Don’t Poo-poo Pu-er Tea

Who cares about the price of tea in China? More and more people globally. A recent article in the WSJ says that there’s been a run on China’s most popular tea, pu-er (aka pu-erh, or pu’er, or Bolay tea). A recent sale netted the seller almost $40,000 . . . for a single 3.5oz cake that was 60 years old.

Like all true teas (as opposed to fruit “tea” or herbal “tea”), it’s made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Pu-er tea is only slightly oxidized, like green teas, has a smoky taste, and is sold generally in bricks or cakes, which are usually round, discus-like objects, looking like large cow-patties. It comes in “raw” or “cooked” form.

Unlike most teas, it’s meant to be aged, even for many years, and, supposedly, it gets better with age. 150-year old cakes go for over $13,000 sometimes. And collectors are drinking this tea up.

According to people we met in China, this was the most prized and most typically drank tea (not the oolong tea you usually get in Chinese restaurants in the West). Further, the black tea we typically drink in the West is fairly rare there. And you sure won’t see a tea bag.

In fact, while sampling and discussing the relative tastes and benefits of various teas, the owner of a small tea shop laughed off the fact that we enjoyed black teas, told us that the caffeine would surely kill us . . . and then offered us a cigarette.