How to choose good Pu'er Tea

Updated: 5 days ago

Here are some tips for selecting Pu'er tea. Get ready with YUYUN, become a tea expert!

Pu'er tea cake

If you’ve read our other article, you would know that Pu’er is more advanced than most teas, the flavour is complex and earthy. It comes in two types, raw and ripe, the selecting and brewing techniques also have a few extra steps.

Choose Pu'er tea step by step

1. View shape and colour.

The first step in selecting Pu'er tea is in the appearance of the tea. The appearance is mainly based on the colour and texture of the dry tea. Mouldy spots on the tea leaves indicate improper storage and inferior products. Pu'er raw tea is fresh and tender, dark green.

Ripe tea has a darker colour than raw tea, showing a reddish-brown colour.

2. Tea infusion.

The colour of the tea infusion reflects the quality of the Pu'er tea production process, storage year, and storage method. The good Pu'er tea infusion is translucent, depending on the storage time, the colours vary between yellow, gold, yellow-orange, and chestnut red. Raw tea is a light yellow or golden yellow, which is more translucent. Ripe tea is dark red or even reddish-brown. The colour is bright and clear.

3. Smell and taste.

After long-term storage, Pu'er tea naturally has a strong aroma, the more mature, the stronger the aroma. The tea can easily absorb other odours during storage that will damage the taste of the tea. Pu’er should not have a musty smell. If it does it proves the storage method is improper.

4. Efficacy.

Pu’er tea is known to contain many health benefits, however, the efficacy of raw tea and ripe tea is very different. When selecting, you can also take into account the functional requirements of each variety.

Raw tea: Contains a lot of tea polyphenols, aromatic tea flavour, and can be used for detoxification, bringing gentle heat actually makes hot conditions more comfortable, while also refreshing, makes it very suitable for drinking in summer. However, it is not advisable to drink more before going to bed, as it contains caffeine.

Ripe tea: Many studies suggest the enzymes in ripe tea have anti-arteriosclerosis, anti-inflammatory, and anti-ageing properties. A warm earthy beverage, which is considered better for colder temperatures, like in winter.

How to brew Pu’er tea?

The brewing method of Pu'er tea is different from other teas, which is related to the unique characteristics of Pu'er tea itself. Pu'er tea is a big leaf Yunnan tea, it is typically compressed, and the fermentation process means it gains its characteristics with time, the more it’s aged, the more aromatic it becomes. The brewing method of Pu'er tea is mainly grasped from the following five aspects.

1. Brewing appliance.

A Zisha teapot (good for ripe Pu'er tea): Since ripe Pu'er needs awakening with high temperature, and the interior of the Zisha teapot has pores, it has good air permeability and good thermal insulation. It is good to preserve the aroma and earthy taste of ripe Pu'er tea, so it is better to choose a Zisha teapot for brewing.

A Zisha tea set produced in Yixing, Jiangsu, China

A purple pottery teapot (good for raw Pu'er tea): When brewing raw Pu'er, if the water temperature is too high the tender tea leaves can lose their freshness. Raw tea contains high levels of tea polyphenols and caffeine, to avoid added bitterness the infusion should be pulled out quickly to keep the tea from over-infusing. A purple pottery teapot has higher density and better thermal conductivity which is more suitable for raw Pu'er. As the water temperature needed for brewing is naturally lower, a teapot with fast heat dissipation is better for raw Pu'er; high density helps preserve the fragrance and aroma of the tea.

Purple Pottery teapots produced in Jianshui, Yunnan, China

A Gaiwan cup (most commonly used): Since the Gaiwan cup does not absorb the taste, you can appreciate its true taste. You can freely appreciate the colour change of the Pu'er tea infusion, so Gaiwan cups are the most commonly used brewing utensils in modern tea arts, but using them requires more skill, otherwise, it can get very hot.

Gaiwan cup

Note: It is not advisable to brew Pu'er raw tea in a thermos cup, as it will stew the tea leaves and affect the unique flavour of Pu'er tea.

