Not your typical cup of tea, pu-erh tea is an ancient brew known for boosting mental alertness and used in traditional medicine to lower cholesterol and protect the heart.
In today’s Try it Tuesday, I’m sharing my first sip of pu-erh tea. Never heard of it? That was me until a few months ago when I started researching traditional butter tea for an article I was writing for Food & Nutrition magazine. Like other teas and fermented foods, pu-erh tea seems to be gaining popularity, so I thought I’d give the trend a try.
What is it? Native to the Yunnan province of China, pu-erh tea (pronounced poo-air) is a fermented and aged black tea. It’s known for its distinctive flavor and potential healing benefits. Pu-erh tea has been traditionally used as an energy booster, for weight loss, to lower cholesterol and to protect the heart. Because of it’s high caffeine content, it does help boost mental alertness and cognitive capacity but there’s not enough evidence to support the other claims. Interestingly, pu-erh tea contains small amounts of the chemical, lovastatin which in animal studies suggests that pu-erh tea can help lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol which can improve heart health.
Having tea is one of my favorite morning rituals. I love to hold my mug close and take in the invigorating aroma of hot tea in the morning. Here’s how my first sip or pu-erh went down…
First whiff: It’s not at all floral as I’ve come to expect from tea. It smelled a little funky in fact.
First sip: It’s a totally different flavor than any other tea I’ve experienced. It’s smooth yet complex. It’s earthy. I’d even call it malty. It’s different. Just funky enough to turn me off a bit (Keep reading. I learned why.).
To finish my cup, I may have ruined the regality of the tea by adding a bit of sweetened cream. But by my calculation it was only a 30 calorie drink.
Since my first taste of pu-erh tea, I’ve done more research. I’ve learned that the funky flavor is likely due to poor quality tea. As with any tea, it appears that pu-erh tea quality is paramount for optimal flavor and health benefits. So, I will give it another shot and hopefully find one I enjoy. (I won’t mention the brand but I paid $9 for the equivalent of 15 cups of tea. Not cheap in my book.)
Bottom Line: If you are a tea connoisseur or a fan of sometimes funky, fermented drinks – go for it! You’ll love the truly ancient flavor of pur-ehh tea.