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Once upon a time there was tea. It was black – for the most part. It was a time, here in the West, when tea and black tea were nearly synonymous. But in the last decade or so it’s green tea that’s grabbed the overwhelming share of attention.

With the popularity of green tea there’s also been a search for the next big thing in tea – a search that has turned up the likes of white tea, oolong, and even puerh. The latter is a type of tea that’s not known to most people and isn’t even known to many tea drinkers.

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

The super-condensed version of what puerh is: a type of tea that’s produced in Yunnan, China, and that’s notable for being fermented after the processing stages. If you do even a cursory scan of the web, you could be forgiven for believing that puerh is something of a magic elixir brimming over with health benefits.

What you’ll also notice is that a lot of those making claims for puerh seem to have a horse in the race, as the saying goes. Which is to say a lot of the claims for puerh’s benefits come from merchants who are keen to sell you…puerh tea. Which is an easy enough claim to make about a type of tea that’s considered to be rather exotic.

But is there any truth to the health claims made for puerh tea? This is no place for an in-depth study, but we’ll look at a few of them. Though it’s also worth considering whether any benefits said to arise from puerh have to do with puerh specifically or tea in general.

As the popular Dr. Andrew Weil notes at his web site, some of the claims made for puerh are “promotion of weight loss, reduction of serum cholesterol, and cardiovascular protection.” However, he goes on to claim, “not many scientific studies exist on pu-erh tea, so we don’t know how valid these health claims are. Some research suggests that pu-erh may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk, but this hasn’t been confirmed in humans.” An article at one major city paper echoes some of these claims and references a 2009 Chinese study that indicates that puerh lowers cholesterol. It also points to a 2011 study that suggests that puerh can inhibit tumor growth.

As for those claims regarding puerh and weight loss, there are actually several studies that have looked at this topic. All were carried out by Chinese researchers, not surprisingly. This one used rats as subjects and suggested that puerh might have some benefits with regard to weight loss and cholesterol reduction.

This study used puerh extract and human subjects and claimed a slight reduction in weight over a three-month period, but no significant reduction in cholesterol. Here’s a study that summarizes “current progress on understanding the mechanisms and bioactive components of Pu-erh’s weight-cutting effects as well as highlighting current weaknesses in the field.” Last up, a study that compares antioxidant content of puerh and various other teas and finds that it compares favorably.

Which is just a brief look at a topic that probably merits a closer look. It also merits at least a tiny bit of healthy skepticism. But that’s probably true any time health claims are being made for foods or beverages.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

C Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There are black teas (what many in the world call “red tea”), green teas, white teas, rarer yellow teas, purple teas, hundreds of oolong teas … and then there’s pu-erh. Strange. Mysterious. Off-putting. But, as with anything new to you, starting out is easy – just take that first step. Here is a pu-erh (or two) that can get you started. But first, a little about what pu-erh tea is.

Don’t let the dark color fool you. The tea has no bitterness or astringency and can be drank as is or with sweetener – even milk! (Photos by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Don’t let the dark color fool you. The tea has no bitterness or astringency and can be drank as is or with sweetener – even milk! (Photos by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The Basics of Pu-erh

This is strictly bare-bones information. Just enough to give you an overall understanding of this style of tea. The tea leaves are those from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) and tend to be of a more sturdy nature (but not always). They are grown in the Yunnan Province of China (the regions of Simao, Xishuangbanna, Boshan, and Lincang). There are white, green, and black pu-erhs, described as follows:

  • White Pu-erh – This is called “bud” and “silver tips” pu-erh and is made entirely from the highest quality uppermost tender buds of the tea plant gathered exclusively by hand in Spring.
  • Green Pu-erh – This is called “raw,” “uncooked,” or “sheng” pu-erh. There is a young version that has not completely fermented and an aged version that has undergone a complete fermentation through dry storage, usually for 5 years or more.
  • Black Pu-erh – This is the true “black tea” (aka “shou,” “ripe,” or “cooked” pu-erh) and dates from the 1970s. It is a way to mimic aged green pu-erh to meet market demand. The most important difference is Wo Dui (a Chinese fermentation process used for this style of tea) where temperatures are strictly controlled and humidity is kept high to break down the natural structure of young tea leaves to remove bitterness and unwanted flavors.

