Pu erh Tea Benefits
Like a fine wine, Pu erh Tea gets better with age. It is a brew treasured in China, though very few know of it outside of the east. Here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, we plan to change that. With this blog, we hope to inspire you to experience Pu erh Tea benefits for yourself.
After all - it has the taste; it has the history; it certainly has the health benefits. What is there not to like about Pu erh Tea? The answer is nothing!
What is Pu erh Tea?
Pu erh Tea (Pu erh pronunciation: “Poo-air”) is one of the most oxidised forms of any type of Tea. It is certainly more oxidised than so-called “regular” Black Tea. It originates from the Yunnan province of Southwest China. The name “Pu erh”, meanwhile, derives from the nearby city of Pu’er.
But what makes this Tea so unique? Many Pu erh Teas come in a compressed form (usually a Pu erh brick or ‘cake’) to allow the leaves to mellow. This ultimately enhances the flavour, with many choosing to age Pu erh Tea for years on end! There are many examples of centuries-old Pu erh Teas. Today, a 1950’s era 357 gram Red Chop Pu erh Tea ‘disc’ can sell for over $10,000 USD.
For those not quite willing to fork out a grand for Tea, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company stock a variety of Pu erhs that are not so pricey! Most of these offer refined earthy notes that are bold and indulgent in flavour. We also stock Loose Leaf Pu erh Tea.
Like Champagne from the Champagne region of France; Tequila from the Tequila region of Mexico; and Darjeeling Tea from the Darjeeling District of India, the production of “official” Pu erh Tea only occurs in the Yunnan province of China. Even more specifically, only 11 cities and 639 towns in Yunnan can make Pu erh Tea.
The government of the People’s Republic of China instigated these restrictions in 2008. The move has drawn praise and criticism from all sides. Disgruntlement persists in the nearby Guangdong province, for example. The Hunan province likewise resent the new ruling as they too used to produce a form of Pu erh Tea.
On the other hand, the new law has boosted Yunnan’s economy significantly. Ultimately, it has enabled China to “authenticate” the brand. Even before the ruling, many considered Yunnan a so-called “mecca” for Tea production in China. It is home to not only Pu erh Tea but also the equally famous Yunnan Black Tea.
Yunnan Province in China
All areas producing Pu erh Tea in Yunnan have heavy rainfall and warm, humid climates. These conditions are excellent for Tea-growing, particularly when it comes to Pu erh Tea. Notable Pu erh Tea producing areas include:
- Baoshan Area: Historians believe that Baoshan, formerly known as Yongchang, was the first residence of human settlers in western Yunnan. It has mild winters and summers, with the landscape boasting thick and full Tea trees. Baoshan City, in particular, plays a vital role in the mass-production of Tea.
- Lincang Area: The name “Lincang” derives from the nearby river of the same name. It is located in Southwest Yunnan, and is arguably the main area for Pu erh Tea production. Lincang produces the renowned Fengqing variety of Pu erh Tea, among others.
- Pu’er (Simao) Area: Pu’er has twice changed its name between 1950 and 2007. First, it changed from “Pu’er” to “Simao” after the Communist revolution. It then reverted to Pu’er decades later, as it remains today. Pu’er consists of many regions, each producing its own variety of Pu erh Tea. Centuries ago, Pu’er City acted as the provincial hub for Tea distribution. During this time, many Teas, including Pu erh Tea, travelled to the city for processing and selling. Most famously, Pu’er hosts an ancient Tea tree named Zhen Yuan, which many locals claim dates back thousands of years.
- Xishuangbanna Area: Some of the most sought-after Pu erh Teas come from the Xishuangbanna area, particularly from eastern Xishuangbanna. This is because of the famous six Tea mountains. These mountains boast supposedly centuries-old Tea trees, which cover their steep faces. Each peak holds a legendary status in China. Since the formation of the People’s Republic of China, however, production has predominantly shifted west to Menghai county, western Xishuangbanna.
How is Pu erh Tea Made
Before jumping right in, it’s important to note the two terms applied to Pu erh Tea. These are “Sheng”, meaning Green Pu erh Tea, and “Shou” meaning Black Pu erh Tea. In other words, Sheng is a so-called “raw” Pu erh, while Shou is a ripe, fermented Pu erh Tea.
