The true source of Pu-erh is the Chinese province of Yunnan, from a large-leaf assamica varietal. A complex tea, the liquor can be dark or deep red in shade, with a distinctly earthy taste. It boasts a long history, stretching back 800 years.
Firstly, green teas from the summer harvest are cured with steam and fungal cultures, and then usually compressed into small shapes (referred to as cakes). The teas are then stored in this form in a cool place for several months or years, lending them a distinctive musty and earthy aroma.
Once pressed into a cake in its fresh state (raw), the tea gradually continues to oxidise and mature over time. Aged examples can be extremely expensive and are highly sought after by connoisseurs. If labelled as ripe, then the maturation process of the pu-erh has been accelerated.
Pu-erh’s an effective assistant in the fight against obesity, and has fat burning properties. It is an ideal supplement for dieting, and is recommended for consumption when fasting. It’s known to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood; regularly drink three cups a day, and it can drop by 13% in a month. It activates chemical transformations in the liver while reducing the level of blood alcohol.
Break up enough of the cake and measure out one teaspoon of pu-erh tea per cup. Pour over with hot water (90ºC or more) and leave to infuse for 3-5 minutes. It contains little caffeine, so can be drunk at most times of the day. Serve unsweetened.
The traditional method for preparation is known as “gongfu” and requires use of a Chinese teacup known as a gaiwan.
A host of information can be found on the Internet about this fascinating tea, including on “how to gongfu”.