Pu-erh Tea: One of China’s Undiscovered Wonders
1,500 years ago, the Chinese in Yunnan province began exporting loose leaf tea across the mountains to Tibet. The journey was long and dangerous but the Tibetans needed this tea as it provided important nutrients for their diet. In return, the they traded horses which were very valuable to the Chinese.
Later, the tea leaves were compressed into cakes and bricks to make transportation easier and more profitable. This tea was the forerunner of the Pu-erh tea we enjoy today. So valuable was this tea that for the Tibetans, it created a new form of currency in their region. A similar story occurred in Mongolia and the Chinese called these export teas “border teas”.
Today, Chinese Pu-erh tea still comes in cakes and bricks and other shapes that have evolved over the centuries. Even though the technique of compressing tea leaves was developed for reasons of safety and economy, this had the effect of improving the taste of the tea. We now know that over time, the microbes in the tea leaves create new chemical compounds that were not present in the original leaves as the tea ages. This action gives aged Pu-erh tea its famous taste which is unlike any other tea.
Vintage Pu-erh compressed teas, some of which are over 100 years old are actively sought by tea enthusiasts around the world. Some vintages are very famous and others very rare, with natural undertones of fruit, date, plum, wood, earth and flowers. Like wine, there are eager collectors looking for rare vintages that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars but there are even more younger and very affordable Pu-Erh teas for every taste and budget.
If you are a wine lover, you will enjoy the exciting variety and complexity of Pu-erh teas. See the extensive Flavour Guide . To see which teas might suit your particular taste, ask the Tea Wizard. Numerous experts have reviewed our teas and there is extensive information about Chinese tea and tea-making in our Library.