Well Being

Pu-erh Tea: What It Is And What It Can Do For Your Health

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Is anyone else seeing a lot of buzz lately about pu-erh tea? This Chinese tea can supposedly give you tons of health benefits ranging from weight loss to lowered cholesterol. But what I wanted to know is what exactly is it?

Although pu-erh tea (pronounced like poo-air. Yup, seriously.) has been getting a lot of press lately, it's actually quite ancient. According to Greg Nielson of Numi Organic Tea,

Pu-erh is the oldest known tea that travelled along one of the five “Tea Horse Roads,” or ancient tea routes.  It originated in the village of Pu-erh.

Today it's produced mainly in the Chinese district of Yunnan. Pu-erh is what is considered a “fermented tea.” Basically, all pu-erh tea begins as your basic green tea: through a centuries-old process, it becomes fermented. Carla Vallese, Minister of Integity at Republic of Tea, explains:

Green tea leaves are piled and water is added to the pile to promote “fermentation,” the pile is turned over from time to time to assure it is evenly aged. Once completed, the pile is broken up and allowed to dry, resulting in the final product.

The fermented aspect of the tea apparently confers lots of health benefits. Pu-erh tea has been used in Chinese medicine for a long time, but it's rapidly gaining popularity in the Western world, too. Dr. Oz recently discussed its weight loss benefits on his show. I'm a little unclear about how the tea actually helps weight loss, but studies have shown that it can affect the human metabolism.

Reportedly, pu-erh tea also helps lower cholesterol because it contains a chemical called lovastatin, commonly used in medications that help with high cholesterol levels. Carla Vallese also told me that the “mineral and trace elements in [pu-erh tea] have anti-aging effects and other compounds in the tea have been shown to inhibit bacteria associated with tooth decay.”

The tea can be loose leaf or pressed into a variety of shapes, most commonly circles of different sizes. It must be stored in a cool, dry area. To make it, steep leaves in boiling to almost boiling water for 3-5 minutes.

If you'd like to try pu-erh, it comes in different flavors and is available at Teavana tea stores, on Amazon, and most likely at your local fancy tea shop or organic grocery store, too.

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