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Pu-Erh Tea

A Strong-Flavored Fermented Alternative to Coffee

Colorful beencha, Pu-erh Tea compressed bricksLet's talk about Pu-erh tea — a category of it's own. I often have sworn coffee drinkers try Pu-erh, it has a strong flavor and is something that they can appreciate. Then they get addicted and there you go – one more tea drinker!

Like White, Green or Black tea, Pu-erh is also made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It is a large leaf varietal that is indigenous to the area, Yunnan Province. This is the region from where the tea plant is thought to originate. Yunnan is in the extreme southern part of China, known for its lush jungles and varied ethnic groups. It borders Burma and Laos and so shares many ethnically diverse hill tribe populations. The traditions of tea in this region are many. Tea is drunk fresh, aged, buried and also eaten depending on where you are.

Pu-erh is different than all other teas as it is post-fermented and then aged. It starts as a green or black tea which undergoes a change that alters the character of the tea greatly. This process makes the flavor intense, usually with an earthy component and mellowness in the higher quality teas. The tea has been praised for its health benefits for generations. Studies in France found that it raised good (HDL) cholesterol and lowered bad (LDL) cholesterol which if confirmed is great news.

Pu-erh Tea is made into compressed bricks called beenchaPu-erh was compressed into circular bricks that made them perfect to transport, they were used as money along the silk routes. It was something that worked well for barter, as it was dense and kept well. This is also the tea which is used as the base for Tibetan Yak Butter tea. Salt is added as well to make a rejuvenating beverage for those living in harsh conditions at a high elevation.

The tea is made as a loose leaf as well as into compressed bricks. Before the tea is aged they pressed into many different shapes. They may be packed in bamboo or pressed into metal molds.

We have a spectacular silver needle Beencha – very rare and striking as it's made up of only young leaf buds. Click the link to see some examples. Click to see our selection.

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(Updated: 05/16/11 BH)

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