How to Brew Pu-erh Tea
Fermented and ripened with age, puerh tea offers a smooth, earthy flavor, unlike that provided by any other tea. If you want to enjoy its unique flavor, it’s essential to know how to brew puerh tea.
Basically, there are 3 types of puerh tea: ripe puerh (shu cha); and 2 variants of raw puerh (sheng cha), known as ‘aged raw puerh’ (or ‘aged sheng puerh’) and ‘young raw puerh’ (or ‘young sheng puerh’). You’ll find some differences among these 3 puerh tea types in the brewing process, their liquor color, taste, and the appearance of the tea leaves.
Before learning how to make puerh tea, the first thing you should keep in mind is that there’s no one particular recipe you can put your finger on. The brewing process depends on multiple factors, like the size and the age of the puerh tea leaves, the water temperature, and most importantly your preference.
For example, if you’re preparing tea from small raw puerh leaves that are less than 5 years old, ideally you’d keep the puerh brewing water temperature at 90 degrees Celsius. For large-leafed ripe or raw puerh over 5 years old, the water temperature should be at 100 degrees Celsius.
Here is a list of several top styles of brewing puerh tea. Keep reading to learn about them all, or click on the one that interests you most to jump to its explanation. Happy brewing!
Table of Contents
How to brew puerh tea, the Gaiwan way
Even though this brewing method is complex, it’s suitable for seasoned puerh drinkers who seek to take their knowledge and enjoyment of puerh tea to the next level.What you’ll need
- A small tea pitcher
- 3-4 grams pu-erh tea leaves, or a pu-erh cake
- A Gaiwan (a Chinese bowl with a lid, but without any handle)
- 2 teacups
- Rinse your teacups, Gaiwan, and tea pitcher using hot water (100 °C or 212 °F). For this purpose, simply pour boiling water into the vessels, swirl it around, and then discard the water.
- Place puerh tea leaves inside the Gaiwan.
- Pour some hot water directly on the leaves, just enough to cover them.
- Swirl the contents of the Gaiwan for 2-3 seconds to wash the leaves.
- Discard the water without discarding the wet tea leaves.
- If you’re brewing ripe puerh tea, you may want to rinse the tea leaves once again. You don’t need to repeat the rinsing process when you’re brewing raw puerh tea.
- Fill the Gaiwan with hot water at 195-212 degrees Fahrenheit (90-100 degrees Celsius), and cover the Gaiwan with its lid.
- Pour a little hot water on the lid, and wait for 10-20 seconds till the water dries up. Once it does, pour the puerh tea out into your teacups.
- Alternatively, after placing the lid on the Gaiwan, let the puerh tea steep for around 15-30 seconds. Then, tilt the Gaiwan lid slightly, and pour out the puerh tea into your tea pitcher.
- Leave the tea leaves behind in the Gaiwan itself, so that you can reuse these several times.
- Serve the Gaiwan-style puerh tea in the pre-heated teacups, and enjoy!
This method is most suitable for brewing young raw puerh, as the Gaiwan’s porcelain absorbs some heat and helps with protecting the young tea leaves from heat damage. It is less suitable for brewing old aged raw puerh, and ripe puerh, since those teas are more similar to black tea, which requires more heat and longer brewing time.
The Western way of brewing puerh tea
If you’re new to this tea, and want to know how pu-erh tea is made in a much simpler way than the traditional Chinese Gaiwan style, then you’re going to love this method.
What you’ll need
- A large teapot
- 3-4 grams puerh tea
- A tea infuser
- Use 3-4 grams (a teaspoon) of puerh tea per 8 ounces (200 ml) of water. If you’re using a puerh cake, break it apart, and portion out the right amount with a teaspoon. For example, if you want to brew 600 ml (about 2 cups) of puerh tea, use 9-12 grams (3 teaspoons) of puerh tea leaves.
- Place the tea leaves in a pincer tea infuser in a teapot, or use a teapot with an infuser already built in.
- Rinse the leaves with a small amount of hot water.
- After swirling the hot water around the tea leaves, discard the water. Don’t throw out the wet tea leaves from the infuser, though.
- Bring filtered water to a boil, and then pour the hot water into your teapot. You can also place the tea infuser with the puerh leaves in a teacup, and pour hot water directly into that cup.
- Let the puerh tea steep for 30 seconds to 4 minutes. In general, young raw puerh requires less steeping time. Aged raw puerh and ripe puerh on the other hand, require longer steeps.
- Keep tasting every 30 seconds or so to find which flavor you like.
- After the tea is steeped, stop the infusion process by removing the tea infuser, and enjoy!
- You can reuse the puerh tea leaves in the infuser several times.
Other methods of making pu-erh tea
Young raw puerh
This method works well with raw puerh that’s not quite aged (below 4-5 years), so you get green-colored puerh tea. It also works very well for flavored puerh teas, like chrysanthemum or tangerine puerh.
- Fill a teapot with the hot water to pre-heat it, and then pour out the same water from the teapot into your cups. Discard the water.
- Place 3 grams (a teaspoon) of loose pu-erh tea leaves in the teapot.
- Pour 8-10 ounces of water directly on the leaves. For every 8-10 ounce of water, use 3 grams of loose leaf pu-erh tea.
- Pour the tea out of the teapot into your pre-heated cups straightaway. Place a strainer over each cup before pouring in the pu-erh tea, so that the leaves get stuck in the strainer.
- You can reuse the same wet tea leaves many times.
- Serve the loose leaf young raw pu-erh tea and enjoy!
Ripe puerh and aged raw puerh
If you’re using old aged raw puerh, or ripened puerh, you can use this method to get rich, dark puerh tea without spending any time at all. We’re a big fan of this method!
- Place the puerh tea leaves in a preheated teapot or thermos.
- Rinse the puerh just once, so that the tea leaves get activated.
- Pour the hot boiled water into the teapot, and let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes. There’s no hard and fast rule about how long to steep puerh, since it depends on your own preference. For this method, though, it’s better to stick to the 5-minute minimum steeping time.
- If you use a larger thermos teapot you could let the tea sit in there and watch it become darker and richer the longer it brews. Then consume it slowly cup after cup, while working, doing yoga, meditation, or chilling with a good book. A rule of thumb, however, is to not steep it for longer than two hours.
We like this method for its speed and simplicity. It’s a great no hassle way for everyday enjoyment.
How do you prepare puerh tea with tea sachets?
- Bring filtered water to a boil at 100 °C or 212 °F.
- Pre-heat a teapot, teacup, or any other vessel with the boiling water, and then discard the liquid.
- Place a puerh tea sachet inside the pre-heated vessel.
- Pour 8 ounces of hot water directly over the sachet.
- Steep the puerh tea for 1-5 minutes, according to type of puerh and your taste preference.
- Once you’re done with the puerh tea steeping, take out the sachet, sip the tea, and enjoy!
What’s the perfect pu-erh brewing method?
If you ask us, no method of brewing puerh tea is the perfect one, or alternatively, all of them are! The best method depends on type of puerh tea and your own preference, and varies from person to person. You need to make puerh tea in a way that delivers the flavor and experience you like, not someone else.
Of course, the tea should be made properly, by taking all the right steps. Make sure the tea leaves are fresh and high-quality, for starters.
However, if you still don’t know how to brew puerh tea so that it delights your taste buds, you can start out with any of the above methods of brewing puerh tea. Then experiment with adjusting quantities and steeping duration, and over time you will discover a perfect way to brew puerh tea that you can proudly call your own.
Once you’re done, sit back and enjoy your perfect cup of puerh tea!