Tea aficionado and sommelier Pedro Calderon introduces us to the world of exquisite Pu-Erh tea
I’d like to talk to you about fermented teas, which if store well, can be as expensive as a nice bottle of Bordeaux wine.
So, to begin: what is a Pu-Erh tea?
This particular tea is classified as dark tea. It goes through a unique process of fermentation, which thanks to the asper nigelus bacteria, helps improve the flavor over time. It is one of the hardest teas to make because it includes several steps, it can only be made with the assamica variation of the camellia sinensis plant; the leaves must come from Yunnan, China.
There are two types of Pu-Erh: ripe and raw. Usually the raw type is the one that increases in flavor and value, as the ripe one has already been fermented through an acceleration process in which all the wet-dry leaves are piled up and left in a warm and humid place for five days.
This process helps accelerate the fermentation, giving the tea its final flavor within five days, instead of waiting for four years or more, as we do with raw Pu-Erh.
The taste can be similar to tobacco, dust, humidity, and wet soil. A taste that might be weird but when you drink it you will ask yourself, how have you lived without it all this time.
You can get this tea, either as loose leaves or compressed in Pu-Erh cakes. If you want to store your tea, I recommend you follow these simple steps:
1. Keep the tea in an odor-free environment
2. Keep the relative humidity between 60% and 70%
3. Keep a constant flow of fresh air through your storage place
4. Keep the storage area dark
5. Keep the tea covered with a breathable material (fabric, or the original paper wrappers work fine) free from dust
6. Always test the area you plan to store your tea in, with a small amount of tea to save yourself from ruining a large amount of pu-erh
7. Check the progress of your tea often
Remember that a Pu-Erh tea can only be called Pu-Erh, if it comes from the Yunnan region in China, just as champagne can only be champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in France.
Be in peace,
Pablo Calderon. Tea-Sommelier (www.facebook.com/pcteasommelier)