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Pu-erh tea is a hugely popular tea in China both as a beverage and as a medicine. A variety of myths is surrounding this tea, and its history dates back thousands of years in time. Yunnan, the area where the Pu-erh tea has its descent, is believed by many scholars and historians to be the cradle to the first cultivation of tea.


In China Pu-erh tea is primarily considered to be beneficial for digestion and to counteract toxins. The tea is considered purifying for the body and therefore effective against hangovers.

In the West, Pu-erh tea has mainly been associated with weight loss, dieting, and although modern research has shown to have some positive effects conducive to weight loss, this applies as well for green tea and other teas from the tea plant.

Pu-erh tea is usually produced from the broad leaved cultivar Camellia sinensis var. Assamica, and the way the tea is produced and storage make the teas differs from other Pu-erh teas both in taste and content. It is the medicinal properties of Pu-erh tea that made the tea famous in the West as Chinese slimming tea.

Modern research shows that Pu-erh tea lowers LDL cholesterol and blood fats. Most research on tea and its health effects focuses on EGCG. EGCG is a powerful antioxidant that teas contains that has a variety of beneficial properties for the health, but tea also contains a variety of substances other than EGCG, which together gives tea its taste and effects.


The tea is spelled "P'u-erh" according to Hanyu Pinyin, which is the system that today is the most widely used system to convert Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet. Other well-known spellings are Puer, Pu-er, Puer and Puerh.


Tea Picker Tea Tree Nan Nuo Shan

Pu-erh tea traditions dates back thousands of years in the area of Southwest China, concentrated in the Yunnan Province of China.

Production of Pu-erh is already mentioned in the first book that was written about tea in China by Lu Yu in 700s and manufacture is still in many places made the same way today.

It is also around the tropical area in Xishuangbanna some researchers think that the tea had its genesis more than 5,000 years ago.

Xishuangbanna (Sipsongpanna) is a tropical area in China and is located at a lower altitude than most of Yunnan Province. Xishuangbanna is bordering Laos and Burma. In Xishuangbanna lives several minority groups. One of these are the Dai people, a minority population with a culture and Buddhism similar to Thai.

Historically in Xishuangbanna the "Six Famous Tea Mountains" has been used to refer to the origin of the best Pu-erh tea.

These tea mountains has changed and the six famous tea mountains today are not the same mountains as they historically were. These six mountains are now: Yiwu, Youle, Menghai, Nannuo, Jingmai and Bulang.

These mountains are the origins of very high quality tea, but several other mountains in the area produce high-quality teas. There are 26 mountain areas in Xishuangbanna.

Yunnan Province is the province consisting of the largest number of minority people in China. The Dai, Han, Hani, Yi, Lahu, Bulang, Jino, Yao, Miao, Bai, Naxi and various other ethnic minorities are residing in the area. Its the minority people in the region that by ancient thousands of years old traditions grow, pick and manufactures tea in the different mountain areas.


The tea was historically an important commodity and traveled long distances ranging from Sichuan, Yunnan until Qinghai Tibet, but stretches of road were also to Burma and Thailand, Lhasa to Nepal and India, Vietnam and even Mongolia.

A commercial stretch became, in Chinese the route was called "Chamadao" and is what we call The Tea Road, ”The horse Tea Road”.

The road had a stretch of over 4000 km around difficult mountain passes in the area.

Pu-erh teas unique compressed form is believed to have been invented to ease the long journeys, and after oxidation is thought to have occurred through the long time it took to travel the route from one point to another.


Pu-erh tea is part of daily life in Tibet still today.

The famous butter tea in Tibet is usually made of Pu-erh tea, salt and yak butter, and is part of the Tibetan staple food still today.

Tibetans are known to drink copious amounts of tea, with up to 40 cups of tea a day.


  • Pu-erh tea is composed of camellia Assamica, the broad-leaved variety of the plant growing in Yunnan province.
  • Pu-erh is made of sun-dried Mao Cha. Mao Cha is a green tea that is dried in the sun, see below.
  • Pu-erh is made within the Lancang area.

Many vendors claim that Pu-erh tea is made up of wild or semi wild tea trees, but most of the Pu-erh teas today is made of tea bushes. Only a minority of all Pu-erh teas consist of wild wild tea trees, and almost none of wild tea trees. Most manufacturers are honest about teas content, but often its there are intermediaries before the tea ends up with the consumer.

Pu-erh tea is considered best stored, but storage is most noticeable on Green Pu-erh, where the tea reaches a milder flavor for each storage year. Taste is individual, and what storage means for a tea will differ from one type of tea to another.


  • The moisture in the air determines how fast tea matures. In tropical Xishuangbanna where Pu-erh teas are manufactured the aging is faster, but the climate is considered by many too moist for a good long-term storage. To expose the tea to moisture can directly damage the tea.
  • An air flow is preferred, particularly in humid conditions. Teas will absorb odors and should be stored in an odor-free place. The tea should not be exposed to constant temperature changes. It should not be stored too hot, nor too cold.
  • The pressing of Pu-erh tea. Tuo Cha cakes are often hard-pressed, and the tea will age slower. A cake should be evenly pressed over the entire cake and hand pressing is preferred as mechanically pressed cakes are harder pressed.

In Swedish conditions in a home the tea will mature relatively slow, but is quite well suited for the purpose.

The tea is usually said to be optimally stored for between 15 - 20 years, but you also do not want to have a tea that is over stored with a dull taste.

