Tea is a natural product generated from a plant, Camellia Sinensis, which is mainly grown in China, and Camellia Assamica, which comes from the Assam region of India. After the water, tea is the most consumed beverage worldwide, either in its white, black, green, oolong or pu-erh variety (also known as é red).
Pu-erh tea, from the Chinese province of Yunnan, is one of the most famous teas. For years it was consumed solely and exclusively by the nobility, but today it has become enormously popular due to its history and its taste, aroma and nutritional value. Let’s see what is pu-er tea, what makes it so special and why do experts pay so much money for it.
What is pu-erh tea?
Pu-erh tea leaves are obtained from trees that grow along the Lancang River, which runs through several states in south western China. Each area has a different soil and climate, which give the tea leaves their own distinctive nuances. The tea leaves harvests are transferred, by river, to the city of Pu-erh, where their treatment is carried out following ancient traditions.
Pu-erh tea is marketed in two different formats: single sheets and compressed sheets.
The loose leaf pu-erh, for which leaves of different origins and fast fermentation are mixed, has high demand from the restaurant sector, as well as by collectors and renowned tea drinkers.
The pu-erh of compressed leaves is slower fermentation and only differs from the previous one in the presentation. Compression gives pu-erh tea a variety of curious shapes which give rise to different names: Disc tea, Bowl tea, Brick tea, Rectangular tea, Square tea, Mushroom tea and Golden Melon tea.
What makes pu-erh tea so special?
Contrary to what many people think, the format in which pu-erh tea is presented does not determine its flavor. There are excellent pu-erh teas from loose leaf and also from compressed leaves. The main factors that, during the production process, affect the development of micro-organisms in tea leaves and, consequently, to the fermentation and its flavor, are the ventilation, the temperature, the humidity and the light.
The well-ventilated tea leavesWhen exposed to proper air circulation, they ferment better and guarantee the healthy reproduction of micro-organisms, creating the characteristic aromatic nuances of pu-erh tea. On the contrary, the lack of air circulation around the tea leaves leads to a reduction in their taste and aroma.
So that the micro-organisms that give pu-erh tea its prized characteristics are reproduced optimally, the ambient temperature must be stable and keep between 20º and 30º C. The same happens with the humidity of the environment, which should be controlled to avoid the dryness of the leaves or the development of mold, as well as with light. The latter slows down the growth of micro-organisms, so it is appropriate to control it.
Why do you pay so much for pu-erh tea?
The fermentation process of this variety of tea is slow and long, it can last up to 60 years and from a minimum of 2 years. Its storage in bamboo barrels is what gives the leaves the coppery color that, when infused in hot water, turns red. With pu-erh tea there are vintages or vintages of different qualities. Connoisseurs of pu-erh look for packages of tea that are well aged and cared for in their production process.
Although there are tea drinkers who prefer a cup of young Pu-erh, with nuances similar to green tea, the taste of pu-erh tea improves with the passage of time, as it happens with aging wines or aged liquors. . Aged pu-erh tea is highly appreciated and valued, coming to be paid for inordinate amounts of money. 680 euros per gram, as happened just two years ago in this Chinese tea auction.
The properties attributed to it they also play a role in the price of pu-erh tea. It can be said that it helps reduce blood sugar levels, is cleansing, strengthens the immune system, prevents respiratory and heart diseases, stimulates the digestion of rich foods, prevents and reduces cholesterol, among other benefits.
What can we do to keep our pu-erh tea in perfect condition?
In addition to the above factors, which are beyond the control of the end consumer, there are a number of considerations to take into account when keeping pu-erh tea in perfect condition. We have our tea, which has cost us his, so touch pamper him to ensure maximum enjoyment in every cup of tea that we prepare with it.
As with most Chinese teas, pu-erh tea is made from whole leaves (and not broken like Hindu teas). When breaking a compressed pu-erh tea packet it is important be careful not to tear the tea leaves, since this affects the taste of it, giving it a bitter taste.
Equally, It is not advisable to extract more number of leaves than necessary for making a cup of pu-erh tea. This prevents the fermentation process from accelerating and the compressed tea package from spoiling.
Finally, use the suitable container for storage is essential. The tighter it is and the less moisture it contains, the better. A paper bag or cardboard box is a good and cheap solution, although a clay container is most suitable. This material allows the tea to breathe and the air to circulate slowly, while regulating humidity and temperature changes.
Images | Scott MacLeod Liddle, Morgann, Brian.ch, Franx ‘, Bindalfrodo and Daniel Go on Flickr
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