Bold and Smoky, with an almost tangy flavor that fades into soft earthiness; the boldness of my cup of pu-erh tea hints of the coming autumn.

puehrPu-ehr tea is more descriptive of a process than an actual type of tea; although it is definitely its own variety of tea. It is an aged and fermented tea that originates in the Yunnan province of China. The process for making authentic pu-erh tea involves multiple steps that begin with green leaves and end with aged, fermented, dark leaves that have an appreciably distinct flavor. It is the process of fermentation rather than solely oxidation that imparts this tangy, earthy flavor.  Authentically processed pu-ehr contains a minimum, if any, of the bitterness or astringent qualities that typical oxidized black teas contain, which allows the leaves to be steeped multiple times with lasting flavor. I love brewing a pot of pu-ehr and refilling the water several times throughout the day, each pot has a slightly different nuance of flavor.

Tea is another amazing area to delve into if one is interested in exploring the nuances of taste and flavor. There are so many different types and styles of cultivating and brewing that it boggles the mind.  According to tea aficionados (which I am not) the most appropriate way to brew Pu-ehr is to first remove a small amount of tea leaves, a teaspoon or two, from the “tea cake” or brick (also called ‘bing cha’), place in your teapot and pour hot but not quite boiling water over the leaves. Then immediately dump strain and dump that first pour. This first step is to rinse and then ‘awaken’ the leaves. Now you’re ready to brew your tea. Pour more hot water over the tea leaves and let steep to your desired taste preference. I typically steep mine for about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the weather and the season. I like deeper, bolder tea in the fall and winter.

brewingpuehrFrom a health perspective, pu-ehr tea has a variety of beneficial qualities from both a traditional medicine and westernized medicine approach. Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that Pu-ehr tea is good for opening the meridians, warming the ‘middle burner’ (which is part of the triple burner organ system and begins at the stomach and ends at the pyloric valve...without getting too technical). In TCM the middle burner is responsible for ‘transformation’, so if you are feeling stagnant and unable to transform your life, perhaps a pot or two of Pu-ehr tea could feel invigorating. Western research demonstrates that pu-ehr tea aids in digestion, helping to process and appropriately utilize lipids and fatty acids, increases metabolic function, enhances cognition and memory, and lower blood pressure.

It also imparts many of the same benefits as green tea with the added bonus of fermentation. For more info on green tea check out  DAY 251 – MATCHA.

For more interesting facts and stories about tea in general this book is awesome: Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties

If you are in the U.K. or visiting the U.K., I am currently enjoying a delicious cup of Pu-Ehr Chai, which I secured from Hundred Monkeys Café http://www.hundredmonkeyscafe.com/ in Glastonbury. With a tagline like; "mix no evil, cook no evil, eat no evil" they are well worth a visit.