2. Amount.

In the brewing method of Pu'er tea, the amount of tea added is also an important factor affecting the taste of tea infusion.

The standard ratio is 200ml: 5g, which means you place 200ml of water to 5g of tea, the ratio can be changed depending on how strong you like your brew.

If you drink Pu'er tea daily for its benefits, it is more appropriate to put about 10g of tea in a 300ml pot. If you are worried about the estimated number of grams of tea, we suggest buying an electronic scale.

3. Water temperature should also be noted.

In the brewing technique of Pu'er tea, water temperature is a key factor that affects the taste of Pu'er tea.

Pu'er tea uses Yunnan big leaf tea leaves as the raw material, the leaves are thick and are typically compressed, so it requires higher temperature and heat when brewing to unravel the leaves. The normal water temperature required for ripe tea is 99-100 ℃, but Pu'er tea of ​​different years and processes has slightly different requirements for water temperature.

In terms of complexity, the brewing method of Pu'er tea, especially the fresh tea within 3 years, depends not only on the year but also on the tenderness of the raw materials.

For example, the younger tea leaves should be served with a water temperature of around 95 ° C. After the water is boiled, we can let it stand for a while to let the heat radiate out and lower the temperature slightly. With this, you can avoid scalding the fresh leaves, which affects the freshness of the taste.

4. ‘Waking up’ tea is essential.

‘Waking up’ tea is a process of storing the tea in a more open and ventilated environment for 1-2 weeks, this process awakens the original desired flavour. The process is different depending on if it’s raw or ripe.

If the raw Pu'er is placed in an open environment, it is generally not necessary to wake up the tea, unless the current open environment is too humid and could otherwise harm the tea. Typically the raw Pu'er that needs to be awakened are stored in a Zisha tank or in other semi-sealed containers, for suitable airflow.

How to wake up Pu'er tea?

1. Raw tea

Take the raw Pu'er you need to drink in an open environment for about half to a month.

2. Ripe tea

Alternatively, wake up ripe Pu'er tea by prying the tea cakes apart and place them in a ventilated jar for about a week before drinking.

3. Wash the tea

Another process of waking the tea before brewing is known as 'washing’ the tea. Put the tea leaves in the teapot and pour in the hot water, letting it steep for about 10 seconds. The purpose is to increase the temperature of the tea leaves and tea brewing equipment. This liquid should be discarded.

Pu’er tea is brewed for 5-10 seconds before the first five brewing, 10-15 seconds after the sixth brew, and the time can be moderately extended after the tenth brew to maintain the strength of the tea taste. More brews mean more added time, the recommended brewing time depends on the intensity and strength of the tea. Some Pu'er tea takes a long time to brew, and it takes 2 to 3 test infusions before it achieves the desired taste.

Pu'er tea is more resistant to brewing than general tea leaves, and can generally make from 10-20 infusions before the flavour becomes too light. After brewing, drain the tea infusion as much as possible, adding freshly boiled water to brew the next time you drink, avoid soaking it for too long and this takes away from the number of possible infusions, and to avoid affecting the colour, aroma, and taste of the tea infusion. If you would like to pause the session, the tea infusion should be drained and with the lid removed.

Some Pu’er tea brewing misunderstandings that you need to know

1. Boiling water repeatedly.

Some people use a kettle to boil water and cook too much at a time. In fact, repeated boiling is bad for water quality. The oxygen content in the water is too low that cannot stimulate the tea. It is advisable to use the initial boiling water and the second boiling water for brewing tea. Do not wait for boiling for a long time to avoid the influence of water quality on Pu'er tea.

2. Forget to warm the teacup and teapot.

Warm the cup and pot with a ‘wash’ of hot water helps remove the peculiar smell and reduce the influence of the surrounding environment on the tea.

3. Wash tea for too long.

It is designed to make tea leaves unravel, for a better taste. It should be about 10 seconds, but it can depend on Pu’er quality, always discard the first infusion. Brewing for too long affects the overall yield, as the taste of Pu'er tea will become lighter when it is brewed.

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