Pu Erh – A step into the unkown.

When I began writing this blog I had a rough plan for how the different sections and tea varieties would be separated.  In my mind there were three types of tea; black, green and white and my blog posts would be nicely divided between them.

I was wrong. There are two more types of tea which I knew next to nothing about.  There’s Oolong, a tea I had heard of but never tasted, and Pu Erh, a tea I had never heard of and certainly never tasted.  Even the pronunciation was a complete unknown, in the end I settled for a kind of Northern sounding statement of mock fanciness (think ooh err). I’m sure I’m wrong but I’m sticking with it!

pu erh packet

So on to the tea.  After a bit of reading I learned that Pu Erh is quite different to all the other types of tea.  The tea leaves are fermented and aged to make what the Chinese call a black tea, (not the same as what Westerners call a black tea, confusing I know) which gives the tea a much richer and, fuller taste.  It’s known for it’s earthiness or what I frequently describe as tea-y flavour, and has a deep red as its distinct, trademark colour.

The exact tea I was sampling was another from Adagio called Pu Erh Hazelberry.  It had a base of Pu Erh but then had added flavours of hazelnut and top notes of strawberry.  On opening the pack the scent that met me was an unexpected blend of rich earthiness and sweetness from the strawberry.  It didn’t excite as much as some of the previous tea scents from my tea adventures but, undeterred, I pressed on.

Apart from being bamboozled by processes of oxidization and fermentation, my frankly far too brief research into the best practice for drinking Pu Erh tea proved fruitless.  So, undeterred, I steeped the leaves for four or five minutes and added my default spot of milk.  I know that brewing times are meant to be slightly more precise but my cat, Alfie, was in play mode and I got a little distracted.

pu erh cup and infuser (3)

On first taste, I quite enjoyed it.  The rich base notes had a warm, woodiness to them with the sweet strawberry finish taking the edge off it slightly.  As I continued to drink though, the sweetness seemed to almost dominate and became much more the primary flavour.  I found it a slightly confusing taste experience, not having sampled anything with this complex flavour combination before.  Not entirely unlikeable, but not the most pleasant either. I couldn’t help but think that maybe a fruit tea fan would enjoy this a lot more than I was doing.

Simply put, I don’t think this is the tea for me.  This hasn’t put me off ordering more of the previously unknown Pu Erh tea group though as it was the inclusion of the strawberry that brought on my indifference to it.  Maybe it’s my uncultured tea palette which is lacking the necessary tasting skills, or maybe I should have paid more attention to making my tea right instead of playing with my cat.  Whatever the reason though, next time I think it’ll be a plain, unadulterated Pu Erh tea on the sampling menu.

Have you tried Pu Erh? Do you have any advice or recommendations for me? Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. pinkiebag says:

    Gosh this tea seems lovely the way you describe the woodiness followed by the strawberry makes me want to google it and buy some. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
    http://pinkiebag.com/

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    1. Rory says:

      It would definitely be worth trying as it’s unlike anything I’ve had before.

      Looking at your site I can see that you’re a big tea fan too. I was wondering what you do in terms of milk? Do you drink your tea without or use a substitute?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinkiebag says:

        Hi. I am a big tea fan. I have a dairy allergy and have all my tea milk free. I can’t bring myself to try alternative milks in tea which I know may seem a little strange.
        http://pinkiebag.com/

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      2. Rory says:

        I can understand that, I went through a time of thinking I might be lactose intolerant so I was drinking tea with almond milk. I can’t say I enjoyed the taste too much!

        I suppose drinking tea without any milk means you’ll get to experience the full flavour of the tea!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That pronunciation guide’s just about spot on!

    Pu-erh can be maddeningly hard to wrap your head around when you first encounter it.

    There’s the initial sub-classifications of “raw” (naturally aged, can take up to 20 years to mature properly) and “ripe/cooked” (accelerated fermentation – about 2 months or so). A lot of purists won’t touch the ripe/cooked stuff with the proverbial, and a good year from a renowned plantation can go for serious brass.

    Have a look in any half decent Chinese supermarket – they should sell loose leaf “ripe” Pu-erh. The one I buy costs about 3 quid or thereabouts for 200g, which is quite economical as it easily handles 3 steepings no trouble.

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  3. Rory says:

    Again I can see that I’ve barely scratched the surface with this type of tea. I’ll have to work my way through the different processes and see how they differ.

    Checking out Chinese supermarkets sounds like a very good suggestion for some well priced teas. I’ll have a look in Liverpool and Manchester and see what I can find.

    Thanks for all the advice!

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  4. Welcome to the wonderful world of puerh (and tea blogging)! I’d definitely suggest trying some unflavored versions so that you can see what it’s really like. Mandala Tea and Yunnan Sourcing are a great place to start. They have approachable teas and aren’t super expensive. The type that you tried here is what is known as shou, or cooked puerh. It undergoes a fermentation process that makes it very dark and earthy tasting. There is also a type known as sheng, or raw puerh. Fermention occurs but it happens naturally over time. The flavor reminds me more of an extremely strong green tea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rory says:

      Hi Nicole, thank you for the advice. I’ll make sure I check out the places you mentioned as I would definitely like to try an unflavoured puerh. It seems as though this type of tea has so many varieties that need exploring, I’m looking forward to trying some more.

      Do you have a preference when it comes to the type of puerh?

      I’m looking forward to having a good read of your site, there’s so much inspiration to be taken from all of your posts!

      Like

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