Sheng (Green) Pu erh has existed for centuries. Shou (Black) Pu erh, on the other hand, only dates back to 1973, with its introduction to the market occurring in 1975. Here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, we specialise in Pu erh Black Tea.
Processes used to make Pu erh Tea
- Withering: Following the harvesting of the leaf, workers place the crop on tables (often outside) to wither for 1 to 2 days. This removes a significant amount of the moisture content, ready for the next stage, while also kick-starting the fermentation of the leaf.
- Kill-Green: This stage in the process often uses machinery (known locally as Sha Qing) to reduce the fermentation of the leaves. Some manufacturers prefer traditional ‘by hand’ methods instead of machinery. The result, however, remains the same.
- Rolling / Forming: Following a brief ‘cooling period’, the Tea then goes through a process of rolling and breaking, which “forms” the shape of the leaf. This also helps the leaves to release some of their potency which, in turn, helps them to age well.
- Drying: This stage bears some resemblance to the first withering stage. However, when it comes to this point in the process, the drying applied to the leaves has only one sole purpose: to reduce the moisture content of the Tea - this time even more thoroughly.
- Piling / Heaping (Black Pu-erh Tea): Many argue that this stage is the most important when it comes to the making of Shou Pu erh Tea. This is because the Piling/Heaping stage essentially manipulates conditions to simulate a natural ageing process. This occurs by prolonging the bacterial and fungal fermentation of the leaf. Chinese manufacturers call this stage “wòdūi” (“wet-piling”). Specifically, workers “pile”, dampen and constantly “turn” the leaves in a manner similar to composting. The result is a Tea with a highly-prized complexity, depth and smoothness. It is the defining difference between Shou and Sheng Pu erh Tea.
The finished product, be it Green or Black Puerh Tea, can be left in its loose tea or compressed to make Pu erh Tea Cakes.
Whether compressed or left as a Loose Leaf Tea, Puerh is then kept in a warm and moist storage area to mature and mellow. While it is not uncommon for the tea leaves (both loose or compressed) to be left for years on end, by rights, Pu’erh Tea becomes ‘drinkable’ after a 3 month period.
History of Pu erh Tea
Historians have long suggested that the Yunnan province was the birthplace of Tea some 5,000 years ago. Pu erh Tea, on the other hand, does not date back quite so far! But even then, no one knows for sure when precisely it came into being.
Some argue that the first (admittedly obscure) references to Pu erh Tea existed in the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). Most, however, date it back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE) and the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE).
No one can agree on a specific Pu erh Tea origin story, either. Some theorise that the first Tea trees used in the making of Pu erh Tea came under the care and protection of two Chinese minority ethnic groups, the Dai and the Aini. These two peoples worked together in harvesting and producing Tea before passing it on to merchants. It then often travelled long distances on some of China’s most perilous trade routes.
Merchants of the time found it difficult to deal with cumbersome loads of Loose Leaf Tea. They instead opted to compress the leaves into Tea bricks. Carrying these Tea bricks on pack animals across mountain passes and treacherous roads made journeys ever-so-slightly easier. However, it would still often take months to reach destinations for trading.
This is because compressing the Tea didn’t change the rough, hazardous, dangerous conditions - but it did do something else; something quite remarkable (or so the story goes). The uneven terrain appeared to transform the leaves somehow. They changed from green to amber and then to dark teak. The taste changed, too. It became livelier, richer, fruitier and smooth - similar to Sheng Pu erh Tea tastes today. What had happened?
The Tea leaves had experienced a “post-fermentation”. This saw the leaf undergo biological and enzymatical changes whereby microbes developed. By pure accident, these merchants had created Green Pu erh Tea - allegedly.
Despite not knowing for sure, no one denies the fact that compressed Tea had become a popular trade commodity by the 7th Century CE. But this was relatively short-lived. By 1391, the first Ming Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang, ordered the abolition of all moon-shaped compressed Teas.
The Emperor believed that his people wasted too much time manufacturing compressed Tea, and so, for a few years, Loose Leaf Tea became the only Tea permitted in China. This, of course, had a dramatic impact on Sheng Pu erh Tea.
