This unusual tea takes its name, Pu Erh from the town in Yunnan near which most of it is grown. It is also known as "Red or Dark" tea in China. These teas undergo post-fermentation through a microbial process after they are dried and rolled. They are available as loose leaf or in various compressed forms. The major differentiation is between raw (sheng) and ripened (shou) types. The ripe type refers to those varieties that have gone through a proper post-fermentation process, a recent invention that manipulates conditions to approximate the result of the aging process by prolonged bacterial and fungal fermentation in a warm humid environment under controlled conditions, which involves piling, dampening, and turning the tea leaves in a manner much akin to composting. The raw types are those in the process of gradual darkening through exposure to microbes over many years in a controlled environment. Certain selections from either type can be stored for maturity before consumption which is why some are labelled with year and region of production. Most are prepared to be drunk and sold within six months of manufacture. If one were to follow the Chinese example, Pu Erh tea is the most famous of all for its health giving properties and as a slimming tea. It is believed to speed up metabolism without raising the heart rate. Pu Erh teas grow in one of the most ancient tea growing areas and in the primeval forest of Mt. Dahei there is a 1700 year old tea tree. Pu Erh is very highly regarded in China for its reputed health benefits such as lowering triglycerides and cholesterol and has also been linked in many western articles as an aid to weight loss. We have chosen a cross section from amongst the 200 or so varieties on offer. At one time the bricks of Pu Erh were used as currency. It is fair to say that the stranger varieties have an acquired taste! The black tea varieties can take milk; they have a mellow character and leave a sweet taste in the mouth, whilst green Pu Erh should be drunk without. Pu Erh leaves produce many infusions. The wonderful appearance of Pu Erh teas makes them a unique gift to give to health conscious friends. An interesting characteristic of Pu Erh teas is that some people believe the longer you keep them the better they become. Some 30 year old varieties of Pu Erh are sold for tens of thousands of pounds a kilo in Hong Kong. Whilst having access to these types, vintage Pu Erh is a speciality market all of its own, where pricing is dictated by the passion of collectors, rather like the art world, even in regard to forgeries! Our selection is picked for its pleasant flavour and the quality of the leaves before becoming a 'Red' tea and are to be enjoyed rather than stored. Most of our selection are the 'Ripe' type, with a 'Raw' white tea that was given a short fermentation to begin the aging process. I would still recommend drinking this type now.