How to Brew Pu erh Tea?
Pu-erh Tea is a dark tea that requires special attention to brewing, steeping and storage to retain its unique taste, caffeine level and health benefits. In this guide, we will cover how to brew Pu-erh tea using Western, grandpa and gong fu cha (traditional Chinese tea ceremony) method to make the best cup of Pu-erh tea.
We encourage you to use this as a “general guide” for brewing Pu-erh tea. Everyone has different taste preferences when it comes to enjoying teatime. Some may like their tea strong, others like it weak, while others are somewhere in between. Please adjust the amount of tea, water, and steep time to meet your specific taste preferences.
The method you choose to brew the tea, will determine the teaware required.
Pu-erh tea can be brewed in your favorite teacup if you are using our non-GMO pyramidal tea bags.
A tea mug or teapot with a strainer may be used or our convenient Tea Infuser is nice for loose leaf tea. The perfect measuring spoon is a great tool for determining how much organic loose-leaf tea to add to the pot.
If you choose to perform the Gong Fu Cha (Traditional Chinese tea ceremony) you may also like a gaiwan or Yixing tea pot. A gaiwan is a porcelain tea set with a bowl, lid, and saucer for brewing tea. The Yixing tea pot is a small special clay tea pot that absorbs some of the oils and flavors of the tea. Both the gaiwan and Yixing tea pot are used to enjoy the timeless way of enjoying several delicious pours.
A tea knife or regular kitchen knife will be needed if you would like to try our Tuo Cha Organic Pu-erh Cake to loosen the leaves.
How to Break a Pu erh Cake?
As discussed above, some Pu-erh’s are pressed into a cake after processing. Pu-erh cakes come in many shapes and sizes. Some are even in a shape of a bird nest dome like our Tuo Cha. You will need either a pointed tea knife or regular knife to loosen and break up the Pu-erh cake.
- Remove the rice paper from the tea cake.
- Place the cake on a sturdy surface.
- If using a tea knife, place the tea knife in your dominant hand and hold the tea cake on the sturdy surface with your other hand. Gently push the tea knife parallel into the edge of the tea cake inward and pry upwards. Repeat in 2 to 3 more areas all within an inch apart from one another. We like to do this in the underside of the cake. It is best to do this gently as not to break the tea leaves. The goal is to break off a little wedge of tea about 3 to 4 grams. DO NOT try to cut the tea cake like a pizza, pry it apart from the edge.
- You will use the same technique if you are using a kitchen knife or ice pick. Choose a small paring knife making sure you keep your fingers far away from the blade. Push the knife inwards but away from your hands. Be very careful.
How to Brew
There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to brewing tea, it just comes down to your personal taste preference, the teaware you have at home and the amount of time you have.
Depending on the whether you are brewing a Fraser Tea® bag, loose leaf or from a compressed Pu-erh tea cake the steps to brew Pu-erh will differ. In addition, we will be reviewing the Western method, Grandpa Style, and Gong Fu Cha (Traditional Chinese tea ceremony) method for brewing Pu-erh tea. If you are craving an iced tea, our How to Make Cold Brew Tea will be helpful.
Tea Bags (Sachets) – We have had feedback from our customers that they enjoy brewing their Fraser Tea® bags in a large tumbler or to go mugs. To accommodate for this, we are currently placing a larger amount of organic tea in each sachet.
- Place a Fraser Tea® Pu-erh sachet in your cup.
- Heat water to 195 degrees F (90 degrees C) and gently pour into your cup with the tea bag.
- Steep for about 2 to 3 minutes or until desired tea strength is achieved.
- If you are using a small 8-ounce cup, you may wish to decrease the steep time as desired. In addition, you may be able to make a second or even a third 8-ounce cup of tea from the same sachet. Alternatively, consider using a larger cup so you can add more water to meet your individual tea taste preferences.
Loose Leaf Tea or Tea Cake
As discussed above, there are 3 main methods for brewing Pu-erh loose leaf or tea cake.
- Western Method
- Grandpa Method
- Gong Fu Cha (Traditional Chinese tea ceremony)
Western Brewing Method
You are probably very familiar with this method. All you need is a teapot with a strainer and a teacup.
