Pu-erh leaves come from the Yunnan Dayeh variety of tea tree - which is purported to be closely related to the original tea tree of pre-glacial times. A study in Japan indicated that all tea lowered cholesterol and that pu-erh was more effective than green tea! When processed, the tealeaves are picked, rolled, withered in the hot sun, after which they are steamed and pressed into cakes. This pu-erh is broken up out of the cakes to make it easier to deal with. The steaming process generates some moisture and when compressed (without drying) into the cakes, in the course of time the tea takes on a musty and earthy character. Pu-erh that gets somewhat moldy before it naturally dries is considered the best. Pu-erh is then stored for years. Interestingly the taste of pu-erh becomes more mellow with age and perhaps more acceptable to the western palate. The taste has been described as mellow, however those not accustomed to it might not enjoy the ‘old’ character. For others though, this flavor will add to its aura of wonder and seem fitting in a tea prized for its medicinal properties.
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