Tea of the Week – Pu Erh

I should say before starting: Pu Erh is a whole ‘family’ of teas, not just one tea. (The reason I haven’t put more details in the title of this post is that I can’t make them out – most of the info on the packaging is in Chinese!) The one I’ve got is definitely entry-level. They range hugely in price and quality, and I don’t (yet) know enough about them to say anything much about the good ones.

Pu Erh comes in brick form and also in loose leaf. Mine’s a brick:

Tea brickSource: I bought this from First Class Teas, when they were still operating in Cambridge. I assume the tea is grown/processed in China but don’t really know (I can’t read the characters on the box …)

Cost: I’m afraid I don’t remember. I believe it was £5-£10.

Ethics: No information.

Brewing Instructions: This is where it gets interesting. The directions below are by no means set in stone, but give you the general idea.

Step 1: break off a couple of grams of the tea from the larger brick. You probably want a bluntish knife or something like that to do this with (actually, a knitting needle would probably work really well) – stick it into the brick near the edge, and wiggle around until some of the tea comes loose. Put it in an infuser.

Dry tea in infuserStep 2: wash/rinse the tea – pour boiling water over and leave for 15-30 seconds. Pour this water away.

Tea brewing 1Tea brewing 2

Step 3: brew with hot water, for something like a minute or two.

Step 4: drink.

Step 5: rebrew. As many times as you like. It’s possible to rebrew Pu Erh up to around 10 times (one website I looked up said 15) – you may have to increase the brewing time as things go on.

Appearance: A light, slightly reddish brown:

Tea!Nose: Slight savoury-ness … kind of like the savory scent you get with miso soup. Or like dried Chinese mushrooms. Slightly earthy, maybe. Not at all green.

Taste: This is an interesting tea … somehow it tastes of nothing and tastes full and balanced at the same time. Kind of in the same way as some white tea does. (I don’t know if that makes any sense). It tastes light … and very slightly of … yeah, Chinese dried mushrooms are the best comparison I can come up with. I’m told that the tea can change its flavour somewhat as it is rebrewed, and 3rd-4th brewings can be the best – but I wasn’t dedicated enough to drink 4 cups to write this blog post.

Food match: I found that this went excellently with an apple and blackberry pie. Something about the sweetness of the pie contrasted really well with the flavour of the tea.

Apple and blackberry pie


Pu Erh tea has also been marketed as promoting weight loss. I’m not convinced, but I don’t think anything can particularly go wrong if you drink a lot of it … maybe I’ll try it. Although eating pies like the above alongside it would probably outweigh any potential benefits!

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