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Young raw pu-erh tea (or sheng pu'er) that is aged less than three years is often described as having a similar taste profile to green tea. Mansa Tea’s Jade Pu’er collection, for example, can resemble green tea at first taste, but is raw pu-erh green tea? Yes and no. In terms of post-harvest processing, raw pu-erh starts out as green tea, but there are many differences between the two brews.
Raw Pu-erh vs. Green Tea: 5 Key Differences
The primary differences between the two types of tea are harvesting, processing, flavor profile and how and when to drink.
All teas come from the same plant, camellia sinensis, but the most prized pu-erh are hand plucked from wild trees in Yunnan that are more than a century old. These tea trees are of large leaf type, the size of which is also apparent in the loose leaf and tea cake forms. In contrast, famous green teas are grown in different regions of China and Japan (i.e. Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, Uji). At Mansa, we focus on handpicked pu-erh tea from the ancient tea mountains in Yunnan.
Both raw pu-erh and green tea follow a similar processing method. After the leaves are harvested, they wither, then they are pan-fried or steamed and rolled. Only the last step varies: most green teas are dried with hot air whereas pu-erh is dried in the sunshine. The sunshine affects the taste and the aging profile of raw pu-erh. Raw pu-erh is also typically compressed into a tea cake form after it is dried. The end-to-end process of making pu-erh is much more laborious than many commercialized teas.
Flavor profile of pu-erh changes over time as it ages. For example, young raw pu-erh can have a slightly bitter taste, which eases as it ages. Pu-erh teas can also have earthy or green vegetal flavors. Green teas can be described as bittersweet, floral, oceany and more depending on where it was grown and processed. Mansa's aged teas are ready to be enjoyed without further aging. For example, our Jade Pu’er collection is made up of young raw pu-erh teas that do not have much bitterness to them and can be brewed as is.
4. How to Brew
Pu-erh is best enjoyed using boiling temperature water and gong fu brewing style to enjoy the flavors over multiple brews. Gongfu brewing requires higher tea leaves to water ratio and allows tea drinkers to enjoy the change in flavor over multiple brews. On the other hand, green tea is best brewed using a serving pitcher without a lid and lower temperature water (140-190 degrees depending on the variety) to avoid burning the leaves.
5. When to Drink
Green tea should be sipped as fresh as possible since the flavors can disappear over time. Raw pu-erh, however, can be aged without having its flavors disappear. In fact, aging often allows a deeper flavor profile to develop making no two cups the same. Note that pu-erh should be aged in a carefully controlled environment to ensure its optimal flavors unfold over time.
Where to Buy Pu-erh Tea
For fans of green tea, raw pu-erh can be an exciting arena to explore. At Mansa Tea, we have a collection of rare and high-quality handcrafted pu-er teas. The Wild Lao Raw Pu’er is a great tea for green tea lovers to try. It resembles a green tea, but it has a nuttier taste with a light floral scent.
Mansa Tea is a handcrafted aged tea company that specializes in aged teas, tea experiences, and education for modern connoisseurs. We aim to elevate tea experiences at Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels so that tea enthusiasts can taste aged tea at its peak as part of their fine dining experience.
This article is just one part of the Mansa Tea Education blog series. Subscribe to our newsletter to become a tea connoisseur.