Why tea enthusiasts love Pu'er tea so much?

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

Pu'er tea is highly sought after in China's tea market and has become the representative of high-end tea in the eyes of many tea lovers. Nowadays, it has also entered the British tea market but is less well-known. It's time for Brits to discover how special Pu'er tea is!

loose Pu'er/Puerh tea
loose Pu'er tea

What is Pu’er tea?

Pu’er is a delicious variety of tea which has numerous health benefits.

Pu'er or pu-erh is a variety of aged, fermented tea traditionally produced in Xishuangbanna, Lincang, Pu’er, and other regions in Yunnan Province within China. Pu’er is usually made from the large leaf (Assamica) variety of the Camellia sinensis tea plant. Pu’er tea undergoes microbial fermentation (called ‘pile fermentation) and is typically applied after the tea leaves have been sufficiently dried and rolled. The tea continues to oxidise until the desired flavours are reached.

a Tea Garden in Xishangbanna, Yunnan, China
a tea garden in Xishangbanna, Yunnan, China

Pu’er is a delicious variety of tea that has numerous health benefits, but it is normally reserved for more experienced tea consumers as it’s typically more expensive, generally brewed stronger, and can be difficult to store correctly.

If you’re just starting your tea journey now, we recommend a lighter, easy-drinking smooth tea also from Yunnan, Yunnan black tea.

How many types does Pu’er tea have?

Pu'er tea is classified in a variety of ways by year, region, cultivation, grade, and season.

Pu'er tea can be divided into two categories: raw tea and ripe tea.

Raw tea is made from the fresh tea leaves that are aged naturally after picking, ‘killing green’ (heated to halt oxidation), rolling, and drying in the sun. Freshly made raw Pu’er is dark green, has a strong bitter but sweet taste, and long-lasting aroma, the ‘soup’ (the tea water infusion) is light yellowish-green in colour. Tea leaves after brewing is thick and green. The longer the storage of raw tea, the more mellow the aroma. Raw Pu'er belongs to sun-dried green tea.

Ripe tea is based on raw tea but uses the extra process of wet piling and drying. Artificially added water to raise the temperature to promote bacterial reproduction and accelerate tea ripening and removal bitterness in order to achieve the unique characteristics. Ripe tea is fermented to make the tea milder in flavour. It is silky smooth and mellow, which is more suitable for day to day drinking. The ‘soup’ colour is red and bright, the aroma is earthy with notes of dried fruit and honey, the tea leaves after brewing are red and brown. The scent of ripe tea will become more and more supple and rich with age. Ripe Pu'er falls under a larger category of fermented teas commonly known as dark teas.

Pu'er tea can be also divided into loose tea and compressed tea that has different shapes, such as stacked 'melon pagodas', pillars, calabashes, Yuanbao (an old currency used in China), and small tea bricks (2–5 cm in width). Pu'er is also compressed into the hollow centre of bamboo stems or packed and bound into a ball inside the peel of various citrus fruits.

Pu'er tea cake
Pu'er tea cake