Do a search on the internet... lots of places to buy and have shipped. Here is one:
I have never used them, I buy mine right now at a local bulk tea retailer in my hometown. They have three grades; one is aged.
Keep in mind that the older teas may need a hot water rince (about 20 seconds or so) before you actualy steep the tea... it helps to mellow it out some. But this is only necessary for the very expensive aged tea.
There are two main types of Pu-erh tea: “Green Pu-erh” more accurately described as “Semi-green tea” and “Black Pu-erh” more accurately described as “Dark Green Tea.” Both semi-green and dark green pu-erhs are made with “Saiqing” or “sun-dried green tea.” Authentic Pu-erh teas can only be made from Yunnan’s famous broad leaf arbor tea tree varietals. The highest quality of authentic Pu-erh Teas are made with tealeaves that are hand-harvested from wild and semi-wild antique tea trees (+100 years and older).
The origin of Rishi’s Certified Organic and Fair Trade Pu-erh teas is the Jingmai and Mangjing Villages’ Ancient Tea Tree Forestry which was planted by Dai and Bulang tribes more than 1300 years ago in Southwestern Yunnan. To learn more about the source of Rishi’s Organic Pu-erh Teas click here.
The Pu-erh “family” of teas includes semi-green teas and dark green pile fermented teas. All Pu-erh Tea (whether the semi-green or dark green fermented type) must be made with Sun-dried Yunnan broad leaf green tea or what is known as “Saiqing”. Sun-dried green teas from Yunnan and the broad leaf tea varietals are closely related to some of the teas consumed by the world’s most ancient tea cultures.
Many tea experts refer to the raw material for all Pu-erh, “Saiqing”, as a semi-green tea because it is more oxidized than most other green teas. This Sun-dried green tea or “Saiqing Mao Cha” is made by withering, roasting, rolling, kneading in the Sun, reversing and drying in the Sun before grading. The various grades of “Saiqing” are used as the starting material for making all types of Green and Black Pu-erh Tea in all of its loose and compressed forms.
Pu-erh Tea can be divided into two distinct categories, Green Pu-erh and Black Pu-erh:
Green Pu-erh (Also known as “Raw” or “Un-Cooked” Pu-erh): This is the oldest type of Pu-erh and before the 1970’s most Pu-erh was of the green process type. Within the Green Pu-erh category we find various grades of loose leaf sun-dried green teas made with Yunnan’s broad leaf varietals. These are generally sold as “Saiqing Mao Cha” or for the manufacturing of compressed Green or Black Pu-erh. The more reserve grades of sun-dried green tea or “Saiqing” consist of pure leaf sprouts and buds known as “Saiqing Ya Cha” which are sorted out of “Saiqing Mao Cha” by hand. In some cases, only the buds and tender leaf shoots are plucked from the tea trees to make “Saiqing Ya Cha” or “bud tea”. Both “Saiqing Mao Cha” and “Saiqing Ya Cha” are found in loose leaf styles but most is used to make compressed Green Pu-erh or fermented for Black Pu-erh. Most Green Pu-erh is of the compressed type and available in many interesting shapes such as large round tea cakes that look like ancient money like our Green Pu-erh Tea Cake.
Compressed Green Pu-erh is made with sun-dried green tea, “Saiqing” that is steamed until soft and pliable. After “Saiqing” is steamed it is then compressed before being dried in a series of stages according to the quality and type of Green Pu-erh being manufactured. Rishi’s Green Pu-erhs have a unique character and quality and are devoid of the coarse green flavors and smoky, harshness found in the common grades and even the so called rare vintages of Green Pu-erh.
Rishi’s Green Pu-erhs are made with highest grades of sun-dried green tea sprouts known as “Saiqing Ya Cha”. The careful grading, artisan craftsmanship and clean processing of our sun-dried green tea lends our Green Pu-erhs a unique and smooth character reminiscent of honey and fruit. Rishi’s Green Pu-erh teas are good for long term aging in the proper conditions and also taste superb within the same year of harvest. No need to age our teas to enjoy them.
Black Pu-erh (Also known as “The Cooked Type”, “Dark Green Tea” or Pile Fermented Pu-erh): Black Pu-erh is referred to as “the cooked type” due to the fact that dried green tealeaves (made tea) are transformed via natural fermentation. The heat and moisture within the pile of fermenting tealeaves transforms the green tea from greenish-golden color (rich in Tea Polyphenols and Theaflavins) to blackish-red color (rich in Thearubigin and Theabrownin). The flavor of the Sun-dried green tea is also transformed from bracing and sharp to mellow and smooth through this process.