Still with me? Good. At this point, I would say that which of these you start out with would depend on your overall tea preferences. If you drink mostly regular green tea, then go for a green pu-erh with a few years of aging to remove some of the bitterness, for example. However, being of a more…uh, well, not really pushy…more like “helpful” nature, I can’t resist passing along the recommendations below.

A Pu-erh to Start You Out

My first recommendation is that you start with a loose version of pu-erh, not the kind pressed into cakes (beengs), bricks, or mini cakes (“tuochas”). Otherwise you might quickly get frustrated by trying to chop some off to put in your steeping vessel (often a gaiwan or Yixing teapot – see more info on these in my articles: part 1, part 2, and part 3). The other benefit is that you get to play around with blending the loose tea with other loose teas you may have on hand. Keemun and Assam are a couple of black teas to try blending with the pu-erh. It will reduce what some find to be the unpleasant side of pu-erh – what they call that “dirt” taste.

One to try: Golden Pu-erh Loose Leaf Tea is aged for 5 years deep in the mountain caves of Yunnan, China. The flavor has musty, elemental notes. The leaves have a wonderful aroma that is earthy yet sweet, very nice. The instructions say to steep 2-10 minutes in water that has been brought to a rolling boil. I recommend starting with 2 minutes, adding 30 seconds for each subsequent infusion of the tea leaves (you can infuse the leaves several times). The first infusion will be fairly light, with the following infusions being darker, a bit earthy, and yet caramelly without bitterness.

If you’re really adventurous, you might try my own recipe for a chocolaty version of this tea: Tea Experiment — “Mocha” Pu-erh.

There is also a version of this tea with caramel added to enhance the natural caramelly flavor. See my review.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I can’t recall who introduced me to the idea that there are people who allegedly have “more money than sense.” But it was a phrase that came to mind, some months back, when I wrote an article that examined (and questioned) the notion of paying $1,000 for a cup of tea.

I should note that I’m never one to rant against the notion of expensive tea – at least not in theory. In fact, in these very pages, I have often encouraged the noble reader not to skimp on their tea spending and I have attempted to explain that when you break down the economics of an expensive tea it might not be as expensive as you thought.

It’s a good bet that you’re not going to gets Rolls Royce tea at a Chevette price. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that expensive tea is great – or even good – tea and there might occasionally be vendors who will try to pass off Chevette tea at Rolls Royce prices. But I’m digressing just a bit, as this article is primarily intended to focus on $1 million tea.

Million Dollar Tea (screen capture from site)

Million Dollar Tea (screen capture from site)

If you do the math, you might conclude that if I was out of sorts about $1,000 tea then I’d be 1,000 times as out of sorts about $1 million tea. But it’s not quite that simple. As this recent article notes, the tea in question is a compressed “brick” that dates back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Which means that it has some historical interest, regardless of whether or not the purchaser bought it to drink.

Which is a fair enough assumption, actually, although the article doesn’t weigh in on whether the buyer is planning to drink it. I don’t claim any expertise in puerh, but certain types of this tea do improve with age and so this one could theoretically be quite a find. Whether it’s worth the $1.24 million that the new owner plunked down is anybody’s guess.

Going back to the economics of tea again, let’s speculate that said brick weighs a pound (the weight wasn’t mentioned). Let’s further assume two steeps of the leaves per serving, which is conservative for many puerh drinkers. That would result in about 400 cups of tea. Which is still about $3,100 per cup. Which seems like a lot more than any tea could possibly be worth.

But if the new owner would like to shave off a small sample and send it my way I’d be glad to give it a try.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pu-erh tea disc – rounded on one side and indented on the other

Pu-erh tea disc – rounded on one side and indented on the other

Just as there is a wide difference between bagged teas, the variety of pu-erh (puer, pu’er) tea cakes on the market is fairly astounding. Considering that some pu-erhs are considered collectibles, fakery has also come about. Knowing what to look for and how to make your selection is more important than ever.