- Set out your tea pot with infuser.
- Heat water to 195 degrees F or 90 degrees C. If you do not have a thermometer, the water will just start to form bubbles - it is not boiling.
- Place approximately 1 teaspoon of organic Pu-erh tea for every 8 ounces (236 mls) of water into the tea pot. Pour the heated water over the tea leaves and place the lid on the tea pot.
- Steep tea between 2 to 3 minutes or until desired strength.
- Pour tea into teacups and enjoy.
Yes, it is really called the “Grandpa Method”! Many of the old timers use this quick and easy method because it has less cleanup.
- Set out your favorite cup or glass.
- Heat water to 195 degrees F or 90 degrees C.
- Place approximately 1 teaspoon of organic Pu-erh tea into the cup.
- Pour the heated water into the cup, steep to desired strength and enjoy. No straining required as the tea will generally sink to the bottom of the cup. If you want to drink more tea, just refill the cup with more hot water and repeat the process.
Gong Fu Cha (Traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony)
The Gong Fu method is used when you have the time to enjoy the subtle differences in the aroma, flavor and mouth feel with each individual Pu-erh tea pour. This time-honored custom involves a little skill and discipline to enjoy the tea meditation process. Either a gaiwan or Yixing tea pot with very small cups is used for this experience.
- Heat the water to 195 degrees F. (90 degrees C)
- Pour the heated water over and inside your gaiwan set or Yixing clay pot and cups. Pour the hot water out of your tea set. This heating up of teaware ensures a more precise brewing temperature.
- Measure out approximately 4 to 6 grams of tea and place in the gaiwan or Yixing tea pot. If you are new to Pu-erh tea, start out with 3 to 4 grams of tea. Enjoy the aroma of the tea in the teapot.
- Rinsing is not required for Fraser Tea® They are organic and contain other organic ingredients. However, we like to rinse our Tuo Cha Organic Tea Cake as it helps to open the tea leaves.
- Pour the heated water over the leaves and quickly pour out. If you are working with a sheng Pu-erh, we like to rinse the tea leaves once. On the other hand, if you are brewing a shou Pu-erh tea we like to rinse 2 times. The purpose of the rinse is to get the tea leaves to unfurl.
- Next, pour the water over your tea leaves and brew for 10 to 15 seconds. Then, pour the tea over the strainer with the decanter and then finally into the little teacups. Enjoy the aroma, flavor and mouth feel of the tea.
- Repeat the last step increasing the steeping times with each infusion. For example, if the first steep was 15 seconds, increase the next steep to 20 seconds and so forth. Adjust steep time to your taste preference. You may need to reheat your water again to keep the water temperature stable.
- We like to keep the lid off the gaiwan between steeps. If you keep the lid open between pours, it helps cool the pot. If the teapot is cooler, then the leaves will retain more of their aroma.
- Enjoy the color of the tea, aroma, flavor, and mouth feel with each pour. Every pour will taste a little different.
Variations and Helpful Tips
- If you are drinking plain organic pu-erh tea, try adding a few organic Chamomile flowers to the tea pot. It is deliciously earthy and floral for one delicious sip.
- Sometimes, you would like to have more tea pours but don’t want to begin all over again. In that case, we add just a little bit more of loose-leaf tea to the existing tea pot. Then, resume the brewing and steeping process.
- We find it best to use filtered or distilled water. Tap water can have differences in its chemical composition and change the flavor of the tea. However, it is not required.
How to Store?
Fraser Tea Organic shou (fermented or cooked) Pu-erh teas can be stored in the loose-leaf bag or the tea storage tin that they came in. The worst enemies of tea are light, sudden temperature changes, and moisture. Please store your Pu-erh away from direct sunlight and away from any strong odors like perfume and coffee as the tea leaves can pick up this aroma.
If you have a sheng (raw) Pu-erh tea, you will want it to be able to breath so store it wrapped in the rice paper, bamboo container or a zisha tea container. Best stored in a humidity level of around 50 to 70% and in a temperature around 68 degrees F to 86 degrees F.