The Chinese Tea Shop says, “The history of Pu-Erh Tea can be traced back to “Pu Tea” of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE) with the drying of leaves in the sun in Yunnan province. The plants in this region have large, soft leaves spaced far apart on large, tough stems. Today, Pu-Erh Tea with “large wild leaves” is highly prized.”
The mountainous region of southwest China in Yunnan Province produces this special tea.
The custom with Pu-Erh is to pick new tea and drink old tea. This refers to a practice unique for Pu-Erh tea of aging it in storage to obtain the unique flavor. The tea leaves are stored in a pile where the natural enzymatic breakdown process of fermentation begins. This creates heat and cooks the leaves adding a highly-prized complexity, depth, and smoothness to the tea.
In addition, modern science has recognized Pu-Erh for its health benefits beyond black tea. “The Pharmacological Elements: Vitamins B1, B2, C, and E, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, lysine, arginine, histidine, and cystine, linoleic and linolenic acids and trace amounts of zinc, sodium, nickel, iron, beryllium, sulfur, and fluorides.”
In 225 A.D., when China was divided into the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, the prime minister of Shu led a military expedition to Yunnan.
Historical records reveal that many of the Shu troops came down with eye diseases. After they drank boiled Pu-Erh tea, it was reported that the troops were cured.
The leaves for this tea were from tea trees in Yunnan. Over time, tea drinking for health benefits became a tradition in other areas of China including Tibet.
There is an old saying in Tibet. “Better three days without food than a day without tea.” Historical records show that Tibetans started drinking tea during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) in 641.
Tibet does not grow tea trees, so the famous Tea Horse Road from Tibet to Yunnan was opened. Over the centuries, Tibet traded thousands of horses with China for tea.
In the early 19th century, Emperor Daoguang named Pu-Erh tea as a “Divine Tribute to the Kingdom of Heaven”.
Continued on September 27, 2017, in Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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