Type of Tea Used in Pu-erh Cakes

Green. Black. White. Raw. Cooked. Uncooked. Whatever way they’re prepared, the leaves are those from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) and grown in the Yunnan Province of China (the regions of Simao, Xishuangbanna, Boshan, and Lincang) and can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD). Over the years pu-erh has been traded and used in bartering for goods, with the best being reserved for the Chinese Emperor. The popularity and high prices of older pu-erhs has resulted in truckloads of cheap green teas from nearby provinces being sneaked into the Yunnan area to be processed into tea cakes and sold as pu-erhs. The inferior quality of the tea leaves, though, results in a decidedly inferior tea.

Some Pu-erh Tea Cake Shapes

It’s not a rotted pumpkin. It’s a pu-erh tea cake!

It’s not a rotted pumpkin. It’s a pu-erh tea cake!

It seems that the most common pu-erh tea cake shape is a disc about the same size as a frisbee. These are usually slightly rounded on the “top” side and have an indent on the “back” side. They are wrapped in paper in a neat pattern that fits the round shape, with the paper ends being tucked into that indent. Each tea vendor has their own printed labels and will mark on that label the year the cake was created.

Other popular shapes are bing (beeng) chas, tuochas, mushrooms, and bricks. You can also buy pu-erh in loose form, though some experts claim the flavor lacks the distinctive quality for which pu-erhs are known. There are also some that to me look like pumpkins or melons and others shaped into balls between the size of a baseball and a volleyball.

Brick tea cakes designs

Brick tea cakes designs

Some Things to Look Out for

Check the wrapping to make sure it is intact before you open it. Since the tea leaves are steamed and then pressed into the cake and brick shapes, mold (in the form of odd, discolored spots and downy or furry coatings) is a key issue. Insect infestations are another common problem, and are evidenced by small holes or big cracks with fine dust particles in them. Both issues are caused by improper storage. The smell of bad pu-erh tea is usually moldy, rotten, and pungent with a sour undertone and off taste notes.

Older tea cakes may be naturally loose due to high oxidation and expansion of internal air pockets. The fake tea cakes that are supposed to be older may appear old but will be hard and compact. True older cakes will pry apart easily.

Pu-erh cakes are so special that they are often displayed in shop windows and on vendor sites on stands

Pu-erh cakes are so special that they are often displayed in shop windows and on vendor sites on stands

Another issue shows up after steeping some of the leaves. Look for signs of decomposition resulting from high levels of bacteria that cause rapid decay. Also, the taste of a true pu-erh tea cake will be complex, ranging from lightly floral, heather, fruity, and honey-like to leather, harsh peat, tobacco, organics, wood, grass, and deep earth.

Award-winning Designs

Pu-erh has been around awhile, so you wouldn’t think there’d be all that much new when it comes to tea cake shapes and packaging, right? Well, actually, a tea vendor recently won several awards at the World Tea Expo for just that. They were judged “Best New Product 2012” for tea cakes shaped and wrapped like chocolate candy bars where you can snap off a single-serving section of tea leaves, and for tea balls (about 1” in diameter) in a bamboo canister, and finally for single-serving size discs in what looks like a Tootsie Roll wrapper. The innovation never ends!

Bottom Line

More and more, loose versions of Pu-erhs are available.

More and more, loose versions of Pu-erhs are available.

Yes, pu-erh tea cakes are not created equal, but with the right knowledge, you can make a wise choice!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pu-erh is one of those teas that can take multiple infusions and is often infused in smaller amounts. A lot of pu-erh is sold in large cakes where you have to break off a chunk to steep it. Some is sold in mini cakes (“tuochas”), which are sized about right for a small pot of tea. Recently, though, pu-erh has become available loose and even in teabags. For many of you, buying pu-erh loose in a pouch or tin may not seem kosher. However, the era of buying big cakes may be fading, especially as pu-erh gets more known and liked among tea drinkers — both veterans and newbies alike.

