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Puerh Tea is a unique tea that traces its origin to the Puerh town in Yunnan province. It is most outstanding brewed in freshly boiled water in a porcelain or Yixing teaware at 90º C to 100ºC. Ideally, the tea should be brewed in a wide teapot so that the leaves get sufficient space to expand and release their unique flavor.
After brewing in boiling water, the tea appears dark red in color, and has an earthy taste.
Unlike other teas that lose their freshness and flavor with time, the flavor and taste of Puerh tea gets better with age. That is why the merchants save a small proportion of this tea from each harvest to sell later at high prices — very much like good wine.
The tea, which has recently started gaining popularity in the western world, is harvested from a very ancient strain of tea having broad leaves. It is generally not sold as loose leaves; instead it is compressed and then sold. The compression takes location during processing, where the processors press the leaves using different moulds to give the compressed tea a wide range of shapes. The popular shape is that of ‘tea bricks’, which was once used as a currency. To make tea from this brick, you need to scratch off some tea from this brick and put it in your teapot.
Puerh is usually collected from old plants. The broken or oxidized leaves are removed, and only those leaves that are full and green are retained for processing. The leaves are then boiled till 90% of the moisture is removed. They are then left to wither in the hot sun.
After this, the leaves are graded and steamed into various shapes and then stored in a dry environment for several years. The leaves that break off during processing are sometimes sold off as loose Green Puerh. However, these leaves do not command the same price as the compressed Puerh tea.
The Puerh tea not only has a unique taste but it also has medicinal value. According to researchers, Puerh tea reduces cholesterol. It also helps in digestion of fatty foods and should ideally be taken after a heavy meal.
The Chinese had unceasingly liked this tea. It is now being accepted in western markets too. However, it is yet to break into the big league.