Little changed until the reign of the fifth Qing Emperor, Yongzheng. He overturned the laws around compressed Tea and eventually made Simao-(Pu’er)-grown Pu erh Tea a “tribute” Tea. Only Teas deemed the highest quality became so-called tribute Teas. This eventually gave rise to Pu erh Tea becoming popular once more.
In fact, Pu erh Tea remained a popular Tea in the royal court until the very last Emperor of China. According to records, Pu Yi, the last Emperor, enjoyed Dragon Well Green Tea in the summer and Pu erh Tea in the winter.
Pu erh Tea Benefits
The west has become increasingly health-conscious in recent years. Is it a coincidence that Pu erh Tea, a beverage with astounding health benefits, has arrived on the scene around the same time? The chances are that, yes, it is a coincidence; however, it is quite possibly one of the best coincidences to ever occur. But why?
Pu erh Tea benefits can improve your everyday way of life in a manner of ways. These often differ to “regular” Black Tea, with the occasional overlap.
Because of its unique fermentation period, Pu erh develops equally unique vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants.
And best of all, this is just to name a few!
Many of these components combined can work in slowing down the natural, though harmful, process of oxidation. Oxidation relates to the transference of oxygen around the system.
It is also the chemical reaction responsible for introducing free radicals. These free radicals, which are unpaired (and unsafe!) electrons, can lead to a multitude of chronic conditions. This includes cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
Pu erh Tea benefits, meanwhile, assist the body in combating free radicals. This, in turn, reduces the risks of developing such conditions as those mentioned above. But it can also offer more.
Pu erh Tea Weight Loss
They don’t call this beverage a Pu erh slimming Tea for nothing! In reality, one can say a great deal about Pu erh Tea weight loss benefits. Old Pu erh Tea and new Pu erh Tea alike can help you drop a few extra pounds before the summer months.
One Pu erh Tea weight loss study conducted by the United States Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has the answers. It found that Pu erh weight loss works by boosting the metabolism. This is because of the catechins in this brew, which help the body to burn fat quicker and more efficiently.
Nevertheless, Pu erh doesn’t do all of the work for you. One should strive for a healthy and active lifestyle - even with Pu erh Tea benefits!
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Keeping your heart in check is, perhaps, one of the most essential things you can do for yourself. But what part does Pu erh Tea have to play?
As mentioned previously, the antioxidant cocktail that is this beverage can combat free radicals in the body. This, in turn, can reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, a Chinese study conducted at the Kunming Medical College saw 86 participants with unusually high levels of blood cholesterol split into two groups. The first group of 55 patients consumed Pu erh Tea three times a day. The second group received an unnamed cholesterol-lowering drug.
The results established a 64.29% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol in the Tea-drinking group. The drug group, in comparison, only showed a minimal improvement with a decrease of 66.67%. Although the drug group proved slightly more effective, it likewise proved that Pu erh Tea benefits Cholesterol, thus improving cardiovascular health.
Increased Cognitive Function
An estimated 750,000 Britons suffer from conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This number could very well double in the next 40 years as the country’s population ages. Could Pu erh Tea be the answer? Maybe.
This possibility came to fruition following a study conducted at the University of Singapore and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research project saw some 2,500 participants aged 55 or over undergo cognitive measuring.
Two years later, scientists remeasured those involved. The results established that participants who drunk two or three cups of Black Tea a day had a 55% lower chance of suffering from cognitive decline. Those who drank six to ten cups a day, meanwhile, had up to a 63% lower chance.
The centuries-old practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one still in existence today, recognises both Shou and Sheng Pu erh Teas as digestive aids. According to TCM, Pu erh Tea breaks down foods in the stomach and intestines.
This is because of the microorganisms in Pu erh Tea, which can increase the healthy bacterial flora in the body. Similar to Oolong Tea, practitioners recommend consuming Pu erh before, during and after large, fatty meals.
Much of modern science agrees that Pu erh Tea can improve digestion. Research suggests that it can stimulate the gastrointestinal system by speeding up the digestive process. This, in turn, can aid indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and other minor stomach-related complaints.
