Pu’erh tea, named for the imperial Chinese trading post in which it was trafficked, is a dark, aged tea that originated in the Yunnan province of China. Created through a process of fermentation and oxidation, pu’erh tea is dark in color and often considered “black tea” in its country of origin, although it differs considerably from what Americans tend to consider black tea (in fact, American black tea is known as “red tea” in China).
Somewhat like wine, pu’erh tea is often stored while it ages. Also similar to wine, this type of tea is frequently labeled with the area in which it was produced as well as the year of its production. Many Americans have never heard of pu’erh tea, however, and they aren’t sure what it tastes like or whether there are any benefits to its consumption.
Generally speaking, pu’erh tea is rich in taste and dark in color. It also falls into one of two sub-categories, raw pu’erh tea and ripe pu’erh tea. Many people trying it for the first time prefer the taste of ripe pu’her tea, which is newer to the world and originated in the 1970s, while tea connoisseurs and collectors often prefer it in its raw form. Regardless of format, many people try to compare the taste of pu’erh tea to other types of tea or coffee, but it boasts an intensely unique flavor that is largely incomparable to other hot or cold drinks. Nonetheless, some people equate its rich taste to coffee, while others associate it more with the taste of black or green tea. Most agree that it offers an earthy, somewhat woody flavor. Flavor aside, however, pu’erh tea offers numerous health benefits for the consumer. Here’s a look at some of the more notable pu’erh tea benefits, courtesy of PurMedica Nutritional Science.
1. It’s high in antioxidants.
High in antioxidants, much like black or green teas, this type of tea is shown to be helpful in the treatment of tumors. Studies conducted over the last several years suggest that pu’erh tea can slow the growth of tumors. While this has yet to be tested in humans, scientific evidence suggests a clear connection. Generally speaking, foods and beverages high in antioxidants can have positive effects on prostate, eye and urinary tract health, among other areas, and they are also good for the heart and help reduce one’s likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems and conditions. Antioxidants are also known to have positive effects on the skin and the immune system.
2. It can help lower cholesterol.
A study conducted in 2009 suggests pu’erh tea consumption may help lower cholesterol. In the study involving rats, rats who consumed the beverage experienced a notable decrease in LDL, which is considered the “bad” cholesterol. Additionally, the rats who consumed the tea saw an uptick in HDL cholesterol, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
3. It is believed to help lower obesity.
Most people know that those who are considered obese are at an increased risk for developing a broad number of serious health conditions. In studies conducted by Japanese researchers during the 1980s, rats who drank pu’erh tea experienced a considerable reduction in what’s known as adipose tissue, or body fat. This leads many researchers to believe that the tea would offer similar benefits to humans who consume it.
4. It’s good for those suffering from metabolic syndrome.
Those who suffer from metabolic syndrome, meaning they have a number of risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, will also benefit from pu’erh tea consumption. Researchers at a well-known Chinese university found evidence suggesting that this variety of tea can help lower obesity rates, reduce blood sugar, prevent cholesterol plaque from oxidizing and have positive effects on one’s blood lipids. All of these actions can reduce symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and therefore likely lower one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and associated heart problems.
5. It improves mental alertness.
Like many teas, and particularly, dark varieties, pu’erh tea has caffeine in it. While it isn’t typically the same amount of caffeine found in, say, a cup of coffee, it is often enough to boost energy levels and increase one’s degree of mental alertness and ability to think clearly and succinctly. Many pu’erh tea drinkers also find that they don’t experience a coffee-like “crash” following consumption. Comparatively speaking, pu’erh tea typically contains anywhere from 30 to 70 milligrams of caffeine in a standard eight-ounce cup, while a cup of coffee, on average, offers about 95 milligrams of caffeine in a same-size serving.
While many Eastern cultures have analyzed and appreciated the health benefits of pu’erh tea for thousands of years, it has only recently begun to grow in popularity on American soil. Given its numerous health benefits, multiple varieties and careful craftsmanship, however, it is expected to continue to grow in popularity, and the world’s knowledge of its benefits will likely grow alongside it.