If you’re a tea connoisseur, your pantry is stocked with golden tippy black teas and rich, umami Japanese greens. There are so many delicious avenues to explore in the rich and lavish world of high quality tea, from deep florals to sumptuous chocolatey tones. Tea’s incredibly complex history and popularity around the world have created a robust selection sure to please any palate. In the mix, there is a little known tea that packs just as much flavor as it does history. Meet pu-erh, China’s aged and fermented tea! Pu-erh has a deep woody character and a dark, enchanting body. Like fine wines and whiskeys, pu-erh tea matures. Time alone contributes to its complexity.
An Elusive History
The history of pu-erh tea is as obscure as the tea itself. Most report that the invent of pu-erh tea is relatively new, only dating back to the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. Others date it back to the 9th century’s Tang Dynasty. Still, others claim that it was consumed by the lower classes before that, and its consumption was not looked upon favorably. However it came to be, it has gained in popularity only as recently as the 90s, as tea drinkers have begun to explore the incredible complexity of tea culture in all its forms.
What sets pu-erh apart from other varieties of tea? Once it has been picked, it goes through processing to encourage bacterial growth and microbial fermentation. Whereas most teas are preferred fresh, pu-erh is at its finest once time has begun to change the structure of the leaves. After the leaves of pu-erh tea are dried initially, they are moved to a moist, anaerobic environment, where heat builds and the microbial fermentation occurs. The beneficial bacterial and fungal communities present in the finished product add to the depth of flavor and the positive aspects for health!
Digestive Tonic and Health Elixir
Pu-erh tea has long been touted as an elixir of health. In recent years, as people are beginning to explore more natural remedies, it seems to be making a comeback. Traditionally, the tea was consumed to aid in digestion of fatty foods, and current research proves the validity of these claims. Studies of the metabolic effects of pu-erh tea consumption show that it has significant weight loss benefits, reduces blood lipid levels, and helps to regulate bad cholesterol. Researchers have also discovered that consumption of pu-erh tea leaves helps to regulate blood sugar level spikes. This could be good news for those who suffer from diabetes.
A Natural Beauty Booster
Keeping your organs and digestion healthy is the key to looking and feeling better! After all, our bodies are functioning as a whole, not as individual parts. But, a little help on the outside never hurt! Accordingly, pu-erh tea is not only great for internal health, but can also be used externally for the skin. Pu-erh’s natural qualities make it an excellent toner, evening out skin tone and blemishes. It’s microbial properties also help to introduce beneficial enzymes to the skin and teeth. So, once you’ve resteeped your leaves and enjoyed their flavor, try using a subsequent steep on a cotton puff and generously applying to the skin.
Energized and Relaxed? Not An Oxymoron!
It might seem odd that a beverage containing caffeine can aid in relaxation. Then again, pu-erh never wanted to fit in with the other guys! Caffeine in pu-erh makes it a great choice for a morning mug or an afternoon pick-me-up. Yet, despite the energizing effect, you may feel noticeably calm. This is due to the GABA content of the brew. GABA is a natural tranquilizer, pacifying the nervous system. It does so by reducing neuron (literally “the nerves”) activity and pacifying the mind. This makes pu-erh tea a great beverage choice for those who are prone to anxiety. But, everyone can benefit from a little calm!