When I was growing up, my parents, brother, sister and myself would pop into Manchester, in the UK on a Sunday afternoon along with hundreds of other Chinese families and have Dim Sum (or as I’ve recently been told, ‘Yum Cha’ in Australia). With the delicious appetisers dad would order, the waiter would ask him what tea we’d like. Most of the time, dad would order Pu’erh.
In my Chinese culture it is traditional to serve tea during meals especially Pu’erh as it is purported to aid digestion. As well as aiding digestion, I was brought up knowing that it plays a role in breaking down fats in your food. If you were to type “Pu’erh” into your favourite search engine there will be many links to articles that show the health benefits of Pu’erh including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol and as my mother taught me, it’s purported to be a great hangover cure. My mother-in-law also mentioned to me yesterday that her friend drinks Pu’erh to help her overcome her morning sickness. What a fabulous tea!!!
There are two main types of pu’erh: raw and cooked, where raw mimics the characteristics of a green tea in look, taste and feel, and cooked has a whole set of nuances of its own. When I describe a cooked pu’erh to people, I often describe it as being like marmite (or vegemite for my Aussie readers :o). Not in the taste, but it’s just one of those teas which you either love or hate. Its woody notes, has often been described to me, as being almost medicinal-like and some of my customers have gone on further to say that they would drink it, knowing that it’s good for them even though they don’t like the taste.
But whilst I imagine them holding their nose as they drink it, I actually think that the woody notes is one of this tea’s charms. Just like wine, the taste of Pu’erh mellows and improves with age and I have been fortunate enough to taste different ages of Pu’erh ranging from 5 years to 30 years. I remember introducing my husband to Pu’erh many years ago and it really wasn’t his cup of tea (bah bum ;)) but I recently purchased a 20 year old pu’erh when I was in Sydney and he really couldn’t resist the earthly aromas that came from making the tea. He’s now a regular drinker of this wonder tonic.
As with many other teas, pu’erh has a component (L-theanine) that promotes a sense of calm and with its reduced caffeine content, it is a tea that can be enjoyed any time of the day. And if celebrities rock your boat, Pu’erh tea is a favourite of Victoria Beckham and Joss Stone’s.