped by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, commonly known as a SCOBY. This is a thick, round, floating microbial colony.

A SCOBY looks very much like a mushroom, which, in your morning cuppa, might warrant a double-take. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, “never judge a book by its cover”.

The reality is that after around 30 days of fermentation, you’ll get a surprisingly pleasant infusion best described as uniquely bittersweet with vinegary undertones reminiscent of sparkling cider.

Fermented Tea Benefits

Fermented Tea Benefits

If taste alone isn’t enough, you’ll be pleased to read that you can likewise expect Fermented Tea health benefits. When it comes to Pu erh, in particular, research from Kunming Medical College, China, indicates that the Fermented Tea lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Meanwhile, according to a 2014 Korean study published in the Journal of Toxicological Research, it improves the skin’s vitality.

As for Kombucha Tea, it turns out that the best answer to bad bacteria is good bacteria. According to a 2000 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it exerts antimicrobial activities against E. coli, Sh. sonnei, Sal. typhimurium, Sal. enteritidis and Cm. jejuni.

Then there is its prevalence in antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of developing numerous conditions.

Types of Fermented Tea

Types of Fermented Tea Available Here

We’ve explored but two of almost countless Fermented Tea types, though Pu erh and Kombucha Fermented Tea are unquestionably the most popular. These you can buy here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.

While you’re at it, why not browse our expansive selection of 1,000 other types of Tea and 70 types of Coffee. You won’t be disappointed by all we have to offer. 

Author: Richard Smith

Partner at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company

Richard Smith is a Tea expert, entrepreneur, and owner of The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. Part of a family of renowned Tea planters dating back four generations, he was born in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, where he spent his childhood between Tea Estates in Assam and Darjeeling.

In the late 1970s, having accumulated years of knowledge in the industry, Mr Smith and his mother, Janet Smith, moved to Kent, South East England, to establish a Tea business in the village of Pluckley. Their early days of packing Tea Bags by hand from chests of 10,000 prompted the creation of the company’s flagship infusion known as Pluckley Tea. It remains our most popular product today.

Mr Smith, who studied economics at London Polytechnic, has since specialised in over 1,000 types of Loose Leaf Tea - in addition to around 70 varieties of Roast Coffee - from around the world. These are now available at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, where everything is still packed by hand and fresh to order, not only to honour tradition but to ensure the utmost quality and consistency.