Pu-erh Tea, a fermented tea with ‘Funk’ 😉

24.10.20

Pu-erh tea — or pu’er tea — is a unique type of fermented tea that’s traditionally made in the Yunnan Province of China. It’s made from the leaves of a tree known as the 'wild old tree', which grows in the region.

Although there are other types of fermented tea such as kombucha, pu-erh tea is different because the leaves themselves are fermented rather than dried after being picked then brewed as in a regular cuppa. Described by some as having a unique ‘funky’ taste, many people drink pu-erh tea because it not only provides the health benefits of tea but also those of fermented food.

It’s thought that pu-erh tea may support weight loss. Albeit only limited evidence, in-vitro studies have so far shown that pu-erh may help burn stored body fat (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22855451, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25659129//).

Additionally, pu-erh is fermented, so it can also introduce healthy probiotics into the body which not only supports the microbiome but helps improve blood sugar levels which play a key role in weight management and food cravings (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31070363/).

Several studies have shown that supplementing with pu-erh tea benefits blood fat levels which may help reduce cholesterol levels in two ways (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31672964/). First, pu-erh tea increases how much dietary-fat-bound bile acid is excreted in the faeces, thus keeping the fat from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Second, is also decreases fat accumulation. Together, these effects may decrease heart disease risk.

Because it can help decrease fat accumulation, pu-erh tea may also help prevent or reverse nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, where excess fat accumulates in your liver (note that this has so far only been noted in animal research). Another animal study also found that pu-erh tea extract may protect the liver from damage caused by the chemotherapy drug cisplatin (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25227847/). All promising areas of research, but again more human studies are needed.

In-vitro studies have also shown that pu-erh tea extract can kill cancer cells, specifically breast cancer, oral cancer, and colon cancer cells (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28428754/). These studies involved applying highly concentrated extracts directly to cancer cells. Obviously more research is needed to understand how drinking pu-erh tea would affect cancer cells, but we should be mindful of the fact that while these findings offer a promising starting point for future research, pu-erh tea should not be used as a treatment for cancer.

As with many teas/coffees, pu-erh tea carries its own caffeine content of around 30mg, higher depending on the strength of the brew. The general caffeine toleration levels, for those who can, is up to 400mg caffeine per day; 200mg/day if pregnant, 300ml/day if breastfeeding.

How to brew

Most people can safely drink up to 3 cups/710ml of pu-erh tea per day. Research is lacking on how much pu-erh tea you should drink daily to experience its potential weight loss benefits, but 1–2 cups/240–480ml per day is a good starting point.

To brew, add the leaves in a teapot and add just enough boiling water to cover the leaves, then discard the water. Repeat once more, being sure to discard the water. This “rinse” helps ensure a high quality tea.

From here on, make as you would a regular cup of tea, using 3-4g loose pu-erh tea per cup. Infuse for 2-mins, strain and serve.

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