Good morning, friends! I write to you today in hopes that you are all having a wonderful week and to remind you that you are already more than half way through! Today, I want to detail one of our teas that has an interesting history, is often overlooked, and most importantly, is absolutely delicious! In this post we will be highlighting our Pu-Erh tea!
Pu-Erh, pronounced 'poo-air', is often mistaken for a black tea. Heck, we even categorize it on our website as such! This is as it proves the closest type of tea that our Pu-Erh is akin to. Pu-Erh tea is actually its own breed which hails from the Yunnan region of China. It is high in caffeine and regularly enjoyed with a bit of honey or sugar to bring a bit of sweetness. It is a fully fermented tisane blend in which yeast naturally occurs. Due to the presence of this yeast, fermentation occurs at an accelerated pace which results in full, deep, dark, and earthy flavor that is an instant favorite to so many sippers. Similar to our Roasted Yerba Mate, Pu-Erh is a tea that we recommend to transitional coffee drinkers. Its rich, heady, toasted flavors often remind those trying to switch over of the tones present in coffee. While this is hopefully enough to peak your interest to even, perhaps, try a sample of Pu-erh, the history behind this tea even more so attests to its prominence in the tea world. Let's dive in.
As mentioned, Pu-Erh is grown and harvested in the Yunnan region of China. It was originally traded in markets of the Pu-Erh County then transported by horses and mules along what came to be known as the Tea Horse Roads back to respective towns. The increasing demand for a tea that could be easily transported and did not spoil on long journeys sent suppliers on a frenzy to come up with ways to preserve the tea. Pu-Erh became an especially popular blend as, differently from most other teas, and more similarly to the agings of wine or cheese, Pu-Erh tea only improved in flavor with time. It was found that with the fermentation of the leaves, the tea not only kept fresh but it actually, as mentioned, improved with age. People soon discovered that Pu-erh also helped with digestion, provided other nutrients to their diet, and because it was so affordable, it quickly became a popular household amenity. Pu-erh tea was highly prized and it became a powerful tool for bartering amongst traveling merchants. It became so popular that merchants and travelers needed a better, more efficient way to store, transport, and exchange it. This led to the development of what we know as Pu-Erh cakes. Our store owner, Susan, is the proud owner of one of these cakes (pictured below).
These Pu-Erh cakes came to be used regularly as a form of currency. Individuals could use them in markets, stores, or almost anywhere to trade for goods or other services they may require. Although you cannot see this on Susan's wrapper, each wrapper usually portrayed numbers as well. These numbers denoted the year in which the cake was produced, the size of the leaves that comprised this specific cake, and the last number let you know which factory produced this tea cake as only a handful dominated the industry. The value of each cake depended on its size, age, and which size leaf it incorporated. While you, I'm sure, are familiar with goods being traded amongst one another throughout history, Pu-Erh cakes in particular became widely used and prized throughout China for their value. As they are no longer used for such things as currency or in trading, and simply enjoyed as tea, the cakes have become artifacts and are of increasing value depending upon their age. These works of art are still regularly produced, but nowadays, are more so just enjoyed for their intended purpose, in the comfort of your cup.
When I expressed interest in this tea specifically, and Susan brought out her tea cake to show me, she also recommended a book called "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" by Lisa See. This book talks in depth of the harvesting, trade, and making of Pu-Erh cakes, all the while, incorporating a very captivating story. It tells of a girl from a small village in the Yunnan region and how she grew up in this culture of Pu-Erh tea, came to love it, and how followed her and affected her throughout different stages of her life. I loved this book and found it was one of those books that was hard to put down (although, I will warn you, it is a bit of a slow starter). I highly recommend it and for those of you who are local, I know our own Wood Library has it in now as I recently returned it! Head over now and snag it!
If you love Pu-Erh already, get a chance to read this book, or have any other facts about this delicious tea that you would like to share, please don't hesitate to contact us at email@example.com! I absolutely love hearing from you all and reading emails on comments that you have. I hope that you have a wonderful rest of your week and enjoy the weekend! I am headed to Boston and I'm sure will have some tea stories for you next week after I walk along the harbor! Happy sipping! - Kaytea :)
P.S. If you already love Pu-Erh, but are looking for a fun, sweeter variation, definitely try our Scottish Caramel Pu-Erh tea! Watch one our favorite customers and her son review it below!