Excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating by Ari
Pu-erh Tea is not just for the aficionados
Pu-erh is to the tea world what balsamic is to the realm of vinegar. A rare, long-aged offering, it’s known outside Asia only to a small circle of aficionados. Not everyone likes Pu-erh tea. It has an earthiness that can be likened to a walk through the forest during a spring thaw.
Pu-erh originated in the Xishuangbanna district of Yunnan in southwest China. Authentic Pu-erh owes its uniqueness to a fascinating symbiotic relationship between a specific variety of tea and a pair of wild yeast strains that live in the Yunnan.
A properly made Pu-erh tastes pleasantly full-bodied with an elemental earthy and distinct camphor aroma. The most prized are aged for many decades and can carry prices as high as $200 a pound, but there are some well-made teas that are only a few years old, affordable and very good. Pu-erh teas stand up beautifully to spicy meat dishes or rich sauces.
Like balsamic vinegar, Pu-erh appears in many less-than-authentic forms at far lower prices than what the real thing might cost. Some poorly made teas that have only one yeast have an overly musty or sometimes downright moldy aroma. Even the best Pu-erh can spoil due to improper storage. Know thy source!