5 Myths About Raw Pu'er Tea
This episode covers 5 common myths about pu'er tea. I discuss each one and clarify why they can be misleading! The myths: pu'er grows in the forest, there is only one spring harvest, first flush pu'er is best, pu'er can't be drunk fresh, and pu'er always gets better with age.
Myth 1: Pu’er Grows In The Wilderness
This myth is largely due to false marketing. If you believed every product description you read, all pu’er would come from trees growing wild, deep within the jungle. While there are certainly teas like this, the vast, vast majority of pu’er is grown in gardens. They can be very similar to most other tea gardens we are familiar with. Sometimes gardens may be left alone and surrounding vegetation will be allowed to grow, but even this is not truly wild tea. It is much rarer to find pu’er from trees that were not planted by humans at one point or another.
Myth 2: There Is Only One Spring Harvest For Pu’er
While green tea is well known for having multiple distinct harvest, many other teas get left behind in the conversation. Pu’er is harvested and processed multiple times throughout the spring. Sometimes these harvests are separated and can be purchased separately, and sometimes they are all combined. It depends on the gardens and the people making it. So pu’er is different than most green tea is that there is often less of a focus on seperate, distinct harvests. But even so, pu’er harvested in March may be very different from the same trees harvested in May, even though you might see them both being called spring harvests. Knowing what month the tea was made is always a good idea.
Myth 3: First Flush Pu’er Is Best
Now that we are familiar with the concept of multiple harvests for pu’er, it might be natural to conclude that the very first harvest is the best! After all, for green tea we would say the same thing, right? I think this may often be the case that the first harvest is one of the best, but I also think we are often looking for very different things in pu’er than we are in green tea. We are also overlooking the dependance on good weather for sun-drying the tea that may vary between harvests. There are always multiple factors to consider.
Myth 4: Pu’er Can’t Be Drunk Fresh
Some raw pu’er tea can be very strong and harsh and even smoky in the first few months or even years after processing. This kind of tea will likely not be incredibly pleasant during that time period. However, there is a huge amount of pu’er tea that tastes very sweet and very pleasant even in the first few days after processing! This type of pu’er can even taste very similar to some oolong teas, with a bright fruitiness and florality, or similar to a fresh green tea, with sweet and savory vegetable notes. So saying pu’er can’t be drunk fresh is as ridiculous as saying that oolongs or green teas can’t be drunk fresh.
Myth 5: All Pu’er Gets Better With Age
Remember all that harsh and smoky pu’er we discussed? That will most likely be more drinkable as the tea ages and the edges get softened out. The tea may become more mellow, more sweet and more enjoyable. But our deliciously sweet and fruity pu’er is starting off from a much different point. It may lose some of it’s brightness as it ages. Perhaps you will like it best when it’s fresh and vibrant! It all depends on what kind of tea your drinking, and what your tastes are. Rarely I do live aged pu’er as much as I love fresh pu’er.