The Difference Between Raw and Ripe Pu Erh Tea

Pu Erh, a tea that originated in Yunnan Province in China, has been becoming popular across the globe in recent years because of its rich flavor and its wide range of health benefits.


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In ancient China, Pu Erh tea was used for trading. Thousands of years ago, the mountains of Yunnan Province were the only place in China where all the leaves of Camellia sinensis were harvested to produce Pu Erh. These leaves were transported to different cities across the country and to Tibet for trading.

Pu Erh has a long history of discovery and development. Today, this amazing beverage is classified into two main categories: Raw Pu Erh or Sheng Pu-erh, and Ripe Pu Erh, also known as Shou Pu-erh. 

So, if you are interested in learning more about Pu Erh tea in general, this article will help you understand the main differences between Raw and Ripe Pu Erh tea, so keep on reading! 

Raw Pu Erh Tea

Raw Pu-Erh is a tea that does not undergo the wet piling method. So basically, the leaves are harvested and stored naturally to age. 

  • Production

    Pu-Erh tea is produced from the large stems and leaves of Camellia sinensis. Generally, the production of Pu-erh tea is done in two steps. First, all leaves must be commonly treated into Maocha to stop the oxidative enzymes from being activated. Second, Maocha should then undergo fermentation, or it can be stored and sold as-is.

    Raw Pu Erh tea is considered the most traditional form of Pu Erh tea. The production process of Raw Pu Erh is comparable to that of green tea, where tea farmers will harvest the leaves and treat them through different phases of sun drying and pan-roasting. In this case, the intensity of sun drying and pan-roasting are regulated to make sure that a small number of biological enzymes are still present in the tea leaves to permit the process of fermentation to occur after some time.

    After drying and roasting, the raw product should then be stored. After a few years, Raw Pu Erh can then be sold in a loose-leaf form or pressed form. The loose-leaf form ages quicker than the packed form, so it can be used and enjoyed earlier.

  • Active Components

    Studies have shown that Raw Pu Erh contains polyphenols including Gallic acid, Theogallin, Epigallocatechin gallate, and epicatechin gallate. Furthermore, research has shown that Raw Pu Erh has higher levels of tea polyphenol, catechin, and Epigallocatechin gallate compared to the other types of teas such as green, yellow, and black teas.

  • Advantages

    Raw Pu Erh tea contains high levels of tea polyphenols. These compounds can reduce the production and transformation of lipids and fat cells in the human body. Tea polyphenols have also been observed to help stabilize cholesterol and triglycerides in blood circulation. Hence, Raw Pu Erh is advantageous for those trying to lose weight. It can also help those people dealing with health conditions such as high cholesterol and triglycerides.

    In addition to this, Raw Pu Erh has also been observed to help regulate the gut microbiota, which can aid better digestion and absorption of food. Furthermore, raw Pu Erh can also help stimulate the elimination of harmful toxins in the body due to its high levels of antioxidants.

  • Aging Potential

    Generally, the longer the Raw Pu Erh tea is aged, the fuller the flavor it achieves. Hence, Raw Pu Erh tea is usually stored for a very long period. Raw Pu Erh tea has an aging potential of approximately 60 to 70 years to achieve a richer and deeper flavor.

  • Color, Flavor, Aroma

    Raw Pu Erh tea typically has a bright yellow or orange tea color.

    Raw Pu Erh tea has a wider range of flavors. It can range from bittersweet, flowery, and leafy flavors, especially the younger Raw Pu Erh. As natural fermentation occurs after storing the Raw Pu Erh, its flavor and aroma also significantly change. In most old and aged Raw Pu Erh, the bitter taste has already been lost and has become sweeter. Also, Raw Pu Erh usually has a fresh chestnut aroma because it did not undergo the wet piling process. So, overall, the Raw Pu Erh has a new mild flavor with a precise sweetness in it.

  • Price Point

    As a general rule, the longer time it takes to produce the specific Pu Erh, the pricier it gets. Hence, because Raw Pu Erh needs to be stored for an extended period, it is commonly more expensive than Ripe Pu Erh teas. Furthermore, the controlled environmental conditions required to keep Raw Pu Erh also contribute to its more expensive price.


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Ripe Pu Erh Tea

Ripe Pu Erh is also known as Shou Pu Erh. This type of Pu Erh tea undergoes the process of wet piling in order to stimulate the fermentation process. 

  • Production

    The first few steps of producing Ripe Pu-Erh tea are identical to Raw Pu Erh. First, the process involves harvesting stems and leaves of Camellia sinensis. After that, Maocha is made to stop and then undergoes a fermentation process known as Wet Piling, also known as Wo Dui.

