Dark teas are aged teas from Hunan Province of China. We include Pu’erh in this category of tea (not all companies do though) but it is a subcategory of Dark Teas. They age well and are probiotic.
Dark teas actually have a very smooth and naturally sweet flavor. Pu’erh has an additional “earthiness” to it.
What makes a tea fall in this category? It actually goes through a secondary fermentation process. It is first fermented and then pan fire dried. It is then aged. During the aging process bacteria reacts with the leaves which changes the chemistry, flavor, and aroma of the leaf. This process is what gives it its probiotic properties.
So now what is Pu’erh tea? Pronunciation varies from culture to culture. The most common is “poo-err” or “poo-air”. Pu’erh tea comes from the Yunnan Province of China rather than Hunan (as with other dark teas). It also has more of an earthy aroma and stronger flavor than a regular dark tea. Pu’erh tea is also aged longer than dark tea. It only improves with age. The length of time it is allowed to age will vary and depend upon the flavor profile desired. As it ages it becomes more mellow and after a length of time will begin to take on its own unique aged flavor profile.
Pu’erh tea is also further classified in two: raw and cooked. Raw Pu’erh is withered, pan-fired to stop oxidation, rolled and kneaded and then sun-dried. It may or may not be then steamed and compressed into cakes or bricks, otherwise it’s left as loose leaf tea. After it is pressed, or not, it is then allowed to age.
Cooked Pu’erh is withered and then water with a bacterial culture is added from an ancient pu’erh. It is piled up and covered for a time in a hot and humid room (turned from time to time). The amount of heat and moisture is carefully regulated throughout this time (40 days). It is then pressed into cakes or bricks or left loose leaf. It produces a very mellow cup.
Many Dark & Pu’erh teas are compressed into bricks or mini (single-serve) “cakes” as is pictured above. But they are also available loose. When they are in brick or cake form a “pick” is used to break them apart so they can be used.
Pictured to the left is a cooked Shou Pu’erh.
Cakes/bricks can range in price from $10 – $5000. Factors that affect pricing are environmental conditions, individual farms & factories, raw material grade, tree age, processing, picking of the leaves, shape/form, and market.
To prepare Dark & Pu’erh Teas:
1 tsp ~ 8 oz water ~ 212 F ~ 4-6 minutes
May steep for multiple infusions.
Pictured to the right is