All content on this site is © 2012-2017 The Cup & Kettle
Dark teas are aged teas from Hunan Province of China. We include Pu'erh in this category of tea (not all companies do though) but it is a subcategory of Dark Teas. They age well and are probiotic.
Dark teas actually have very smooth and naturally sweet flavor. Pu'erh has an additional "earthiness" to it.
Why makes a tea fall in this category? It actually goes through a secondary fermentation process. It is first fermented and then pine fire dried. It is then aged. During the aging process bacteria reacts with the leaves which changes the chemistry, flavor and aroma of the leaf. This process is what gives it its probiotic properties.
So now what is Pu'erh tea? Pronunciation varies from culture to culture. The most common is "poo-err" or "poo-air". Pu'erh tea comes from the Yunnan Province of China rather than Hunan (as with other dark teas). It also has more of an earthy aroma and stronger flavor than a regular dark tea. Pu'erh tea is also aged longer than dark tea. It only improves with age.
Pu'erh tea is also further classified in two: raw and cooked. Raw Pu'erh is withered, pan fired to stop oxidation, rolled and kneaded and then sun dried. It may or may not be then steamed and compressed into cakes or bricks, otherwise it's left as loose leaf tea. After it is pressed, or not, it is then allowed to age.
Cooked Pu'erh is withered and then water with a bacterial culture is added from an ancient pu'erh. It is piled up and covered for a time in a hot and humid room (turned from time to time). The amount of heat and moisture is carefully regulated throughout this time (40 days). It is then pressed into cakes or bricks, or left loose leaf. It produces a very mellow cup.
Many Dark & Pu'erh teas are compressed into bricks or mini (single serve) "cakes" as is pictured above. But they are also available loose. When they are in brick or cake form a "pick" is used to break them apart so they can be used.
Cakes/bricks can range in price from $10 - $5000. Factors that affect pricing are environmental conditions, individual farms & factories, raw material grade, tree age, processing, picking of the leaves, shape/form, and market.
To prepare Dark & Pu'erh Teas:
1 tsp ~ 8 oz water ~ 212 F ~ 4-6 minutes
May steep for multiple infusions.
Using a Gaiwan:
10g ~ 6 oz water ~ 212 F ~ 10-20 seconds 1st steep (add 5-10 seconds each steep)