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Fermented tea, like Pu’er tea, isn’t very common, at least not in western countries. Even in Asian countries where it enjoyed some prevalence in past centuries, it is not as well-known as it once was, though it is still perhaps the most well-known fermented dark tea. Among the older generation, though, this tea is still popular.
This best-known version of fermented tea originates from Yunnan Province in China. The fermented and oxidized leaves are pressed together and formed into balls, bricks, or other shapes. This is the “raw” form, and it undergoes fermentation over a long period. In 1973, a newer and faster way of fermentation was invented. The leaves can be stored loose or pressed in various shapes. This is the “ripe” version of Pu’er. Ripe Pu’er is controversial among Pu’er tea traditionalists, though it is generally accepted as genuine. Ripe or raw, Pu’er tea leaves need to be stored up until it is mature enough, and they are usually sold with labels indicating the year they were made and the region they come from.
Making Your Tea
Heating and boiling tea water is an essential part of making tea, which makes a tea kettle an essential staple in your kitchen. Some teas are very particular about which temperatures they thrive under, which makes electric tea kettles with built-in thermometers great to have. To make your tea taste as well as it can, you’d need a high-quality tea kettle that won’t affect the composition of the water. Some tea kettles might release some minerals into the water, especially after some time and after much use. For your purposes, make sure to buy the highest-quality kettle you can find and afford.
There are two common ways to brew Pu’er tea: the traditional Chinese way and the relatively newer Western way. Of course, even the traditional Chinese way has some variations, though the result is a tea with an earthy flavor. This guide is best for ripe Pu’er, which is the easiest to brew. Regardless of which brewing method you use, be it Chinese or Western or variations thereof, it’s important to wash the clump of Pu’er leaves first. In the fermentation process, the leaves will inevitably catch some impurities. You must rinse these impurities away to make sure that your end product will have the proper and best flavor it can offer.
Making Pu'er the Chinese way
You can use a glass teapot, a clay teapot, or a Chinese Gaiwan (a set consisting of a bowl for infusing the tea leaves, a lid, and a saucer). Whichever one you use; you need to wash it and pre-warm it. Doing so entails pouring boiling water over anything that your tea will touch—the teapot, the teacups, the filter, and any other paraphernalia you might use. The hot water will clean and heat these objects and enable them to make it easier for the tea to brew and release its full flavor.
After this, place the tea leaves into the pot and pour boiling water over them. Pour in just enough to cover the tea leaves. Rinse the leaves in the water for only two to three seconds, then pour the water out. Repeat this process one more time. Remember, though, that only ripe Pu’er leaves need to be rinsed twice. Raw Pu’er leaves only need to be rinsed once.
Once your pour out the water from the second rinsing, pour boiling water into the pot again. This time, pour in enough water to fill the pot. Brush away any bubbles that might form on the surface of the water with the lid of the pot. You’ll need to pour boiling water over the lid to make it as warm as the rest of the pot.
The actual brewing itself only takes about 10 to 20 seconds. Unlike oxidized tea leaves, which need to take three to five minutes of brewing time, Pu’er can be ready in a short while. Pu’er tea leaves can also be used for more than ten brews, though each brew should take about five to 10 seconds longer than the one preceding it.
Making Pu’er the Western way
The Western way of brewing Pu’er is simpler. You will not have to rinse and pre-warm your tea pot and other implements in hot water before rinsing the tea leaves. You go straight on to putting the leaves into the pot and rinsing them once in boiling water. Rinse leaves for a few seconds then pour the water out. You can now pour the water for brewing into the pot. For brewing purposes, it’s best to use spring or purified water. One thing that you must remember is that the hotter the water is, the stronger your brew will become. You can thus use the temperature of the water to control the flavor of your tea.
Brewing Pu’er the Western way takes two minutes, after which the tea is ready for consumption.
Benefits and Risks
Pu’er tea has a long history in China and its trade with various ethnic groups along its border. Its long-standing popularity probably has something to do with the health benefits that Pu’er drinkers enjoy. A scientific study has found that Pu’er consumption in rats can suppress weight gain and keep triacylglycerol and cholesterol levels down.
However, some Pu’er bricks have been found to contain high levels of fluorine. Fluorine can be accumulated by older and lower-quality tea leaves and stems. The consumption of too much fluorine can cause fluorosis, which can negatively impact a person’s bones and teeth. However, this can be avoided by making sure that you consume Pu’er that’s guaranteed to be of high quality.
Other benefits of Pu’er tea include detoxification from the consumption of alcohol and nicotine. It also has anti-aging properties, as well as the ability to inhibit cancer cells. While you need to be careful with the kind of Pu’er tea you buy, it certainly does have considerable benefits. Pu’er tea can help you live longer and healthier.