IMPERIAL PU'ERH CHINESE BLACK TEA
This month we’re tasting Imperial Pu'erh Chinese Black Tea – a magnificent tea, comparable to a fine, aged wine or whisky. We’re excited to have it on Tea Tasters – it’s a real treat. As you’ll soon discover, it has some of the deepest and most satisfying flavours around.
WHAT IS IT?
Let’s look at Pu'erh to see where it sits among the other teas we’ve already looked at and how they are processed.
White tea, which you’re familiar with from a previous tea class, has simply been dried and is relatively unprocessed.
With black tea, the leaves are cut and then left to oxidise to develop a richer, deeper flavour. (It’s similar to what happens when a cut banana is left exposed to the air – it goes black).
And with green tea, the cut leaves are steamed to kill off the enzymes, stopping them from oxidising. This gives it a light, fresh taste.
Then halfway between a green tea and black tea, we have Oolong, which is semi-fermented. Right on the end of the tea-processing spectrum, we have Pu'erh – it’s oxidised twice and then left to age...
THE ORIGINS OF PU'ERH
Pu'erh is a single origin tea from the Yunnan province of China. This means it is only grown in one place, just like Darjeeling tea is only found in North East India.
The manufacture of Pu'erh is quite complicated and its history is steeped in generations of tea producing families in the Yunnan province.
Historically (and there are some contractions here), Pu'erh would have been made, and available to “all” as it was affordable and could be kept well throughout the year – and its taste would actually continue to improve with time.
However, during the Qing dynasty this tea was worth as much as gold. In today's markets it commands record prices, in fact many thousands of pounds per kilo!
HOW IS IT MADE?
Pu'erh tea comes in many different forms but basically you have ripe and aw Pu'erh.
Raw Pu'erh is initially prepared using ‘maochao’, a type of tea leaf plucked from wild trees, or trees that have been left to go wild. Unlike most teas, which are either loose or in teabags, it’s often made into solid cakes and bricks. Cakes are the most beautiful of the two, coming in lovely circular patterns. Sometimes producers will put a small piece of paper, or their makers mark on them, to indicate where they’re from.
Amazingly, the aged or ripe Pu'erh can be left for anything from 10 to 50 years, fetching record prices on the open market. Raw Pu'erh is slightly more accessible and it’s one that we’re going to have a look at today.
MAKING AND TASTING YOUR TEA
So we have our Pu'erh bricks, cakes and Twinings Pu'erh loose tea that we’re going to taste.
The tea sent to our tea tasters is from our Exquisite Loose Tea range, Imperial Pu'erh black tea. We also sell a fine, boxed loose Pu'erh tea flavoured with lemon. Both are available through our ONLINE TEASHOP.
Put a few spoonfuls in your pot, and then use your tasting crockery. Don’t forget, you can also use a diffuser and cup. We’re pretty sure you will love it.
Pour this into your cup and the first thing you should notice straight away: the colour! It’s absolutely sublime, almost deep crimson or black – you just don’t see anything like it in other teas.
The tea leaves themselves are equally as beautiful. Before they are steeped, they resemble dark cherry wood chippings, and the smell is very, very aromatic - a fruity woodiness to it.
Now grab your tasting spoon and fill it with some of this beautiful liquid. You’ll notice powerful, earthy tones, a wrapping of cherry, and maybe even forest fruits too.
Take time to savour and enjoy this tea because it’s not very often you’ll get to taste a tea like this though your Tea Taster Classes.
If you’re using a pot, don’t worry about over-brewing it. This tea won’t become bitter like other teas might. So, if you’re like us and you want to leave it a little bit longer, you can even give it ten minutes. Pour the tea, take in the colour and relish Pu'erh’s gorgeous, complex character.
And there you have it, Pu'erh tea. We hope you enjoy it!
IMPERIAL PU'ERH CHINESE BLACK TEA VIDEO
This month our fabulous master blender Mark Nicholls talks us through the aromatic Imperial Pu'erh Chinese Black Tea.
Watch now >