Your Guide to Puerh Tea Brewing

Your Guide to Puerh Tea Brewing

Tea enthusiasts around the world are not only passionate about tea itself but also about how they brew it. The process and tradition of puerh tea brewing are just as crucial to honor as the tea is. In China, the ancient wedding tea ceremony still holds a distinguished place on the bride and groom’s special day.

Whether you are new to puerh tea or are a die-hard connoisseur, the Zen & Tea store is perfect for your needs. We honor our founder, Master Wang, in all of the teas we offer, and we invite you to enjoy some for yourself today. 

The Right Tools

Puerh tea is unlike any other. It carries an ancient air of mystery that has remained for thousands of years. As the only post-fermented tea, puerh holds a unique position in the tea world. 

So it stands to reason that brewing puerh tea is not the same process as brewing other forms of the leaf. But before tackling the ins and outs of how to prepare puerh tea, you need to be sure you have the correct tools.

To brew and enjoy a proper cup of puerh, it’s best to have on hand:

  • Gaiwan or Teapot
  • Puerh Cake Prying Pick - not needed for loose-leaf puerh
  • Thermometer or Temperature-Controlled Kettle
  • Scale or Tea Scoop
  • Tea Timer

Gaiwan Style Brewing vs. Clay Teapot

Many western tea drinkers are not familiar with using a gaiwan for brewing, but this traditional Chinese vessel dates back to the Ming Dynasty. It is a simple container with a wide opening, a saucer, and a lid. 

Tea enthusiasts tend to prefer using a gaiwan rather than a teapot for a few reasons:

  • The gaiwan has room to allow tea leaves to unfurl for excellent flavor.
  • Using the lid to strain the tea enables you to control the pour.
  • Porcelain and glass gaiwans do not absorb any of the tea flavors.

Using the Puerh Pick

Since most puerh tea comes in bricks or cakes, you will have to break off some of the leaves to brew. Insert the pick horizontally into the puerh brick and gently pry off the desired amount. You do not want to break up the leaves, so proceed carefully.

Puerh Tea Preparation

For an authentic and enjoyable brewing experience, you must start with excellent, high-quality puerh. Raw puerh (sheng cha) and ripe puerh (shou cha) both make lovely cups of tea, but the brewing process will be a bit different.

Whether you choose a loose-leaf option or a puerh cake, the method is the same. If using a cake or brick of tea, remove the proper amount with a puerh pick.

Follow this puerh tea guide for the most authentic and delicious cup of puerh possible.

Proportions and Temperature

Most tea drinkers enjoy a ratio of three grams of tea leaves to about 200ml water. If you prefer a more potent brew, you can increase the amount of leaves to your liking. How much puerh tea to use depends on your preferences.

Water should be hot, 100 degrees Celsius. Most tea drinkers also rinse their teacups in hot water to warm them.

Rinse the Tea

Add your tea leaves to the gaiwan or infuser, if you are using a teapot. If you have a clay vessel, it is best to have one for ripe puerh and one for raw. The clay will absorb and retain the flavor of the tea you brew in it.

Pour the water over the tea leaves and then drain off the water after 15-20 seconds. This rinse helps remove impurities and allows the leaves to begin unfurling. If you are brewing ripe puerh, you should rinse the leaves a second time.

Puerh Tea Steeping

Pour fresh water, still at 100 degrees Celsius, over the leaves again. The puerh steeping time is quite short, about 15-30 seconds. 

If using a gaiwan, use the lid to strain the tea into the tea pitcher to serve. For a teapot, strain through the infuser basket. You can re-steep the leaves multiple times. Each infusion may need to go longer to extract more of the flavor.

While this short puerh steep time is in line with the traditional methods, many westerners prefer a stronger brew. Some people choose to allow the infusion to continue for five or more minutes.

For puerh brewing with a sachet, a longer steeping time is better. Aim for about five minutes when using a puerh sachet.

How to Store Puerh Tea

No cup of puerh will taste right if you do not store the tea correctly ahead of time. This highly-prized tea needs specific storage conditions to maintain its optimal flavor.

  • Keep your puerh out of direct sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can make the tea taste bitter.
  • Don’t store it near anything with strong odors. The puerh will absorb odors, so keep it away from items such as onions or spices.
  • Allow airflow around the cake or brick. Puerh continues to age throughout its life, but it needs airflow for this to happen. Store the tea in a paper bag or a box rather than plastic wrap.
  • Watch the temperature. Keep your puerh in a space with a moderate temperature. Placing it in a refrigerator or freezer will stop the aging process. And excessively high temperatures will alter the tea’s flavor.
  • Avoid high humidity when storing your puerh tea. When the humidity goes higher than 85%, the tea is likely to mold or to develop a bad flavor.

Part of the beauty of puerh tea is that it continues to get better the longer it ages. But this is only true if you follow these storage guidelines.

Enjoy the Perfect Cup

Making puerh tea is an art, not a science. Trust your palate and explore a little as you try different brewing methods and vessels. As long as you start with the highest-quality authentic puerh from Zen & Tea, you can’t go wrong.