Tea is often considered a superfood beverage, packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, amino acids, and more health-boosting constituents.
Green tea seems to get all the press, touted for everything from lowering cholesterol to reducing risk of stroke. Despite all the media attention on green tea, comparison research suggests the metabolic health benefits pu-erh tea may even exceed those of other teas.
Let’s first try to understand how pu-erh (also, puerh or pu’er) are different.
Pu-erh tea is unique among teas in that in goes through a fermentation process and that it only comes from China’s Yunnan Province. Other regions also produce fermented teas, but those can’t truly be called Pu-erh.
All teas, including pu-erh, go through an oxidation process, some shorter (white tea) and some longer (black tea); this is an enzymatic reaction, similar to how an apple turns brown when cut. Pu-erh tea additionally goes through a fermentation process which involves microbes changing the chemical composition on the edge of the leaves. In both cases, the final drying slows or stops both the oxidation and fermentation process.
Pu-erh tea, because of its more involved processing method, is available as raw, aged, and cooked. Raw is more similar to a green tea, cooked is an accelerated fermentation and aging process, and aged is a pu-erh that has been kept for years, sometimes decades, and allowed to age naturally. (For more on this, read this post.)
You might imagine that pu-erh tea has similar health benefits as other teas (since they all come from the same plant), but that with its fermentation process, it also has developed some of its own unique wellness characteristics.
0 Calorie, Sugar Free
Pu-erh tea, like all teas in their natural state, are free of calories and sugar, making them a perfect beverage to support weight control. You can enjoy them guilt free.
All teas from the Camellia sinensis plant contain caffeine (unless they’ve been intentionally decaffeinated). Tea generally has a lower caffeine content than coffee or energy drinks, and because its caffeine is naturally paired with L-Theanine, it makes for a more mild stimulating effect. Caffeine can increase metabolic rate, and when combined with L-Theanine can improve focus and concentration.
Like all teas, pu-erh contains many antioxidants and has free-radical scavenging activities to protect against oxidative damage (1). High levels of antioxidants are thought to be protective against cancer and heart disease.
Pu-erh tea is unique among teas in having a positive effect on HDL, with a lowering effect on LDL. By contrast, research suggests all other teas reduce total cholesterol (2). When trying to improve the cholesterol ratio, Pu-erh would be a better choice. In fact, Chinese Medicine doctors often recommend Pu-erh tea for this purpose.
Preliminary research, mostly in rats, suggest Pu-erh tea may be effective in reducing post-meal blood sugar spikes. This may be a result of Chlorogenic and Gallic acid, which are thought to slow the release of glucose into the blood after a meal (3).
A number of studies have investigated how pu-erh tea may prevent or even reduce fat build up. The studies have found that pu-erh may lower triglycerides (4), prevent proliferation of fatty deposits on the liver, inhibit weight gain, and reduce accumulation of abdominal fat (as shown in a study of Japanese men). Researchers suspect this may be because pu-erh tea suppresses fatty acid synthase expression in the liver (5). Pu-erh tea has long been the tea of choice for Chinese girls to stay slim.
Perhaps because of its fermentation process, Pu-erh tea is renown for supporting digestion. It is thought that Pu-erh increases activity of the digestive enzymes amylase and protease (6), which may explain why pu-erh has long been favored in China as a digestive tea following a meal rich in protein and fat.
Likewise, in China, pu-erh is the tea of choice to accompany a long night of drinking. Perhaps the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nature of Pu-erh explain why it got its reputation as preventative of hangovers.
Certainly there is a significant possibility of enhanced wellness from regular consumption of pu-erh tea. And that may simply come in the form of the pleasure gained from a low-cal, enjoyable cup of tea.
Let’s all go raise a tea cup. Perhaps, a cup of BeLight Tea!
None of these are claims or implied claims for tea and its ability (or not) to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent disease. This only a summary of the research available online. It is for informational purposes only.