What does Pu-erh Tea Taste Like?

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Are you ready to try something new? Come and explore the delicious world of Organic Pu-erh tea.

Have you ever wondered, “What does Pu-erh tea taste like?” In this guide, we are going to cover how different factors affect the unique taste, caffeine level and health benefits of Pu-erh Tea.

What is Pu-erh tea?

Pu-erh (also sometimes called Pu’er, Puerh and Pu erh) is pronounced: “poo – arr”. It’s a rich and dark fermented tea that originated in a prefecture called Pu’er, in the mountainous Yunnan Province in Southern China. Its distinction came because it was originally packed into cakes, compressing the volume, making it easier for horse transport along the trade routes.  Like so many things named after their home, the name Pu-erh stuck.

Why is it Different?

Believe it or not, Pu-erh tea, as well as organic green and black tea, all derive from one plant, the camellia sinensis plant. Many wonder how tea leaves from the same type of plant taste can so different. There are several things that impact the flavors.

First, Pu-erh producers use only the largest tea leaves from Yunnan’s ancient tea plants that retain their flavor. Secondly and more importantly, the special fermentation process imparts a specific delicious flavor and aroma – making Pu-erh of the most sought-after healthy tea.

Picking Tea

How is it Made?

After the tea leaves are harvested, they are dried and rolled. Next, the leaves are steamed. The moist environment encourages microorganisms to interact with the chemical composition of the tea starting the fermentation process. (This fermentation has many beneficial health benefits that we will be touching on later.)

However, the processing doesn’t end there. Differing fermentation processes are used to create one of the two main categories of Pu’er tea.

2 Main Categories

  • Sheng Pu-erh is raw unripe tea that will be used while either young or aged. After the tea leaves are steamed, they are placed into cakes, bricks, or other shapes where they can naturally ferment with time. A good Pu-erh can be aged like a fine wine. The older the Pu-erh, the longer it can ferment to create those delicious flavors and aromas.
  • Shou Pu-erh is a ripened cooked Pu-erh. After the tea leaves are steamed, they go through an accelerated fermenting process where the leaves are exposed to moisture and heat in a wet pile-controlled environment for about 45 to 60 days. With Shou Pu-her, the tea leaves are tossed frequently to encourage the growth of microorganisms to expedite the fermentation process. Essentially, the tea is ripened before you purchase it, just like Tuo Cha Organic Pu-erh Tea Cake and our many organic tea blends. Many bread recipes from starter dough, use a similar process.

Tuo Cha Organic Pu-erh Tea Cake

Shapes and Forms

At Fraser Tea®, we offer Pu-erh packaged in three different ways.

Organic Puerh Tea

What does Pu erh Tea Taste Like?

Now, that is a complex question. The taste of Pu-erh tea depends on many factors.

Some people may say that Pu-erh tea tastes earthy, like wild mushrooms, and smells like the forest. Others will say it is sweet, smooth, and fruity. The reason for these differences comes from the entire tea drinking experience. The ‘how’ the tea is prepared impacts the experience as much as the ‘'what’ is behind the actual tea. A pot of aged Pu-erh may possibly create a different aroma than a cup steeped from a tea bag.

The first time you try Pu-erh tea you will be greeted with an array of new aromas and flavors. You might love it after the very first sip but if not, don’t give up on this healthy organic tea. There are few nuances to be aware of so you can make it just the way you like it. We are going to cover that here so you can make the best cup of tea for you.

Organic Puerh Tea

Factors that Change Pu-erh Tea Taste

  • Age and Type of Pu-erh - Young, less than 3-year-old, raw sheng Pu-erh tea can have a grassy vegetal flavor with a bit of a floral aroma, and sometimes can be bitter. On the other hand, a naturally aged, raw sheng Pu erh can be a delight to the senses. With each year of aging, the flavor profile evolves. Many take on a rich deep flavor, smooth and slightly sweet. A fermented shou Pu-erh tea, like our Caramel Cream Organic Pu-erh Tea is smooth, mellow, and slightly sweet from the start without any additional aging required.
  •  Where the tea came from. Chemicals that are added in the growing or processing steps can impact the taste of Pu-erh. Fraser Tea® sources our teas from premium certified organic tea farms to ensure against these variables. As you can imagine, keeping the tea free from pesticides and other unwanted additives is important for a clean and delicious taste profile.
  •  How is the tea stored? – Temperature, air flow and humidity affect the taste of Pu-erh tea.

As sheng Pu-erh continues to naturally ferment with aging, it needs to be in a warm and appropriately humid environment, with adequate air flow for this to happen. Places with drastic temperature changes or that are very dry, are inappropriate for fermentation. Also important, if the tea is stored in a high humidity environment without good circulation, it can take on a moldy flavor.

Shou Pu-erh has already been fermented. For example, our Spicy Chocolate Chai Organic Pu-erh Tea is already dark and luxurious and no further aging is required.

  • Temperature of water – If serving a young sheng Pu-erh tea, the water temperature should be lower around 185 degrees F (85 degrees C) as increased temperature can make the tea bitter. However, for aged Pu-erh or shou Pu-erh at 195 degrees F (90 degrees C) to bring out the full aroma and flavor.
  • Water composition – water can have different mineral balances from region to region and this can affect the flavor of tea. Fresh filtered water can provide the most consistent outcome.
  • Ratio of tea to water – If you increase the tea to water ratio, the more concentrated the tea will be and vice versa. It all comes down to your personal taste preference. If you are new to this type of tea, try starting out with one of our delicious organic Pu-erh tea blends in either our tea sachet in your favorite teacup because no measuring is required.
  • Brewing vessel – Traditionally, a gaiwan (traditional Chinese tea brewing set with a bowl, lid, and saucer) is used because it allows for quick visualization of the tea leaves, and you can smell the aroma as it changes with each pour. However, a gaiwan can be a little cumbersome and difficult to use. An easier to use option is our convenient tea infuser. No skill is required, and less exposure to hot water.

