Like a fine wine, Pu erh Tea gets better with age. It’s a brew treasured in China. However, 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.

It has the taste. It has the history. And it certainly has the health benefits. What is there not to like about this delicious, wholesome Tea? The answer is nothing!

Pu Erh Tea

What is Pu erh Tea?

Pu erh (pronounced “Poo-air”) is one of the most oxidised forms of any Types of Tea. This includes so-called “regular” Black Tea. It originates from the Yunnan province of Southwest China. The name “Pu erh” derives from the nearby city of Pu’er.

Many come in a compressed form to allow the leaves to mellow with age. This is usually in the shape of either a brick or a ‘Tea cake’. Ultimately, compressing the leaves enhances the flavour of the Tea. It also often enhances the price!

There are many examples of centuries-old Pu erh Teas. Today, a 1950s 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, we stock a variety of these beverages that are not so pricey!

Most of these offer refined earthy notes that are bold and indulgent in flavour. We have both Pu erh Tea Bags and many of its Loose Leaf counterparts.

Pu erh Tea in Yunnan, China

 Yunnan Province in China

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 only occurs in the Yunnan province of China. Even more specifically, only 11 cities and 639 towns in Yunnan can make this 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 version of this beverage.

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. It is home to not only this Tea but also the equally famous Yunnan Black Tea.

Regions where Pu erh Tea is Grown

All areas producing this brew have heavy rainfall and warm, humid climates. These conditions are excellent for Tea-growing.

Notable Pu erh Tea producing areas include:

Baoshan

Historians believe that Baoshan (formerly Yongchang) was the first residence of human settlers in western Yunnan. It has mild winters and summers.

Its landscape, meanwhile, boasts thick and full Tea trees. Baoshan City, in particular, plays a vital role in the mass-production of Tea.

Lincang

The name “Lincang” derives from the nearby river of the same name. It is located in Southwest Yunnan, which is arguably the main area for Pu erh Tea production.

It produces the renowned Fengqing variety of Pu erh, among others.

Pu’er (Simao)

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.

This remains the same today. Pu’er consists of many regions. Each region produces its own variety of this Tea. Centuries ago, Pu’er City acted as the provincial hub for Tea distribution. During this time, many Teas, including this one, 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

Some of the most sought-after Pu erh Loose Tea comes 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.

Pu erh

 How is Pu erh Tea Made

Before jumping right in, it’s important to note the two terms applied to this Tea. These are “Sheng”, meaning Green Pu erh, and “Shou” meaning Black Pu erh. In other words, Sheng is a so-called “raw” Tea while Shou is a ripe, fermented Tea.

Sheng (Green) Tea has existed for centuries. Shou (Black) Tea, 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. It also kick-starts 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 goes through a process of rolling and breaking. This “forms” the shape of the leaf. It 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, this time it’s solely to reduce the moisture content of the Tea. This stage also differs between Sheng and Shou Tea. Sheng is dried with hot air, while Shou is dried under the sun.

Piling/Heaping: Many argue that this stage is the most essential when it comes to the making of Shou 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, indeed, the defining difference between Shou and Sheng Tea.

Pu erh Loose Tea

Early History of Pu erh

Some argue that the first references to this Tea existed in the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). Most, however, date it back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE) and possibly the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE). This, indeed, makes it a relatively new brew!

Some theorise that the first Tea trees used in its making came under the care of two Chinese minority ethnic groups. These were the Dai and the Aini. They 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 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 conditions. However, 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. This is similar to how Sheng 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.

Late History of Pu erh

Late History of Pu erh

Compressed Tea became a popular trade commodity by the 7th Century CE. However, this was relatively short-lived. By 1391, the first Ming Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang, ordered the abolition of all moon-shaped compressed Teas.

The Emperor did this because he believed that his people wasted too much time manufacturing compressed Tea. And so, for a few years, Loose Tea became the only Tea permitted in China. This, of course, had a dramatic impact on Sheng 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.

Pu erh 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 in the winter.

Pu Erh Loose Tea

Pu erh Tea Benefits

Pu erh Tea benefits can improve your everyday way of life in a manner of ways. Because of its unique fermentation period, it develops equally unique vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants. These often differ from “regular” Black Tea, with the occasional overlap. It includes:

Arginine Beryllium Calcium Cysteine
Fluorides Histidine Iron Linolenic
Lysine Magnesium Nickel Phosphorus
Potassium Sodium Sulfur Vitamin B1
Vitamin B2 Vitamin C Vitamin E Zinc

And best of all, this is to name but 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 risk of developing such conditions as those mentioned above. But it can also offer more.

Pu erh Tea Weight Loss

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.

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 of fat cells in the body. This is because of the catechins in this brew, which help the body to burn fat quicker and more efficiently.

Nevertheless, this type of Tea doesn’t do all of the work for you. One should strive for a healthy and active lifestyle - even with Pu erh Tea benefits!

Pu Erh Tea for the Heart

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Keeping your heart in check is, perhaps, one of the most important 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 risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, a Chinese study conducted at Kunming Medical College saw 86 participants with unusually high levels of blood cholesterol split into two groups. The first group of 55 patients consumed this type of 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. This, in turn, improves cardiovascular health.

Cognitive Function Pu erh Tea

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 this delectable brew 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.

Improved Digestion with Pu erh Tea

Improved Digestion

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognises both Shou and Sheng Teas as digestive aids. According to TCM, both can break down food in the stomach and intestines.

This is because of the microorganisms in Pu erh Tea. These little critters can increase the healthy bacterial flora in the body. Similar to Oolong Tea, practitioners recommend consuming this Tea 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.

Stress Relief with Pu erh Tea

Stress Relief

We all need a break from time to time. Have one with this Tea. Indeed, it can not only relieve feelings of stress but also improve sleeping patterns.

It may seem counterproductive to drink Black Tea before bed. This is, of course, because of its caffeine content. However, two components in Shou 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.

Caffeine in Pu erh Tea

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 Tea benefits come from caffeine? According to some scientists, the caffeine in it can reduce the 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!

Pu Erh Tea is Good for Hangovers
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. This Tea, as one would expect, contains high water content. This, of course, 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 up a cuppa’!

Pu erh Tea Side Effects

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 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. This is about the equivalent of 2 cups of Coffee. Should one have any concerns, then we as a company urge you to consult your midwife, doctor or another health professional before consuming this brew 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 Teas. For this reason, it’s important to buy only the best. Find these with The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.

Where to Buy Pu erh Tea

Where to Buy Pu erh Tea

We consider ourselves the best Pu erh Tea UK suppliers. Whether you prefer Pu erh Loose Tea, compressed Tea cakes or Pu erh Tea Bags, 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.