    The method of Wet piling done for Ripe Pu Erh was developed during the mid-1950s to hasten the fermentation process of Pu Erh and make it fuller and more flavorful

    The wet piling process usually involves the following steps:

    • Piling uncompressed Pu Erh tea leaves for about a meter high.
    • Once piled, these tea leaves are wetted by warm water and covered with a large linen cloth to decrease water evaporation. This step also creates a humid and friendly setting for the fermentation process.
    • Aspergillus sp., a principal driver of fermentation in Camellia sinensis leaves, is introduced in the piled tea leaves to enhance the fermentation process further.
    • Once the desired level of fermentation has been reached, the tea is then un-piled and aired out.
    • These tea leaves are then compressed into cakes, bricks, and many more shapes.
  • Active Components

    Studies have shown that the active components present in Ripe Pu Erh include Gallic acid, Theaflavins, Theabrownin, Thearubigins, and Vitamin C. It also has the presence of other polyphenols and antioxidants. It is good to note that Vitamin C increases considerably during the wet piling process. Also, studies have shown a transformation of polysaccharides into more soluble forms such as monosaccharides and oligosaccharides. Researchers believe that these changes during the fermentation process change are a possible link to the wide range of benefits in the human immune system.

    In addition, studies have shown that flavonoids such as flavonoid glycoside are increased in Ripe Pu Erh. This flavonoid is vital for the prevention of vascular disease. There is also a higher content of probiotics in Ripe Pu Erh, which are greatly beneficial to gut health.

  • Advantages

    Ripe Pu Erh tea contains a lot of antioxidants and polyphenols, which are beneficial for regulating human digestion and the breakdown of fat cells. Ripe Pu Erh tea inhibits the production of fatty acids, which leads to a reduction in fat production. Several studies have observed that Ripe Pu Erh tea can aid in losing fat, combined with proper diet and regular exercise. Also, Ripe Pu Erh has a high number of gut bacteria beneficial to gut health. This good gut bacteria helps in maintaining proper digestion and having good immune health.

  • Aging Potential

    For about ten years, most tea makers put tea leaves under the fermentation process. However, Ripe Pu Erh tea has an aging potential of about 20 years. When this time has been reached, the flavor of Ripe Pu Erh tea has already plateaued. During this time, the flavor development has already leveled off. Therefore, most tea makers already market the Ripe Pu Erh at this age.

  • Color, Flavor, and Aroma

    Due to the accelerated fermentation process, Ripe Pu Erh tea usually has a dark red tea color. Furthermore, the aging process increases tea catechins, which causes Ripe Pu Erh to have a more specific, unique, and milder flavor. Most people say that Ripe Pu Erh has a rich greeny smell. Ripe Pu Erh is ideal for daily drinking because it has a smooth and mellow texture and a rich, full-flavored aroma.

  • Price

    Ripe Pu Erh tea usually costs less than Raw Pu-erh because the production requires a shorter time.

Bottom line:

Now that you have an idea of the difference between Raw and Ripe Pu Erh, you can decide whether to drink the former or the latter. Either way, both of these Pu Erh tea possess a wide range of benefits that will benefit your overall health. In the end, both Raw and Ripe Pu Erh are surely worthy of the popularity they are getting these few years. Both are a drink worth trying! 

References:

  1. Bana Tea Company. 2019. Making Raw and Ripe Pu-erh Tea. Retrieved from: https://www.banateacompany.com/pages/make_raw_and_ripe.html. Retrieved on 23 February 2022. 
  2. Boon Tea. 2020. Introduction to Pu-erh Tea. Retrieved from: https://www.boontea.com/post/aged-tea-puerh-tea. Retrieved on 23 February 2022. 
  3. LunaCha. 2018. The Difference of Raw Pu erh Tea and Ripe Pu erh Tea. Retrieved from: https://www.lunacha.com/blogs/news/the-difference-of-raw-pu-erh-tea-and-ripe-pu-erh-tea. Retrieved on 23 February 2022. 
  4. Pedan V, Rohn S, Holinger M, Hühn T, Chetschik I. Bioactive Compound Fingerprint Analysis of Aged Raw Pu'er Tea and Young Ripened Pu'er Tea. Molecules. 2018 Aug 2;23(8):1931. doi: 10.3390/molecules23081931. PMID: 30072634; PMCID: PMC6222816.
  5. Roda G, Marinello C, Grassi A, et al. Ripe and Raw Pu-Erh Tea: LC-MS Profiling, Antioxidant Capacity and Enzyme Inhibition Activities of Aqueous and Hydro-Alcoholic Extracts. Molecules. 2019;24(3):473. Published 2019 Jan 29. doi:10.3390/molecules24030473
  6. Teavivre. 2020. Understanding the Difference between Raw Pu-erh Tea and Ripe Pu-erh Tea. Retrieved from: https://www.teavivre.com/info/difference-between-raw-and-ripe-puerh-tea.html. Retrieved on 23 February 2022. 

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