Rich Pu'er - A Tea Tale of Two Africas
There are very few moments when creating a tea blend, when you take one whiff of the tea, and you see an entire story unfurl itself in your mind. The genesis of Muthaiga Tea Company’s 12th blend – Rich Pu’er - was such a moment.
I was intrigued when my former Professor at the Cambridge Tea Academy introduced me to a farm in Malawi and said they are one of the only farms outside China, that produce pu’er tea. So, I contacted the farm and eagerly waited for the tea samples to arrive. As soon as I brewed the first cup of tea with this sample and inhaled in the deep, earthy aroma of the tea, it transported me to some of the farms I have visited, where agriculture and livestock are part of daily life. I had an epiphany of the story I wanted to tell through this pu’er tea blend, as I took those very first sips. The tale of 2 Africas –the dichotomy of two distinct worlds - of the Rich and the Poor.
What is Pu’er Tea?
Pu’er is a town in the Yunan province of southwest China - known as the birthplace of tea. It was here that tea was first compressed into tea cakes to transport it across the borders from China to the rest of Asia. The centuries old Pu’er trees are preserved and protected by the community and then the best leaves from the tree are picked by a team of tea masters through a meticulous process.
Once the leaves are picked off the trees as two leaves and a bud – the green tea process is applied to the tea (withering and steaming the leaf to retain the greenness of the leaf) then the tea is slightly oxidized to brown the leaf which helps with the fermentation process of this type of tea. The Pu’er tea leaves are quite large compared to traditional teas as they are picked off large tea “trees” rather than tea “bushes”. After picking, two kinds of fermentation processes can take place to produce Pu’er tea.
The traditional ‘Sheng’ method, which entails a 15-20 year fermentation period where the teas are subsequently made into tea cakes and preserved for the ageing process or the ‘Shou’ style (MTC’s latest blend) which using a catalyst to speed up the fermentation process through heat, moisture and a bacteria, which is being constantly assessed by the tea masters. Both processes add to the richness of this aged tea, giving it a bold aromatic character - and comparable to fine wine where the quality of the aged tea improves over time - in some cases over 50 years!
Pu’er in Africa – a brief introduction to Satemwa Tea Estate
Photo Credit: Anette Kay - Satemwa (Malawi)
Satemwa Tea estate is a 3rd generation, family-owned tea estate in the Shire Highlands in Malawi which was founded by Maclean Kay in 1923 when he came from Scotland to Malawi and bought the farm from a tobacco farmer to grow Tea. About 20 years ago, Alexander (Maclean’s grandson) ventured into orthodox specialty teas and spent a lot of time experimenting with old machinery and localized processing techniques.
To find out more about Satemwa please check them out here: https://www.satemwa.com/our-story
Social Media: FB: @satemwa and IG: @ https://www.instagram.com/satemwa_tea_coffee/
Satemwa is an incredible story of a sustainable farm that promotes a vibrant community around it, by providing support to the Satemwa school, which is educating approximately 950 students, along with strengthening the Satemwa Clinic with ambulances, medicines and nurses and undertaking various other measures to support the community. We are proud to work with Satemwa to create our first Pu’er tea blend.
Photo Credit: Anette Kay - Satemwa (Malawi)
The making of RICH PU’ER
Fermented tea, to those uninitiated to the way of tea, can come as quite an unpleasant shock to one’s palate. The tea has variously been described by people as “smelling like rotten compost” or “smells of a horse stable”, so we knew that in order to introduce this tea into the African market, we would have to create a blend that would soften some of the strong profiles of the tea. Every blend at MTC is also an opportunity for us, to think of what we can represent about Africa through the tea, and given the perception of Malawi around the globe of being an impoverished country, we thought we could bring in the other side of Africa too, and juxtapose the two Africas in one blend.
We wanted the flavour profile, appearance and the ingredients to each tell a tale of the 2 Africas. So, we decided to use ingredients that would be considered rich as well as ingredients that would be consumed by the common population. We incorporated cardamom which gives the tea a refreshing, rich feel and represents the spice trading that has taken place in Africa for centuries, and combined it with dried papaya, that is a common fruit, but one that gives sweetness and familiarity. Finally, we introduced gold flakes that capture the story of the gold mines and vast riches of Africa. All these ingredients are blended with a tea, that has the natural aroma of a working rural farm.
Our endeavour at MTC, is to create tea blends, that will make a mindful consumer take a moment and reflect on the stories of Africa that bring amazing natural ingredients into the tea cup. We hope our latest blend – the first of its kind African Pu’er tea blend – gives you such a moment of reflection as you enjoy sipping the rich, natural diversity of Africa.
Health Benefits of Pu’er Tea
While there are various blogs and articles written on the health benefits of Pu’er tea, we will summarize some of the key benefits here, and we are sure that you can find much more detailed research online. Here are some of the amazing benefits of this tea if consumed regularly:
- Promotes weight loss
- Improves good cholesterol
- Inhibits cancer growth
- Digestive aid
- Diabetes maintenance and prevention
- Promotes cardiovascular wellness
- Promotes Skin Health
- Promotes Bone Health
- Has Anti-inflammatory properties
- Decreases Anxiety
We hope our dedicated followers around the world will appreciate the tale of our creation and contemplate, while sipping on this tea, on the dichotomy of the two worlds in Africa - welcome to the world of Rich Pu’er.