Pu-Erh Tea Health Benefits
Which Tea is the Healthiest?

How credible are pu-erh tea health benefits? How do they compare to green tea's and oolong tea's?



If you are a tea drinker, you may be asking the same question as myself: "Green tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea, which one is the healthiest?"

To answer this question, we have to understand a little about chemical composition, as different types of pu-erh tea can have different chemical profile.

We will start with the three different types of pu-erh tea: raw, aged and ripe.

Raw Pu-erh Tea

In China, a pu-erh tea is known as a post-oxidized tea.

What this means is that while in the factory, it is made with minimal oxidation.

This is achieved by applying heat to the leaves early in the tea-making process, which kills the leaf enzymes and stop the leaves from oxidizing.

Therefore, a newly made pu-erh tea is known as raw pu-erh.

Because it is unoxidized, it is effectively a green tea, and will the same health benefits as a green tea.

Aged Pu-erh Tea

So what does post-oxidation means?

Pu-erh only acquires its sublime flavors when it is allowed to age for 5 to 8 years.

Because the oxidation process takes place slowly outside the factory under natural conditions, the process is known as post oxidation.

Therefore, an aged pu-erh tea is more oxidized than green tea. The older the tea, the more oxidized it becomes.

In many respects, its health benefits will be more similar to oolong tea (which is half oxidized) or black tea (which is fully oxidized).

Ripe Pu-erh Tea

In the old days, one has to wait for many years before a raw pu-erh matures.

Now you may wonder: Is there a faster way?

The answer is yes. Since the 1970s, a small number of tea factories began to perfect to technique of wet piling, which speeds up the post-oxidation process by using moistures and micro-organisms.

Tea leaves are piled up to a height of one meter. Water or mists are sprayed on the leaves. The wet conditions cause bacterial and fungal to multiply. They produce heat and enzymes, which in turn oxidizes the leaves.

This process can last for 4 to 6 weeks.

The chemical profile of a ripe pu-erh tea will be similar to an aged pu-erh. The extent of oxidation will depend the manufacturer's specifications. It may be 30% ripe or 70% ripe. Every product is different.

Therefore, an ripe pu-erh tea will be similar to an aged pu-erh. The more ripe it is, the more oxidized it becomes.

Best Tea for Health Benefits?

Now comes the most important question: Which is the best tea if you are drinking for health benefits?

Generally speaking, a tea that is less oxidized will be more potent. Thus a green/white tea will have greater health benefits than an oolong tea, which in turn will have greater benefits than a black tea.

Similarly, a raw (green) pu-erh tea will have greater health benefits than an aged/ripe pu-erh. Although maturation improves the flavors of the tea, it reduces its potency.

Most health benefits of tea can be attributed to an antioxidant called EGCG.

EGCG is present the highest amount in green/white tea. The more oxidized the tea, the less EGCG it contains, which in turn reduces its potency.

Tea Antioxidants Debate - Green Tea Vs. Black Tea

More Oxidation Results in Lower Potency!

This view is backed up by a 2008 study conducted by University of Macau.

The study found that raw pu-erh tea has more antioxidants than ripe pu-erh. Potency also reduces with aging period.

Identification and quantification of free radical scavengers in Pu-erh tea

In addition, another 2002 study conducted by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that green tea contains more EGCG than oolong and pu-erh teas.

The scientists explained this is caused by oxidation in the manufacturing process.

Catechins, caffeine and gallic acids in green, Oolong, black and pu-erh teas

Best Tea to Drink

However, this doesn't mean that you should drink green/white tea ALL the time. The best approach is to have a well diversified tea diet. This makes life more interesting. It also reduces the side effects of any particular tea.

Aged or ripe pu-erh tea is well known in China to be a good digestive. They are also more gentle on the stomach than any other teas.

Also, it has been shown in numerous scientific studies that pu-erh tea can promote heart health and weight loss.

Finally, if you are a tea lover like myself, it will never hurt to have in store a tea that will only get better with time - you will never run out of tea!

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