However, many westerners in particular are not familiar with how this famous tea is prepared and enjoyed.
Fans of Pu’erh tea will collect a wide variety of paraphernalia although many of these items are not absolutely necessary.
Many Chinese may possess a ‘tea table’. This may be a simple slotted wooden board which sits over a tray or a large wooden table with a drain which syphons off into a small bucket. The reason for such a table will be explained later.
In addition, there may be a selection of tools, such as bamboo tongs to pick up cups and hand them to guests before pouring the tea. Other items might include a metal pick to break up blocks or cakes of Pu’erh tea, a bamboo scoop for loose tea, and a brush for sweeping away water and tea on the table.
Then of course, there are cups, jugs, teapots and strainers. Cups may take on all different shapes and sizes. There are large, often highly decorated cups, complete with a saucer and lid. However, Pu’erh tea is often drunk from small ceramic, clay or even glass cups.
A teapot is used by some households, but a simple jug is more commonly seen.
To start, the tea is broken up and placed in either a cup with lid or a teapot. Allow around 3 to 5 grams is used, though some people prefer to add a little more for a more robust brew. Water is boiled and then poured over the tea. After allowing to infuse for around half a minute, the tea is strained into a jug or teapot. The first brew is then poured away. If using a tea table, the brew is simply poured over the table to drain away. This hot brew may even be poured over the cups to both clean and warm them. This procedure is usually performed twice before topping up once again with water.
The third brew is then poured into a jug and it is this and subsequent infusions which are drunk. Indeed several brews or infusions might be made from each portion of tea before being discarded.
Shu Pu’erh is often drunk in the morning whilst Sheng Pu’erh is used in the afternoon if two kinds are drunk the same day. Both types are considered to be good for health by many Chinese people, though for others it is merely consumed for pleasure. Indeed all across China groups of people can be seen sitting in tea shops sipping tea whilst smoking, chatting and passing the time of day.
You can read more about Yunnan tea and even make a purchase by visiting our special Yunnan Tea page