A Yixing clay teapot is also sometimes used because it absorbs some of the tea oils with use.  It can also soften the flavor of young raw Pu-erh and give you a better mouth feel.

If you want to keep things as simple as possible, all you need is your favorite teacup when brewing a tea sachet. 

  • Height of the pour – Did you know that aerating tea with a high pour can reduce the astringency? Fraser Tea® shou Pu-erhs can be poured from a low height as they are already smooth and ready to drink. However, if you have a younger sheng Pu-erh you may wish to use a high pour to reduce bitterness. On the other hand, if you have a medium aged tea, you may wish to use a medium height pour. Experiment with tea pour height for your perfect flavor profile.
  • Length of brew time – It all depends on your personal taste preferences. No two people are the same.

If brewing loose-leaf tea, we suggest a 2-to-3-minute brew time. On the other hand, if brewing our using our convenient non-GMO pyramidal tea bags, let your taste preference guide the way. We have started putting more tea in each of our tea bags because many of our customers enjoy making a large tumbler for on the go. You may want to try reducing the steep time if using a small 8-ounce cup, decide to get more than one pour from one tea bag or use a larger 16-to-18-ounce cup. The choice is yours.

On the other hand, if you plan to brew our Tuo Cha Organic Pu-erh Cake in a gaiwan, we suggest a very short brew time. 10 to 15 seconds steep time at first and increase time with subsequent pours.

Brew time can be increased for more flavor or decreased if the flavor is too strong. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference. There are no rigid rules for brew time. However, you may be interested to learn more helpful tips on how to brew Pu-erh tea.

  • How many times the tea has been steeped? Tea flavor is strongest once all the leaves have unfurled. Depending on how strong you like your tea, you can obtain several pours from the same pot.

Spicy Chocolate Chai Organic Puerh Tea

Does Pu erh tea have caffeine?

Yes, Fraser Tea® Pu-erh tea has between 60 to 70mg of caffeine per serving depending on the tea blend!

Did you know that caffeine is used by the tea plant as a natural defense mechanism against insects? The small new tea buds have the most caffeine. As you go to the bottom the tea plant, the caffeine level decreases in the older leaves.

The longer fermentation period from the wet piling method promotes higher caffeine levels in Pu-erh tea. For example, our Chocolate Truffle Organic Pu-erh Tea has 70+ mg of caffeine. Whereas a cup of our Peach Mango Organic White Tea has only 40 mg of caffeine.

Also, as the tea ages, the amount of caffeine reduces. Caffeine levels can also fluctuate from one Pu-erh to the next depending on the region the tea was harvested from and the variety of tea.

The one factor that you can change to make the caffeine level lower or higher is the Pu-erh Brewing Method. These 3 items can increase the amount of caffeine per cup.

  • The hotter the water, the more caffeine released when brewed.
  • Longer brew time results in higher caffeine levels.
  • Be careful to not break or crush tea leaves. Broken leaves release their caffeine faster than whole tea leaves.

When is the best time to drink?

If you want to lose weight, the best time to drink Pu-erh tea is about one hour after eating.

The reason for drinking Pu-erh tea after a meal is that the tea can help your body remove the hard to digest fats. In a study by Kee-Jing Jeng et. al, clinical trials have confirmed that statins in Pu-erh decreases the incidence of major coronary and cerebrovascular events.  This may be due to its hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory effects.

However, drinking endless cups of Pu-erh tea on an empty stomach is not suggested as the caffeine may make you feel jittery, or cause stomach upset.

Health Benefits

Gut Health and Weight Loss

Do you take a daily probiotic or drink kombucha for gut health? Pu-erh’s special fermentation process can introduce healthy probiotic microorganisms into your gut to promote a healthy digestive system.  When your digestive system is running smoothly it helps remove unwanted waste and helps you feel slimmer.

In addition, Pu-erh tea may help you lose weight. In a randomized controlled trial performed by Kazumitsu Kubota et. al, patients had a reduction in waist circumference, body mass index, and visceral fat values after 12 weeks of drinking Pu-erh water extract on a regular basis.

Tea Meditation

Boost Mood

Do you ever get a feeling of euphoria when you take your first sip of tea? The aroma hits your nose, the warmth makes you feel cozy.  For one moment in time, everything stands still. Being mindful in the moment is “Tea Meditation”. The process of slowing down and enjoying the slow pours of tea may help elevate your mood. 

We hope this Pu-erh tea guide has helped you to better understand the factors that affect the taste, caffeine level and health benefits of this organic fermented dark tea. Try a Fraser Tea® Organic Pu-erh Tea blend today.

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  • Kubota K, Sumi S, Tojo H, Sumi-Inoue Y, I-Chin H, Oi Y, Fujita H, Urata H. Improvements of mean body mass index and body weight in preobese and overweight Japanese adults with black Chinese tea (Pu-Erh) water extract. Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):421-8.
  • Kee-Ching Jeng, Chin-Shuh Chen, Yu-Pun Fang, Rolis Chien-Wei Hou, and Yuh-Shuen Chen, Effect of Microbial Fermentation on Content of Statin, GABA, and Polyphenols in Pu-Erh Tea, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007 55 (21), 8787-8792