Black Pu-erh is made according to a special pile fermentation process which is different from the usual tealeaf oxidation procedure which is typically flows from fresh leaf to made tea (dried tea). The Black Pu-erh process involves heaping already dried Yunnan “Saiqing” green tea into measured piles. Pure water is added to moisten the pile of Sun-dried green tea. The pile is kept covered in a well ventilated and climate controlled room. The pile alternates from covered and un-covered in an effort to regulate the moisture and heat generated by the fermentation within the pile of sun-dried green tea. Every few days or according to the temperature of the inner pile, the tea maker must turn or blend the pile to disperse heat, moisture and bacteria evenly throughout the pile of fermenting tea. The heat and moisture of the pile is checked and the height and width of the pile is adjusted according to the desired rate of fermentation and experience of the tea master. The heat and moisture within the pile of sun-dried green tea encourages bacteriological activity and natural fermentation (think compost pile) which facilitates rapid color transformation of the Sun-dried tealeaves from greenish-yellow to reddish-black.
The pile fermentation of Black Pu-erh takes about 90 days. After pile fermentation, Black Pu-erh is dried in a combination of methods and sold in various loose tea grades like our Organic Palace Pu-erh but most Black Pu-erh is of the compressed type. In this case, after fermentation, the Black Pu-erh is steamed, compressed and dried into a variety of shapes like our Golden Tuo Cha and Special Grade Pu-erh Seven Sons Tea Cake.
The geographical origin of Pu-erh Tea is located in China’s Yunnan Province within the areas of the Lancang River Basin. This region of Southwestern Yunnan is home to the world’s oldest tea cultures and tea economy. The broad leaf tea tree species used to make authentic Pu-erh has been consumed as a food, medicine and beverage by Yunnan’s ancient inhabitants of Tibeto-Burman origin who are known as the “Pu” ethnic group and the world’s first tea farmers.
Pu-erh Tea has more than 1,750 years of recorded history dating back to China’s Three Kingdoms Period. Archeologists agree that the consumption of broad leaf tea in today’s Pu-erh producing area dates back to a time even before the written record. Sun-dried green tea made from the “Yunnan Da Ye” broad leaf varietal is the raw material for all Pu-erh tea and is closely related to the most ancient type tea that experts agree was crudely dried in the sun and slightly fermented.
According to the legend, Mr. Zhu Geliang was the Prime Minister of the Shu State during China’s Three Kingdoms Period (25-220AD). He is known as the “Tea Forefather” and is believed to have encouraged the cultivation of tea as a means to bring income and development to the ethnic minorities of Southwestern Yunnan. Today he is widely respected and even “worshipped” by the tea growing tribes of Yunnan.
Mr. Zhu Geliang is credited with giving tea tree seeds and instructions to the tribal chiefs to encourage tea planting and tea trade. This sparked the wider cultivation, consumption and trade of Yunnan’s special broad leaf tea. To this day, many of Yunnan’s ethnic minority groups depend on tea cultivation for the majority of their family’s income. It is these same ethnic minority groups of Yunnan who regard Mr.Zhu Geliang as their “Tea Forefather”.
Pu-erh Tea takes its name from “Pu-erh County” which is located in Southwestern Yunnan. Although Pu-erh County is not a tea producing area it was the famous trading center and outpost for Yunnan’s unique broad leaf green tea. Tea traders came to Pu-erh to buy and sell the teas from Simao, Xishuangbanna and the Lancang River basin areas.
Pu-erh County was the primary source of tea along the ancient tea and horse trade routes between China and its Western and Southern frontiers. The special broad leaf green teas of Yunnan became associated with Pu-erh County over the course of tea’s ancient economic history. Pu-erh Tea is much older than its name which was not associated with the broad leaf green teas of Southwestern Yunnan until China’s Ming Dynasty (1368~1644).
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Pu-erh tea has a warming and potent digestive property. Chinese doctors consider Pu-erh as a tea that dispels or cleanses the body of fat and toxins from meat and oily foods. This is also why Pu-erh has such a wide appeal amongst many Asian food cultures. Tests conducted in China report that Pu-erh can lower the alcohol level in the bloodstream. Many in Asia feel that Pu-erh is the best cure for a hangover where it is consumed as a “detox tea”. Pu-erh tea is regarded as the best amongst all teas for its body slimming function and as a natural and safe dieter’s tea. Recent research suggests that consuming 5-8 cups of Pu-erh Tea each day can reduce cholesterol and plaque of the arteries. In France, Pu-erh Tuo Cha is widely popular and consumed by many women as a “beauty and dieting tea”. Pu-erh is widely consumed in Hong Kong, Guangdong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Tibet, Bhutan, by Himalayan cultures and along the old Silk Road routes into Central Asia and Southeastern Asia. Compared to other teas, Pu-erh has a cult following amongst connoisseurs and is regarded as a sacred relic of ancient tea cultures and traditions. Only in the recent years has good quality Pu-erh made its way to the tea menus of US teahouses and retail shops. Rishi Tea is the first in the US to offer Certified Organic and Fair Trade Pu-erh Tea hand harvested from ancient tea trees.
WARNING: it can get costly if you develope a taste for it as I have. THe aged stuff is not cheap!