Pu erh tea

What is Pu erh tea?

Pu erh tea is a fermented tea that comes from the Yunnan region in China.

There are 2 types of pu erh: Raw Pu erh called Sheng and boiled/riped pu erh called Shou.


Picture of Shaman's drum

Shaman's drum

1980's loose leaf Shou Pu erh
Picture of Sweet dream

Sweet dream

1990's Shou Pu erh
Here and now shou pu erh

Here and now

2002 Shou Pu erh
Warm center shou pu erh

Warm center

2009 Shou Pu erh
Picture of Cha tou tea nuggets

Cha tou tea nuggets

2018 Shou Pu erh Nuggets
Picture of White eagle mountain

White eagle mountain

Old Growth Sheng Pu erh

Where does Pu erh come from?

Unlike green and black tea, Pu erh comes from only one region, Yunnan. Yunnan is a tropical region in China and is also known as the birthplace of tea. Pu erh tea has been picked and processed for over hundreds of years in Yunnan.

In Yunnan, the tea plant is a big tea tree, the primal form of the tea plant. When grown elsewhere, the tea plant has adapted to a colder climate by remaining small and bushy.

The tea trees in Yunnan grow larger, older (some tea trees are over thousands years old) and grow roots much deeper into the ground. The deeper the roots go, the more minerals and energy the tree extracts from the soil.

Tea from these trees is usually stronger and the younger variety can even be a bit harsh and bitter.


The processing of sheng Pu erh tea

The processing of pu erh tea therefore also differs from the processing of other teas, such as red or white tea. For example, pu erh tea is pan fried at a lower temperature so that heat-resistant spores remain in the tea. These spores trigger the tea's slow fermentation process, which changes the taste of the tea over the years. It takes 70 years for pu erh tea to be fully fermented.

Nowadays, pu erh is rarely fermented for that long; tea that has aged for 70 years is rare. Some people even see it as an interesting investment, because the stock is getting smaller and the prices are getting higher.


What is the difference between shou pu erh and sheng pu erh?

In the 1970s/80s, people tried to recreate the fermentation process of sheng pu erh. Instead of leaving the tea on the shelf for decades, they threw the tea in a pile, added heat and water and left it that way for 30 to 45 days.

However, this did not turn out into the same tea and flavor when fermenting the tea for 70 years. Instead, a new type of tea emerged: shou pu erh. Loosely translated, it means cooked pu erh. All pu erh that is not manually fermented today, is called sheng pu erh, which means raw pu erh.


What does pu erh tea taste like?

Sheng and shou pu erh teas both have a very distinctive taste and are very different from each other. The taste of shou pu erh is often compared to a wet forest floor or like mushrooms. This sounds distasteful, but it is actually warming, grounding and very pleasant. It is a taste you have to get used to just as coffee.

The first few years after the processing of shou, the tea also has the fermentation taste, which is called wo dui. This taste is a bit familiar to the taste of fish and seaweed and is not liked by some people. If you want to avoid wo dui, it is best to buy shou pu erh that is at least one year old.

Young sheng pu erh smells and tastes grassy or hay-like. How long the tea has aged has a lot of influence on the taste, especially among the sheng pu erh teas. As the sheng ages, the flavor changes tremendously. The first few years will see the most flavor change. After that, it slows down.


In conclusion

Pu erh tea is our favorite category of tea. We love the warming quality and the pleasant energy left after a few bowls or a ceremony. In the winter, we drink shou pu erh or an older sheng pu erh daily. In the summer, we usually choose liu bao, a black tea.

With Leaves With Hugs, we would like to introduce people to pu erh tea, because pu erh is great for the wet and cold days.