Golden Pu-erh Tea

Golden Pu-erh Tea

I’ve been taking a pretty unorthodox approach to pu-erh, steeping longer than usual times, adding in cocoa powder, etc. So, steeping a loose pu-erh is right up my alley. Golden Pu-erh Loose Leaf Tea is one I tried a few months ago, with satisfying results.

We opened the wonderful plastic pouch and took a moment to smell the tea leaves, which were large pieces and had an aroma that was earthy yet sweet, not the damp half-composted leaves on the forest floor aroma of some other pu-erhs we have tried (not a bad aroma – just pointing out that this one is different).

Some people do a quick rinse of the leaves (about 30 seconds) and then dump out the liquid, but we chose not to. This meant that the first steep was more of a preparatory steep but was still drinkable. The liquid color was a dark reddish brown with an aroma that was earthy yet caramelly and a taste that was smooth and earthy with no bitterness. The second steep was the best, with a richness that the first one didn’t have yet still smooth and free of bitterness. The third and fourth steeps were both lighter overall, with the third having a gritty quality to the flavor (though not to the mouth feel) and the fourth being pretty faint in both color and flavor.

Not a bad yield, and one that makes the price per cup quite reasonable (18.75 cents per cupful as of the writing of this article).

Be wild. Be experimental. Go for some Golden Pu-erh!

See also:
The Mysterious World of Aged Pu-erh Tea
The Possibilities of Young Pu-erh Tea
Tea Experiment — “Mocha” Pu-erh
Pu-erh Roundup
A Touch of Pu-erh
Review — The English Tea Store’s Scottish Caramel Coffee Pu-Erh
Pu-erh Tea

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh

Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh

Name: Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: Pu-erh, flavored

Form: Loose leaf

Review: I do confess that I don’t normally think of Scotland and pu-erh as having any sort of natural connection to each other, though perhaps that is due to a lack of imagination on my part. I’m glad, though, that someone was creative enough to create this blend of toffee pieces and shou (ripe) pu-erh tea, which I find very tasty indeed. The tea is priced right and can be infused more than once, making it a very good value indeed.

This isn’t a particularly sophisticated flavored tea and it doesn’t have a lot of depth or complexity. It is, however, an inspired flavor combination (kind of like peanut butter and chocolate). As the English Tea Store notes in its product description, the earthiness of pu-erh is actually a good match to the sweetness of toffee. The liquor is very dark brown, as is typical for a shou pu-erh, and medium bodied. For many people, this might be an acceptable coffee alternative, particularly if they are partial to flavored coffees.

Preparation Tips: I recommend 1.5 teaspoons of leaf to eight ounces of boiling water. A three minute steep worked well for me, but if you like a more aggressive flavor, up the steep time to five minutes. It tastes plenty sweet to me, but you may want to add some additional sweetening, as well as a bit of  milk, for a more decadent cup. Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-Erh is also good for more than one steep: I’d recommend upping the steep time 1-2 minutes for each successive infusion.

Serving Tips:  There is no reason to serve this with food: It is flavorful enough on its own and would probably conflict with the flavor of most foodstuffs anyway. Save this tea for dessert or as a substitute for  a sweet breakfast pastry.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sticky Fingers Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix

Sticky Fingers Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix

Another trip around the sun, another Summer winding down, and another occasion to celebrate with tea: the Autumnal Equinox rolls around once more.

For those of you who don’t pay a lot of attention to the various phases of our journey through this solar system, I’ll give a brief rundown of what “Autumnal Equinox” is. (Those of you who already know this can skip to the next paragraph.) “Equinox” means equal. “Autumnal” means Autumn. Duh! Seriously, since our planet’s Equator (that imaginary line around the center of our globe) “tilts” so that we don’t directly face the sun, our days get shorter and longer (with our nights getting longer and shorter). At the Equinox, night hours and day hours are exactly 12 each. The Autumnal Equinox marks when the days start getting shorter and the nights longer (here in the Northern Hemisphere). With that in mind, let’s see how you can mark the occasion with tea.

