Originating from China, Pu Erh is a post-fermented tea renowned for its taste and numerous benefits. Consumed for centuries, it is also known to improve over the years. As a great tea lover, you would like to understand how this variety is made? Origin, oxidation and fermentation, here are all the secrets of the elaboration of this traditional recipe.
The origin of Pu Erh tea
Pu Erh tea, produced in the province of Yunnan in China, takes its name from Pu'er, the city where it originates. It is made from the large leaves of tea plants that grow naturally in this Chinese region.
For the record, this beverage began to spread in China from the 7ᵉ century. At that time, tea was even used as a currency on the route joining Yunnan to Tibet and Mongolia. Thus, to facilitate its transportation, it was compressed into bricks or even into cakes. Between the 14ᵉ and 17ᵉ century, the Chinese emperor of the time had these compressed teas banned. However, some producers continued to make them.
It was from the 17ᵉ century onwards that the tea produced in Yunnan became more and more renowned and was named Pu Erh, referring to the area in which it was made. Today, it is recognized as a high quality post-fermented tea, whose taste and aroma improve with time.
Post-fermented tea: understanding this production method
Pu Erh is a black tea from China, obtained following a particular manufacturing process. Discover the different stages carried out by the producers to create this drink with an incomparable taste.
The oxidation of tea
Pu Erh is made with large leaves of tea trees growing mainly in Yunnan. The wild trees are generally those that offer a better quality in terms of taste. Some producers still use plantation-grown crops.
Regardless of the method of cultivation used, the process of making post-fermented tea remains the same. Between spring and autumn, the tea leaves are harvested and dried until they undergo oxidation. Then, they are stored in a pile in a humid and warm environment in order to provoke a fermentation process.
The fermentation of black tea
Originally,Pu Erh was obtained through a slow fermentation process. Specifically, the producers stored the tea in warm and humid places for months. This allowed the action of molds and bacteria to reach the desired result; a post-fermented tea could be kept for years.
Since the 1970s, methods have evolved and manufacturers are using a faster technique. The tea leaves are dried and then placed in a pile which is then moistened and covered with a tarp. This processaccelerates the fermentation process. The heap is regularly stirred to promote the development of bacteria. This prevents the leaves underneath from fermenting too quickly. After several weeks of storage in a warm and humid room, the tea changes color and becomes black.
The flavors of Pu Erh tea
Post-fermented tea differs not only by its manufacturing method, but also by its appearance in the mouth. The older it gets, the more its flavors change. After infusion, it takes on a red color and gives off fruity or even woody notes. Sometimes, depending on the age of the Pu Erh, you may even find an earthy taste. This evolves over time and as it ages, its texture becomes softer and even mellow.