Pu-erh Tea is the class of tea that is fermented to a certain extent. Pu-erh Tea gets its name from the market of the city of Pu-erh, in Yunnan Province, China, where this tea was historically brought for sale from the more remote regions of the countryside where the tea is actually grown and processed.
Authentic Pu-erh are made with Yunnan’s famous broad-leaf tea tree varietals.
There are two types of Pu-erh: Raw Pu-erh and Cooked (or “Ripe”) Pu-erh.
Often Pu-erh teas are referred to as aged teas. This is because, unlike white, green, yellow, black, and most oolong teas, which are highly perishable and have a short shelf life, well-made pu-erh teas may be stored and aged for years of enjoyment. Also, unlike other teas, Pu-erh teas are usually exposed to a fermentation process.
Both types of Pu-erh Tea (Raw and Cooked) are made with Sai qing “sun-cured green tea,” which is processed by withering, roasting, rolling, kneading and drying the leaves in the sun.
This is how Raw Pu-erh is made: After it is processed as Sai Qing, the tea leaves can either be left loose or compressed into shapes. At this point the tea may either be consumed in this “raw” green/semi-green form, or properly stored for aging, (which means the tea will be subject to further oxidation and to fermentation).
This is how Cooked (or “ripened”) Pu-erh Tea is made: It is subjected to a transformation through natural fermentation. After the tealeaves have been processed as Sai qing, they are intentionally fermented in piles by adding purified water and mixing the tealeaves in a well-ventilated, climate and temperature controlled room. This process is similar to composting.
Once the desired fermentation is complete, the tea is sorted, graded, and then processed as either loose pu-erh or it can be compressed into shapes (like tea bricks or tea cakes).
The flavor profile of many pu-erh teas are complex layers of pungent earth, moss, damp wood, with and prevailing sweetness.
Please see the Samovar Pu-erh Teas