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Pu-erh Tea in a clear class cup

Ultimate Guide on How Different Food Pair with Pu erh Tea!

Nov 16, 2023

Shanika Dasanayaka

Did you know that Pu erh tea is one of the few teas that actually improves with age? While most teas lose their flavor and freshness over time, Pu erh tea undergoes a unique fermentation process that allows it to mature. Over time, the tea develops a deeper, more complex flavor profile. But, ironically, this tea doesn't get the appreciation it deserves from many tea drinkers due to the knowledge they lack on how to prepare, serve, and pair foods with this uncommon tea. So, with this article, we hope to add one missing piece into the puzzle by guiding you on how different food pair with Pu erh Tea!

As you might already be aware, Pu-erh tea is a type of black tea that undergoes a unique manufacturing process native to the Yunnan province of China. It has a complex flavor profile with a dark reddish cup color in the brew and plenty of health benefits. The tea is ideal to drink as a mid-morning or afternoon tea to energize you, and pairing the tea with a light refreshment would make the feeling brilliant.

What is Pu-erh Tea?

Pu-erh tea, pronounced as poo-air, is made from the leaves and stems of the same tea plant that other common teas are manufactured. The tea is native to Yunnan province of China. When manufacturing Pu-erh tea, two main steps are taking place. In the first stage, freshly picked, tender tea leaves are processed similarly to green tea. In the second stage, green tea made in the first stage undergoes fermentation and a prolonged storage phase. The tea goes through fermentation during this process under humid conditions and microbial activities. It is the most oxidized form of tea, often aged for years. The other tea types may become stale with time, but Pu-erh tea gets mellow and improves with age, similar to finely aged wine. Some of the Pu-erh teas are aged for more than 50 years, and the tea becomes more expensive with its age. Processed tea is available as loose or compressed tea bricks in the marketplace.

The taste of Pu-erh tea depends on its age. Raw Pu-erh is fresh, mellow, and light in flavor. It may taste like woody, smoky, tobacco, floral, or spring lawn notes. Moreover, it might also have some bitterness with a sweet aftertaste. The Ripen Pu-erh, on the other hand, has an earthy, mushroom-like taste but is never bitter. Pu-erh liquor has a reddish brown color, very similar to black tea. The infusion or brewed Pu-erh tea gives off an aroma of autumn leaves. With the level of age, some Pu-erh teas can appear darker than black tea, with a more full-bodied flavor and aroma.

Health Benefits of Pu-erh Tea

As a result of specific tea processing steps taken when producing Pu-erh tea, it possesses some unique health benefits compared to other tea types. Due to its fermentation process, it contains more natural chemicals like polyphenols, catechins, flavonoids, and caffeine. The natural chemicals and the development of beneficial fungi and bacteria within the tea are the main reasons for the health benefits of Pu-erh tea. All these together, Pu-erh tea brings you a flavorful teacup with many health benefits.

Promotes a Healthy Heart

Natural compounds in pu-erh tea can soothe your heart and prevent heart diseases. Drinking the tea helps to produce lovastatin within your body, which is usually used to treat high cholesterol. Some studies have found that the chemicals available in Pu-erh tea can aid in reducing bad cholesterol, known as LDL cholesterol, while increasing the level of good cholesterol, known as LDL cholesterol. Having just one cup of Pu-erh tea would make your heart healthy.

Cleanses Toxins and Free Radicals

Pu-erh tea contains oxidative properties that can deliver increased oxygen levels, which help enhance blood circulation and flow. The tea helps combat headaches and migraines by providing more oxygen to the brain. Moreover, it reduces the free radicals that can cause serious illnesses later on. In traditional medicine, Pu-erh tea has been used to aid the spleen and stomach in filtering toxins through the body. The simple sugar and microorganisms in tea help the spleen cleanse the blood and eliminate free radicals. It also helps in restoring the body's essential functions and cleansing the body.

