Pu-erh tea: About this new Celebrity Slimming tea.

Published: 17th November 2008
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Pu-erh tea has been known for more than a thousand years in China, with a relatively lower profile to other more elegant Chinese tea varieties. Recently however it has acquired celebrity status in China, attracting much attention and investment due alleged weigh reducing and nourishment properties.

This notoriety has now spread outside of China due to the obesity pandemic in western societies.

Context and background to Pu-erh Tea:

There are six main categories of Chinese teas (green tea, oolong tea etc), each categorized by the degree of fermentation achieved during processing: Green teas are unfermented, Oolong teas are semi fermented, black teas are fully fermented. Pu-erh tea belongs to the 'compressed tea category'.

The name 'Pu-erh' relates to this teas place of origin - Pu-erh village, Yun Nan province of south-west China. Traditional Pu-erh teas were pressed into cakes, bricks or balls. This compression facilitates the post-fermenting process - which is as noted the distinguishing feature of this tea. (Teas in other categories are usually presented in a loose leaf form.)

Fermentation in the context of tea production is similar to the process that occurs naturally when fruits discolour (ie a pear turns brown). This process is known as enzymatic oxidation. In tea production the process is controlled via suitable application of temperature and light at the correct processing stage.

Post-fermentation means that Pu-erh tea continues to ferment after production. In this respect it is similar to wine, it's value similarly increases with the increasing smoother texture, more delicate fragrance and aroma. This principle however only applies to good quality Pu-erh teas - once again similar to wine (no matter how long you store a low quality wine, you will not magically generate a high quality wine one day).

Special Pu-erh tea plants

The Pu-erh tea plants differ from the other tea plants, although they all belong to the Camellia Sinesis family.

Most other teas are harvested from tea plants that are best described as tea shrubs. These plants generally have leaves that are much smaller then Pu-erh tea leaves and have been carefully cultivated through selection to accentuate some aspect of a valued tea property.

The traditional Pu-erh plants, on the other hand are wild trees growing in forests. The tea leaves are larger: A fully grown pu-erh tea leaf could be as long as an adult's hand span, compared to less than 5cm (a child's palm) for other tea varieties. These treas are generally older then tea shrubs. (There are certain trees in the Yun Nan province that locals believe are many hundred years old!)

Pu-erh tea and fat reduction properties

Pu-erh tea is traditionally consumed in areas of China such as Yun Nan and Tibet with a tradition of having high fat diets (ie lamb, horse meat, dairy products in the Mongol tradition). These people didn't manifest the ill effects normally associated with such a diet, giving rise to a belief that the diet was balanced by some factor associated with the Pu-erh tea targeted at reducing body fat.

Some studies were initiated to study this aspect of Pu-erh tea. One laboratory study compared fat reducing effects by tea extract and concluded : "fully fermented pu-erh and black tea leaves and partially fermented oolong tea leaves were more effective on their growth suppressive and hypolipidemic effects as compared to the non-fermented green tea leave." [Kuo KL, Weng MS, Chiang CT, Tsai YJ, Lin-Shiau SY, Lin JK. Comparative studies on the hypolipidemic and growth suppressive effects of oolong, black, pu-erh, and green tea leaves in rats. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Jan 26;53(2):480-9]

In other words this study suggested Pu-erh tea slows fatty acid synthesis to assist in achieving a lower blood fat (lipid) level then might otherwise been achieved.

More research however is required, especially with human subjects, before conclusive results can be drawn.

Meanwhile Pu-erh tea's fat reducing properties remain a tantalizing theory. Pu-erh tea is a premium Chinese tea that should be enjoyed firstly, with contributory benefits also available in many areas like most of Chinese teas, including weight control potentials.

Use of Pu-erh or other Chinese teas to assist weight control?

Teas have long been considered as functional food for weight management. For use of tea in weight control program, it is recommended to choice a few quality teas that you enjoy (ie green tea, white tea, oolong tea or Pu-erh tea) and then adapt these into your life style. For example develop the habit of drinking teas at work or gradually replace drinks of high sugar content with teas etc. Together with a good balanced diet and regular exercise, the extra weight will go naturally.

Chinese people enjoyed drinking teas for thousands of years. They did this in association with the naturally balanced Chinese diet and often associated with a lifestyle involving physical labour. They were doing this well before the western world discovered tea's health benefits, including that of assistance with weight control. The Chinese physique at the time was not generally prone to the afflictions of obesity affecting many people in increasing numbers currently in affluent western cultures. There is a lesson here in regards to the positive effects of balanced lifestyle with diet.

In Chinese medicine, herbal tea recipes were also utilised for weight control when required. These might involve say a mix of Oolong tea with lotus leaf and other herbs each contributing complimentary factors to assist with weight control. We recommend a slimming tea known as Natural Shape for those interested in a herbal tea to assist with weight control.

EnJie is the owner of Valley Green Tea : a site promoting premium grade Chinese tea. EnJie sells quality Pu-erh tea on-line and comments on related preparation and health aspects.

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