Loose Organic Ceylon Tea

Loose Organic Ceylon Tea

Shorter daylight hours means cooler temperatures, so all you iced tea fans might want to switch over to hot tea. Those of us who drink hot tea year round will be looking into some of the more “robust” tasting teas such as a malty Assam, a spicy Yunnan, the lightly smoky Keemun, or a basic black Ceylon. Don’t forget pu-erhs and Kenyans. Blends that contain any combination of these are also good choices. Or you could go for some spiced teas (often simply called “chais” here in the U.S. even though “chai” means “tea”) that have spices and flavors we tend to associate with Autumn here: cinnamon, apple, pumpkin, etc. (so far, I haven’t come across a corn flavored tea, even though corn is harvested this time of year).

This brings to mind foods that can be part of your tea time, including apple pie, pumpkin pie/scones/bread (or even all three), pecan tarts, cornbread with butter and honey (yum!), the list goes on and on.

In many school districts, kids are already back in school so you moms and/or dads who are at home during the day can have a self-pampering tea time. Light a scented candle, bake up some goodies, steep up your fave robust-tasting tea and say “Farewell” to another Summer.

Enjoy!

See also:
An Autumn Cup of Tea
Spicing Up Your Autumn Teatime
Fall Is Just Around the Corner
Yes, It’s Fall Teatime Again
Harvest Time Hurrahs!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pu-erh seems to be one of those love ’em or leave ’em teas. Some people say they taste like dirt. Other consider them heavenly. They can be purchased in cakes to enjoy now or to store in a safe place to age and improve over time. They also come in bricks and tuochas (little bird’s nests). More tea vendors have begun selling them loose in a pouch or tin or even in traditional teabags and sachets.

A cuppa with a touch of pu-erh

A cuppa with a touch of pu-erh

The good thing about the loose version is that you get to play around with blending them with other loose teas you may have on hand. Mine was, so I did.

Recently, I discovered that some pu-erh leftover from a sample pack went well with another tea blend (Keemun and Assam) I had. The leaf piece sizes were about the same, and both were fully-oxidized (that is, “black”) teas. That means both could take the same water temperature. While the kettle was coming to a boil, I mixed some of each tea type and put them in the pot to steep.

There was a voice in my head going, “What are you doing? You love that black tea blend. You’re gonna muck it up by adding some pu-erh? What if you don’t like it?” I found myself answering, “Well, I like that pu-erh, too, so if I add a touch of it to this black tea, what’s the risk? Besides, a bit of risk can be a good thing. We get a lot of new inventions that way.” And that voice says, “Like what?” But then the water in the kettle was boiling, so I had to pour and put the lid on the pot for the steeping. I set the timer for six minutes and began reflecting back over those fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants inventors responsible for some of the marvels we take for granted now.

Probably the biggest is the taming and controlling of electricity, then learning how to purposely generate and store it. This comes to mind in large part because my stove is electric and because of the increasing popularity of electric kettles. I think of Benjamin Franklin flying his kite in an electrical storm, and of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla with their competing theories of how best to generate and distribute electricity to brighten homes and improve lives. (Edison won out.)

Meanwhile, my tea had steeped and the great moment of truth had arrived. I poured a cuppa. It was dark brown in color and looked like coffee. I inhaled the aroma. The pu-erh character was definitely there but not so strong that you’d think you were in some primeval forest (one where the leaves lie thick between the tree trunks and, thanks to the sweet drops of rain they have soaked up through decades and possibly centuries, exude the aroma of their gentle decay that turns them into soil). I take a sip. The pu-erh flavor is there, too. But again not so overly strong, more like the breeze blowing through that forest and gathering up molecules of decaying leaf scent to carry along. In other words, it was great!

Time to try it with a bit of milk and some sweetener. Again, fabulous with a smoothness combining with the pu-erh flavor and that black tea blend. Rich and satisfying, each sip was a real treat. The risk paid off.

Do you have some pu-erh lying around, maybe some that a well-meaning friend gave you? Try mixing it with another black tea. It will add a nice touch to your cup — that pu-erh touch!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh Tea

Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh Tea

I was having a twitter conversation with a dear tea friend recently,and I was mortified to hear they didn’t have a positive experience in a UK tearoom. As I had written, “what to look for in a good tearoom” in a previous post, I felt a strong urge to put the kettle on and reminisce about some of the great experiences I’ve had growing up in the UK.