We all need a break from time to time. Have one with Pu erh Tea, a beverage that can not only relieve feelings of stress, but also improve sleeping patterns.
It may seem counterproductive to drink Black Tea before bed because of its caffeine content. However, two components in Pu erh Tea, Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and theanine, can increase the production of natural melatonin in the brain. This stabilises moods and improves one’s chances of getting a good night’s rest.
Furthermore, relaxing with a nice hot cup of Pu erh Tea might act as a de-stressor in another way. According to new research, chronic stress disrupts our sleep and blood sugar levels. This leads to increased hunger and comfort eating.
In turn, this leads to even higher levels of stress and even more disrupted blood sugars. Not only might this cause unhealthy levels of body fat, but also an increased risk of type-2 diabetes. Brewing Pu erh Tea and sitting on the sofa with one’s favourite cuppa could very well subdue such concerns. It’s truly as simple as that.
Caffeine in Pu erh Tea
Does Pu erh Tea have caffeine? Yes. Like any Black Tea (or Green Tea, for that matter), it does indeed contain caffeine. But what is the Pu erh Tea caffeine level?
A 2008 study conducted by the Japanese Society of Agricultural Technology Management noted that the caffeine levels of ripe Pu erh Tea changed during the post-fermentation process. Most agree, however, that the caffeine level of Pu erh Black Tea amounts to around 60-70 mg per 8 oz cup.
Now, more to the point - what Pu erh health benefits come from caffeine? According to some scientists, the caffeine in Pu erh can reduce fat content in the liver. Essentially, it plays into the hands of Pu erh Tea weight loss benefits.
Furthermore, and as most of us already know, caffeine can boost our energy levels. Let’s be honest - it gives us the motivation to get out of bed in the morning!
Good for Hangovers
Yes, you read that correctly - Pu erh Tea can help rid you of nasty hangovers. Have you had a ‘night on the town’ and now regret it? This Tea could very well sort you out in no time at all.
Although no official scientific studies exist, Traditional Chinese Medicine has long suggested that Pu erh Tea benefits lessen symptoms of headaches and nausea. It all bores down to the Chinese belief of “Chi”, which rebalances the energy in the body.
Prefer to keep your scientific brain on? Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Pu erh Tea, as one would expect, contains high water content, and can provide hydration after the potentially severe effects of alcohol overconsumption. In other words, if you’ve woken up in the morning feeling awful, you have nothing to lose brewing Pu erh Tea!
Pu erh Tea Side Effects
As we have already established, the Pu erh Tea caffeine level is high. This could lead to jitteriness or even sleeplessness in those who’re sensitive to caffeine. For this same reason, pregnant women should likewise exercise caution when consuming this Tea.
Although Pu erh Tea pregnancy benefits exist, NHS Choices recommends limiting one’s caffeine intake to 200 mg daily (about the equivalent of 2 cups of Coffee). Should one have any concerns, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company urge you to consult your midwife, doctor or another health professional before consuming Pu erh Tea while pregnant.
A concern voiced by many is: “can Pu erh Tea go bad?”. Not all Pu erh Teas age well, and some can, indeed, turn bad with age. This most often occurs with low-quality Pu erhs. For this reason, it’s important to buy only the best, which includes Pu erh Teas here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. We assure the quality of all of our Teas, not just Pu erh.
Where to Buy Pu erh Tea
The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company are the best Pu erh Tea UK suppliers. Whether you prefer Pu erh Loose Tea or in Tea cake-form, we can provide you with a wide selection of choice!
If you like to keep things simple, then why not begin with our traditional loose leaf Pu Erh Tea? This particular variety offers trademark mellow flavours and a sweet, delectable aftertaste.
We also have Pu erh Special 3 Year Old Vintage Tea for those who want an aged Pu erh. This high-grown and hand-crafted beverage boasts a beautiful deep burgundy colour when brewed. It consists of defined earthy notes and is, without a doubt, one of our personal favourites!
Are you looking for something a little different? We also have a Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu erh Tea. Here, we have another 3-year-old vintage Tea that combines powerful earthy flavours with rich, sweet notes of caramel and toffee. Scotland meets China - in a cup!
We pack everything fresh to order. This means that your Teas, Tisanes and Coffees come with our guarantee of quality.