Prevents Cancer

The antioxidants available in Pu-erh tea connect with free radicals and help to fight against cancer cells and prevent the growth of new ones. The studies have revealed that Pu-erh tea can target and destroy tumor cells with minimal side effects. The oxidized polyphenols available in Pu-erh tea eliminate free radicals and help to cease the production of irregular cells.

Aids in Weight Loss

The antioxidants and polyphenols present in Pu-erh tea help with digestion and fat breakdown. The lovastatin available in the tea helps to relieve the symptoms of constipation. Studies have shown that drinking Pu-erh along with a healthy diet and exercise can help you lose weight. Hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine can reduce the storage of fatty acids in your body, and Pu-erh can encourage the production of those hormones. It also suppresses the synthesis of fatty acids. Drinking tea daily with a good diet plan and a well-planned workout is recommended to achieve your weight loss goals.

Reduces Stress

Pu-erh tea contains around 60–70 mg of caffeine in a regular tea cup. This amount of caffeine would not make you jittery; it would help you reduce stress when you are exhausted. The inflammatory properties in Pu-erh tea help relax when experiencing minor aches and pains. The natural chemicals like theanine available in the tea lower stress levels and help you to calm your mind and body and to have a good sleep.

Prevent Illness

Hence Pu-erh tea contains antioxidants and vitamins, and having a cup of tea as a routine practice would save you from common illnesses like the common cold and flu. The other tea varieties from the tea plant also have the same properties; however, Pu-erh performs better at preventing illnesses.

Food to Pair with Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea has a strong, earthy, and distinctive flavor that can contrast or suppress some tastes of some food types. Hence, the tea possesses digestive properties; it is ideal after a heavy meal. When food pairs with Pu-erh tea, you need to understand which type of food performs well with the tea and which doesn't. Identifying which foods pair with Pu-erh tea is solely up to your taste preferences, but some commonly accepted food types match well with the tea.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has a bitter and less sweet taste, and it pairs well with the woody, smoky, bitter, and slight sweetness of Pu-erh tea.


An egg has a complex taste profile as the yolk possesses a multi-tone flavor with a sweet and pungent sulfur overtone and an earthy, savory undertone. It pairs well with Pu-erh tea's taste, as both contain similar flavors and aromas.


Since Pu-erh tea is made by aging and allowing microbes to work on it, the tea has a mushroom-like taste. Mushrooms generally have an umami taste that gives them a sweet, salty, sour, and bitter taste. Similarly, Pu-erh tea also has a similar taste. Therefore, it pairs well with mushroom dishes.

Red Meat

Red meat has an umami taste, and processed red meat has a salty-sweet taste and a savory taste. Pu-erh tea also has a similar savory flavor, and having a teacup with red meat can enhance the savory flavor hints while suppressing processed meat's grassy taste.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce has a salty, sweet, savory, and bitter taste that is common in Pu-erh tea as well. Therefore, the two together pair well, as both enhance the unique tastes of each other.

Final Thoughts

Pu-erh tea is native to the Yunnan province of China and has been processed by overfermenting and aging the green tea leaves of the tea plant. It has a complex taste profile that gives a bundle of different tastes, like woody, smoky, tobacco, floral, savory, earthy, moldy, and bitter, with a dark red teacup color. As a beverage, Pu-erh tea has several health benefits, like promoting heart health, cleansing toxins, preventing cancer, weight loss, reducing stress, and curing several illnesses. The tea can contrast or suppress some tastes of some food types. Several food types pair well with Pu-erh tea, such as dark chocolate, eggs, mushrooms, red meat, and soy sauce, because they taste similar to Pu-erh tea. Identifying which food pair with Pu-erh tea is solely up to your taste preferences; anyone can try it with other food types and develop new suggestions.

So, be adventurous, try a fantastic cup of Pu-erh tea with your preferred dish, and see how well the combination is paired. 

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