(Kettle on: let’s begin).  Tearoom conjures up so many different images to different people so let me start with an explanation by Wikipedia, which states that “A tea house or tearoom is a venue centered on drinking tea.” For some, this could be a Victorian style offering Afternoon Tea or High Tea; for others, this could be a place that sells purely tea and teawares; and for still others, it’s a place offering teas and light snacks.

In this post, I thought I would talk about two tearooms I’ve visited often in London, starting with Postcard Teas. If you log on to Twitter you’ll see some of their wonderful collection of teas on display. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tim d’Offay, and it’s always a delight to speak with him, as I often leave his tearoom having learned something new. When you enter his tearoom, the way the teas and teawares are beautifully displayed makes you feel you’re in a modern art gallery. It really is serene!! Many people go to London for the shopping, and Postcard Teas is conveniently located very near to Bond Street — home to some of the most expensive designer shops in London. In keeping with the upmarket area, Tim sources a range of great teas himself.  You’ll know exactly the name of the estate and place of production of each and every tea, which is not a statement that many tea companies can proudly proclaim.   The range and quality of the teas are just exquisite, and I can’t wait to go back to London to try more of his teas.

Old Bond Street Mall in London, UK

Old Bond Street Mall in London, UK

(Kettle brewed to the correct temperature for Pu’erh, and now onto the tea making).

The next tearoom is located by another great tourist spot: St. Paul’s Cathedral and as well as having a large range of teas, they also have a selection of breakfast and light lunches on offer, too.  When I lived in London, I would often arrange my lunch meetings there — a cup of tea, a freshly made sandwich or salad and maybe scone with jam and cream if I’m feeling particularly naughty.  What I love about this place is the fun-aspect to their tea categories: serenitea; tranquilitea, activitea — I think you get the picture. :)  We Are Tea is a great place to start your tea journey, as their tea selection is easily accessible to novice drinkers and can also keep the seasoned drinker interested.  You can also follow their developments on Twitter.

The article was written with a lovely brewed cup of Pu’erh tea for inspiration.

Editor’s note: You don’t have to travel to London to get great teas that suit both a British and American palate!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

Pu-erh can be a controversial tea: Many tea lovers are confused (at best) about how it is made, fraud in the sale of pu-erh remains a concern, and more than a few people simply don’t care for the stuff. I’m a pu-erh fan going back to my earliest days of tea drinking, but do admit that it is often an acquired taste, sometimes made more difficult by a lot of the intrigue that surrounds it. Pu-erh is made from tea leaves grown in China’s Yunnan Province, and is processed differently from other teas. Raw or “sheng” pu-erh is made from large tea leaves are often packed into cakes, nests and bricks, which are then aged, giving the tea a unique flavor. “Ripe” or “shou” pu-erh (also known as “cooked” pu-erh) undergoes a special process that simulates aging. Both varieties are enjoyed by many people, though pu-erh aficionados and purists have a definite bias toward sheng pu-erh.

Interested in trying this mysterious tea? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t Oversteep Pu-Erh: Many people who dislike pu-erh do so because they oversteeped the stuff. Pu-erh is often strongly flavored and, frankly, doesn’t taste much like “normal” tea. I recommend starting out brewing pu-erh in short steeps, so that you can taste its sweetness and earthy notes without feeling like you steeped into a barnyard.
  • Do Try Flavored Pu-Erh: Don’t get me wrong: I am still an advocate of plain, unflavored teas. But pu-erh can be an interesting base for chocolate orcaramel flavors, often resulting in a flavored tea with more depth than those prepared with a standard black tea.
  • Be a Skeptic: Ask questions about the pu-erh that you buy, particularly if the vendor makes a lot of claims about its pedigree. There are plenty of tasty, inexpensive pu-erhs on the market, so take your time in selecting a merchant of collection-quality pu-erh.
  • Hang on to Pu-Erh: Most teas taste better when fresh, but pu-erh can age over time. If you find a pu-erh that you like, hold on to at least some of it. Then break some of it out every year to see how its flavors have changed.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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