What is the difference between Pu-erh tea and Black tea?
Do you love the taste of black tea but want to try something a little different? Pu-erh tea might be just what you're looking for! This type of tea is made from fermented leaves and has a flavor that's earthy and slightly fruity. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between Pu-erh and black tea, as well as some tips on how to brew each one.
Both Pu-erh and black teas are made from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the similarities end there. Black tea is considered to be "fully fermented," while pu-erh can be either "partially fermented" or "non-fermented." These differences in processing lead to important variations in taste and smell between these two types of tea.
Black tea leaves are harvested, withered, and then rolled or twisted to break them down. They're then allowed to ferment in the open air until the desired level of oxidation has occurred. Finally, they're dried with hot air which stops further oxidization. This fermentation process gives black tea its characteristic dark color and robust flavor.
Pu-erh tea leaves come from the same plant and go through a similar process to black tea in the earlier stages of processing, but they're then piled and covered in order to be "compressed," or lightly crushed. This piling and covering process allows for microorganism growth which gives pu-erh its unique flavor.
The oxidation levels of Pu-erh tea can vary, depending on how it's processed after piling and covering. This means that pu-erh can be either "partially fermented" or "non-fermented." Only partially fermented pu-erh is considered to be true tea, while non-fermented pu-erh is considered to be an imitation.
Partially fermented pu-erh undergoes a "wet" fermentation process which can last anywhere from 6 months to several years. The leaves are piled during the early stages of processing, but after the desired microorganism growth has occurred, they're taken out and dried with hot air. This process gives pu-erh its earthy, woodsy flavor.
Non-fermented pu-erh goes through what's referred to as "wet piling." Leaves are piled during the early stages of processing and then not taken out until they're completely fermented due to the microorganisms present on the leaves. The leaves are then dried with hot air. This process gives pu-erh its more pungent, musky flavor.
Tips for Brewing Pu-erh tea
When it comes to preparing Pu-erh tea, you'll want to use around 6 grams of loose leaves (about one teaspoon) for every 100 ml of water. Soak the leaves in boiling water for three minutes and then let it steep for another 3-5 minutes (depending on how strong you want the tea to be).
You should also keep in mind that the quality of Pu-erh is influenced by factors like region, season and even year. For example, spring harvest gives a sweeter flavor than autumn one. Also, higher altitude makes the tea better as it tends to be less bitter and has a fresh taste.
If you're drinking Pu-erh tea for the first time, we suggest that you go with the loose leaf version as opposed to the compressed one as this will allow you to experience all of its flavors.
Tips for Brewing Black tea
Since black tea contains more caffeine than Pu-erh, you should use one teaspoon for every 6 oz. of water. If you're boiling the leaves in a pot, make sure that it's brewed for around 3-5 minutes with water at 190 degrees Fahrenheit before removing it from heat.
However, if you are using an automatic kettle or a stovetop kettle, you should keep the heat at medium and let the water reach 203 degrees Fahrenheit right before steeping.
Black tea tends to be stronger than green or white teas so we suggest that you go for 3 minutes of brewing time as opposed to two (for other types). If you want your black tea to be sweeter, you can also add a teaspoon of sugar or honey.
If you find black tea too strong, you can use the same amount of leaves but reduce the brewing time to one minute instead. If your tea is bitter, try using water that has cooled down for around 3-5 minutes (instead of boiling it) and steeps it for 1 minute only.
Whether you're looking for a new flavor, or just want to try something different, Pu-erh tea is worth trying. It's earthy and slightly fruity with many of the same health benefits as black tea. If you have any questions about how to brew this type of tea please leave them in the comments below!