How To Choose The Best Pu-Erh Tea

Tea Knowledge
best pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea is a very unique type of tea that’s fermented and made in the Yunnan Province of China. It’s considered a delicate specialty, and it’s crafted from the leaves of the Chinese “wild old tree.” This is also known as ripe pu-erh.

Pu-erh is different from other types of fermented teas in that its leaves are processed. Other fermented teas like kombucha usually ferment the brewed tea instead.

Raw pu-erh on the other hand isn’t fermented. After it’s rolled, it’s dried and aged naturally then compressed. This results in a different flavor profile and moist leaves.

Many people enjoy pu-erh tea (ripe or raw) because it has many health benefits like:

  • Weight-loss support
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Cancer prevention
  • Liver health support
  • Increased energy
  • Heart health support
  • Bone health support
  • Immune system support

So let’s jump into the rich world of pu-erh tea to learn more about its flavor profiles and benefits.

*We want you to know that we take our suggestions seriously. And we only ever recommend the best when it comes to Pu-erh. This means we put a lot of time and effort into researching Pu-erh teas with the best reviews, ratings, and sales. 

The best raw Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea comes in two major varieties: ripe and raw. Most Pu-erh lovers and newcomers opt for ripened leaves. But raw is just as enjoyable for different reasons.

Raw Pu-erh is actually non-fermented. It doesn’t go through the piling process. Instead, it’s rolled and compressed, then stored and aged naturally. This gives it a very fresh smell, a slightly more bitter taste, and a sweeter flavor profile. Raw Pu-erh is also known for its dark green and brown appearance.

If you’re interested in trying raw Pu-erh, we recommend these brews to start:

Eco-Conscious Organic Raw Pu-Erh Tea

This tea is 100% raw pu-erh with no additives or additional ingredients. It’s imported from the Yunnan Province of China and carefully packaged in the United States. This pu-erh is certified organic and non-GMO certified. And it’s available in individual tea bags for brewing on the go.

Numi Organic Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea

For compressed bricks of raw pu-erh, we recommend this ethically-sourced option. It’s rich, it’s organic, and it has a delightfully malty taste. Numi offers a bold and earthy raw pu-erh blend that’s sure to satisfy all your senses.

FullChea Raw Pu-erh Tea Cakes

FullChea offers a delicate compressed cake of loose-leaf raw pu-erh tea leaves. It’s delicious and dried with a pure and strong aroma. Enjoy its bright yellow appearance and its subtle cherry blossom undertones. Notice its floral and sweet flavor profile blossom as it brews.

The best ripe pu-erh teas

Ripe pu-erh is what most people think of when it comes to pu-erh tea. Like raw pu-erh, it’s rolled and dried. But before it’s compressed, it goes through a piling process and it’s fermented. This gives ripe pu-erh a bolder, earthier flavor. Fermentation also gives ripe pu-erh a reddish-brownish appearance.

It’s traditionally served as a cake, tuo cha, brick, or san cha. It also has a fragrant, deep, and complex aroma. Start enjoying this delicious brew with one of these recommended brands:

Tealyra Ripe Pu-erh Tea

This 100% natural and high-grade pu-erh tea is perfect for newcomers and experts alike. It has a rich and exceptionally smooth flavor that’s been aged over 20 years. Enjoy its rich, bold, and earthy flavor as you benefit from its health properties.

Jinglong Ripe Pu-erh Tea Cake

These pure pu-erh leaves are compressed into delightfully small mini cakes. After you steep them, each cup is packed with flavor and a rich, deep red and brown color. Enjoy it on its own, or add milk, honey, and lemon for even more flavor.

Three Pagodas Ripe Pu-erh Tea in Bamboo Tube

This is yet another pu-erh tea originating from the Yunnan Province in China. It’s packed into mini cakes and stored in bamboo tubes for stable temperature and humidity. The tea cakes absorb some of the bamboo aromas and flavors as well. This results in an even richer and more complex experience.

What does pu-erh taste like?

Pu-erh tea’s taste is as unique as the way it’s processed. Because the tea is somewhat fermented, it has a distinct flavor profile. Most pu-erh lovers describe this delicacy as:

  • Woodsy
  • Earthy
  • Smooth
  • Rich
  • Distinct
  • Acquired
  • Smokey
  • Mushroomy

Most of these notes come from the way pu-erh is processed. For example, the earthiness comes from the tea leaves. The mushroomy tastes come from the fermentation process. And the smoothness comes from the way it’s aged.

These flavors seem intimidating to new pu-erh drinkers at first. But once you take the plunge, you’re rewarded with a complex blend of unique flavors.

How to choose the best pu-erh tea

The best way to choose quality pu-erh tea is to think about what you want from each cup. Some drinkers prefer the mushroomy notes. Others drink it just for the smokey and woodsy flavors, or the caffeine.

When you’re ready to dive into the rich world of pu-erh, it’s tough to know which part you’ll love most. This is why we recommend trying a few different brands and brews to start. The goal is to find a balance of flavors that your palate enjoys. So here are some ways to narrow down what you want from your pu-erh tea experience.

Pu-erh taste profile

Although pu-erh tea has a signature taste, not all of them are exactly the same. Some are earthier, others are smokier, and so on. Start by reviewing the pu-erh teas outlined in this guide. This will help you learn more about the flavor profiles of each brand. Then, give some of them a try and compare.

Pu-erh caffeine levels

You can find out the caffeine content in each pu-erh tea either on the label or with a quick Google search. The more caffeine in each cup, the more energy you get. And the less caffeine, the less zing you’ll feel. So think about when you’re most likely to enjoy a cup of pu-erh and gauge caffeine levels accordingly.

Pu-erh tea bags vs. loose leaves vs. “cakes”

Some pu-erh teas are available in tea bags, and others in loose leaves. It’s also available as a compressed batch of tea leaves — also known as a cake.

If you prefer to drink tea on the go or at the office, tea bags might be your best bet. But if you prefer to drink it at home or during special occasions, loose leaves and cakes deliver a better experience.

The benefits of pu-erh tea

Pu-erh is a delicious delicacy for many tea drinkers. And as an added bonus, it has tons of health benefits like:

  • Increased energy
  • Heart health support
  • Antioxidants
  • Cancer prevention
  • Bone health support
  • Weight loss
  • Stress reduction
  • Immune system support
  • Vitamins

Pu-erh tea may also aid in skin, cognitive, and blood sugar support. Some pu-erh lovers enjoy the brew because it helps ease upset stomachs. And others love it for its gamma-aminobutyric acid. This property may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

The caffeine consistency of pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea does have caffeine in each cup and it varies based on brand. For example, the average caffeine strength ranges between 30 mg and 100 mg per 8 oz cup. To put this in perspective, the average cup of coffee has about 95 mg per 8 oz.

Find out how much your pu-erh tea has by checking its label or giving it a quick search on Google. And keep in mind that if it’s too high, you may experience side effects like insomnia and dehydration.

Final thoughts and top picks

 Pu-erh tea is a delicacy that countless tea lovers around the world enjoy. It’s delicious, unique, and packed with tons of health benefits. So without further ado, here are our top picks for pu-erh tea that we’re sure you’ll love.


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