Pu-erh's are the only fermented teas, whereas other Black teas are only oxidized. Although Pu-erh teas are usually classified as post-oxidation or, just simply as Black teas, Pu-erh teas can be placed in three types of processing methods, namely: green tea, oxidized tea, and secondary-oxidation. Pu-erhs can be green teas if they are lightly processed before being pressed into cakes. This type of Pu-erh is referred to as maocha if unpressed and as "green/raw Pu-erh" if pressed. While not always pleasant tasting, green Pu-erhs are fairly inexpensive and are known to age well for up to 30 years. Pu-erh can also be an oxidized tea if it goes through slow process oxidation for up to a year. This Pu-erh is referred to as ripened or cooked Pu-erh, and has a more mellow and pleasant flavour. Aged Pu-erhs are secondary-oxidation and post-oxidation teas. If aged from green Pu-erh, the aged tea will be mellow in taste but still clean in flavour.
Brewing Pu-erh Tea
Preparing a Pu-erh brick or cake involves first breaking off compressed tea for brewing. There are many ways to do this: by flaking off pieces of the cake or steaming the entire cake until it is softened up; using Pu-erh knife (similar to an oyster knife or a rigid letter opener) to pry large flakes of tea off the cake to reduce leaf breakage.
Pu-erh is generally expected to be served Gongfu style, generally in a Yixing tea pot or in a type of Chinese teacup called a gaiwan. Optimum water temperatures are generally regarded to be around 95 degree Celsius for lower quality Pu-erhs and 85-89 degree Celsius for good ripened and aged raw Pu-erh. Steeping times last from 12-30 seconds in the first few infusions, up to 2-10 minutes in the last infusions. Generally, the higher quality aged Pu-erhs can produce multiple infusions, each with a different flavour when brewed in the traditional Gong-Fu method.