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If you are a tea lover you might be familiar with all the varieties of teas like oolong tea, blue tea, lemon tea, green tea and black tea, but you may not be familiar with pu-erh tea, a type of fermented tea prised for its rich flavour and several health benefits.
What Is Pu-erh Tea?
Pu-erh tea (pronounced poo-air) is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant that is used for making green, black and oolong tea. Pu-erh tea has its roots in the Yunnan province of China and is primarily produced there .
This tea is highly valued because it is made through a unique process that involves a longer fermentation and aging process. This gives pu-erh tea a distinct flavour and makes it different from other varieties of tea.
Types Of Pu-erh Tea
There are two types of pu-erh tea: raw (sheng) and ripe (shou). Raw pu-erh tea is naturally fermented and is created by picking tea leaves and allowing them to wither. They aredried out in the sun and roasted enough to stop enzyme activity and allowed for moderate oxidation. After which, the leaves are rolled to remove additional moisture and then left to dry in the sun. The dried, raw pu-erh tea is then aged for longer periods to promote natural fermentation. The quality and flavour of raw pu-erh tea gets better with age.
Ripened pu-erh tea is made in the same way as raw pu-erh tea but with an additional step called pile fermentation, a microbial fermentation which involves using water to shorten the ageing process .
Pu-erh tea is then sold in compressed cake form or as loose tea.
Health Benefits Of Pu-erh Tea
1. Improves heart health
Pu-erh tea can help improve heart health by lowering cholesterol levels. A 2016 study published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging showed that 59 overweight or obese individuals consumed pu-erh tea extract daily for 20 weeks, which resulted in mild reduction in cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels .
Another animal study showed that pu-erh tea has strong antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering effects which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease .
2. Improves metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that elevates the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine showed that 90 people with metabolic syndrome who took pu-erh tea extract for three months, showed a significant reduction in body mass index, waist-hip ratio, blood glucose levels, cholesterol and triglyceride levels .
3. May aid in weight loss
Studies have shown that pu-erh tea may help in weight loss. A 2011 study found that 36 obese adults who consumed pu-erh tea extract thrice a day daily for 12 weeks resulted in a significant reduction in body mass index, body weight and abdominal fat measurements   .
4. May promote liver health
An animal study showed that pu-erh tea may aid in preventing or reversing non alcoholic fatty liver disease . Another 2014 study found that pu-erh tea extract may prevent the liver from damage caused by a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin .
The studies look promising; however, further research studies are needed on humans.
5. Boosts digestive health
Constipation is a common digestive problem and studies have shown that pu-erh tea can prevent constipation and encourage bowel movements. An animal study showed that pu-erh tea consumption can prevent constipation along with conventional medicines like bisacodyl .
6. Fights against oxidative damage
According to a study, the presence of epicatechin (EC), flavonoid, ascorbic acid and polyphenolic compounds in pu-erh tea may help protect the body from oxidative damage .
7. Improves blood sugar levels
A meta-analysis study published in the International Journal of Food Science + Technology found that pu-erh tea can significantly lower blood sugar levels. Diabetic mice were fed pu-erh tea, which resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar levels after 21 days . However, further human studies are needed in this area.
8. Protects the nervous system
Pu-erh tea acts as a neuroprotective agent which can prevent the risk of neurodegenerative disorders. Pu-erh tea contains gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which exhibits neuroprotective effects against epilepsy .
Another study found that pu-erh tea may also lower the incidences of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a nervous system disease .
9. May manage cancer risk
Some test-tube studies have shown that pu-erh tea extract may stop the growth of breast cancer, colon cancer and oral cancer cells   . However, more research studies are needed to show the effectiveness of pu-erh tea in managing cancer risk.
10. Enhances skin health
As per a 2016 study, the polyphenol antioxidants and a specific catechin composition found in pu-erh tea can offer skin protective benefits. The study found that pu-erh tea has skin detoxifying and elastin-protecting properties, which can naturally promote skin health .
Side Effects Of Pu-erh Tea
Drinking pu-erh tea in moderate amounts (about four cups per day) is generally safe for most healthy adults. However, drinking pu-erh tea in large amounts more than the recommended doses might cause side effects due to its caffeine content. These side effects include insomnia, diarrhoea, headache, dizziness, nervousness and irregular heartbeat .
Limited caffeine consumption is recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should consult your doctor before drinking pu-erh tea.
Also, the caffeine content in pu-erh tea can interact with certain medications such as antibiotics, certain heart medicines and asthma medicines.
Consult your doctor before consuming pu-erh tea if you have these medical conditions, which includes heart conditions, anxiety disorder, diarrhoea, IBS, glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, bleeding disorder and osteoporosis because the caffeine in the tea can make these conditions worse.
Dosage Of Pu-erh Tea
The appropriate dosage of pu-erh tea depends on various factors such as the person's age, health and several other health conditions, if any. You can consult a doctor to find out what would be the safe dosage for you.
How To Make Pu-erh Tea
1. Place a single cake or 1 tsp of loose pu-erh tea in a teapot and pour enough boiling water to cover the leaves.
2. Allow it to steep for three to five minutes (depending on how strong you like).
3. Pour the tea into tea cups and enjoy.