A bad tea will not be good just because it is stored. The tea should be made of genuine sundried Mao Cha. There are varieties that are dried in the oven, and this is considered unfavorable for storage.


Tea bushes

Most of the Pu-erh teas sold are made by ordinary tea bushes of cultivar Da Ye.

Stam av teträd

Semi-wild tea trees

These are the tea bushes that were once abandoned, and now run wild and become semi-wild tea trees. One finds semi-wild tea trees up to a thousand years old used for picking tea leaves to produce Pu-erh tea. No pesticides has to be used for these as the trees are naturally resilient and they have grown unattended for hundreds of years. The taste from each tree differs slightly.

Wild tea trees

These are trees that have grown naturaly without any supervision from anyone. Very few teas are today made of genuine wild tea trees.


Pu-erh is made of Mao Cha. Mao Cha is green tea, tea where the tea leaves are heated, roasted to stop oxidation. Then the tea is dried in the sun. It is important that the tea is dried in the sun for its storage properties. When the tea is ready, either Mao Cha is used for loose Pu-erh tea or it will be pressed to cakes.

The tea variety used for Pu-erh tea unlike for most Chinese teas is Sinensis var. Assamica.


There are currently two types of Pu-erh teas. One kind is called raw Pu-erh, green Pu-erh, sheng pu-erh.

This is the original and traditional form. Pure Mao Cha is used as base. Then the tea stored tea undergoes an oxidation phase. The tea alters the taste and color with age and will become milder and darker.

This is the original and traditional form. Pure Mao Cha is used as base. Then the tea stored tea undergoes an oxidation phase. The tea alters the taste and color with age and will become milder and darker.


The black version is not cooked as the names suggests, but the tea undergoes a special process that makes the tea as fully matured.

The tea is fast-oxidized.

The process was invented in 1972 by Meng Hai Tea Factory and Kun Ming Tea Factory. The process was a refinement of the wetroom technique forgers of Pu-erh used to get a young Pu-erh to resemble a stored Pu-erh tea.


The tea is often grown familiar of Yunnan minority people. Mao Cha is often sold as loose tea and the pressing is often made in small factories that are only concerned with the pressing itself.

Often these small familiar companies are preferred, the quality is often better than the mass production of large factories.


Typical examples of these are Da Ye (formerly Meng Hai Tea Factory), Kunming Tea Factory

Previously teas were branded with China National Native Produce & Animal Byproducts Import & Export company, as these factories were state-owned. Today these are private companies.

The manufacture in these factories is more of a assembly line principle.

Recipe have formerly been applied by the manufacturer, where the year and grade of tea is to be read from the recipe number.

This number consists of four digits:


The first two digits are the year when the recipe came about, the third number is the grade of the tea leaves and number four is the manufacturer of the cake.



The tea was picked by tea pickers, and gathered to be heated. The tea should not be left too long after picking, otherwise the tea starts to oxidize.


The oxidation of the tea is stopped by heating, and this is what makes the tea green. The tea is heated either by hand in large pans like wok, or machine. The hand-made variant is preferred as the tea maker will gain a greater control of the process.


The tea is rolled in a rolling machine.


The tea is dried in the sun, a process necessary for the tea aging process.


The right amount of tea is put in a piece of cloth, and steamed for a few seconds. Steaming will change the character of the tea slightly, the sharper tones in the flavor will get milder. Tea cakes in form of a Bing are traditionally made to contain 357gram.

Larger cakes exist of 400 grams, but also up to several kilograms.

Pressing cakes

Some of the pressing takes place still by hand, or actually by foot. The cloth is fitted on to a master at squeezing cakes that stops the tea into a press mold and rolls around with his foot to get an even pressure over the entire cake. Before doing so, the tea is steamed for some seconds.

The pressing is an important process, and for the cake to be considered optimaly pressed, the pressure should be uniform over the entire cake and the edges should preferably not crumble.

Not all cakes are pressed by hand, and pressing machines are used mostly. The disadvantage of the mechanical method is that the tea cake will become harder pressed, and the tea matures slowly during storage.


A good sign at tea plantations is when you can see some insects around and the tea plantations. The risk is lower that pesticides has been used.


Pu-erh cakes are available in the following finishes:

Bing Cha Pu-erh te i form av Bing Cha
Tuo Cha Pu-erh te i form av Tuo Cha
Zhuancha – Brick
Jincha – Mushroom Pu-erh te i form av en svamp
Fangcha – Square

Other shapes are used aswell. Large coins are produced and paintings of Pu-erh tea. These teas are mainly for show, and nothing to consume.


Traditionally wrappers are not manufactured of paper. It is made of bark growing around the Dai peoples residence. Its the Dai people that are making the traditional wraper for Pu-erh tea.

It is produced by the cutting of the bark, the bark fiber dissolves by bathing it and releasing it in water for several days.

When this is done, bark is added in large vats, and the fibers are captured by a mesh in a frame. Then the frames are laid out in the sun for drying.


It is an advantage to have equal pieces for brewing, different size gives different brewing time. A hammer is not a suitable tool for the purpose.

To open a Pu-erh cake, suitably use a Pu-erh knife, or any other type of blade.

On the short side of the cake stick in the knife. A few inches further away, stick in the knife again and repeat this until you have the cake in two layers. Now it is easier to break loose whole pieces without the use of violence and too much crumbles.

© House of Tea in Sweden AB - 2018