First, a spotlight on Numi Organic Tea. At the Afternoon Tea of my wedding rehearsal, my mom bought a Numi variety pack with some really unique flavors like Toasted Rice, Mate Lemon, and Tumeric Chai. I happened upon a rooibos packet and fell in love. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find boxes of rooibos anywhere (though as of last week my neighborhood Walmart, of all places, carries it), so I went to Numi’s website to learn more about them (and order some tea).

Numi Tea Collection

My growing Numi Tea collection.

Founded in 1999 in Oakland, CA by brother and sister Ahmed and Reem Rahim, Numi’s tagline is “Celebrating people, planet, and pure tea.” Thus, most of their products are certified as Verified Fair Labor and organic, and their packaging is sustainable, too. They use natural biodegradable filter paper made from manila hemp cellulose for their tea bags and make their tea tags from 100% recycled materials and soy-based inks, so you can pop them in your compost. While their outer packages (the envelopes) can’t yet be recycled because they’re conventionality lined with foil, they are derived from 72% post-consumer recycled content and soy-based inks. The cardboard boxes are made from 85% post-consumer content.

Numi Organic Tea Haul

Because I’m an avid tea drinker who appreciates free shipping, I splurged on their website, buying several varieties including pu-erh, which I had never heard of but found intriguing. They sell teas in their biodegradable tea bags, as loose teas, and even, in the case of pu-erh, as the more traditional tea brick.

Pu-Erh, Pu’Erh, Puerh Tea

Described by some tea experts as “the only tea that gets better with age,” pu-erh has a thousands-of-years long history in Chinese medicine and has only relatively recently become a niche market in the West. While it has a similar flavour profile to some of the black teas we’ve tried thus far, because it’s also from Camellia sinensis, pu-erh is actually pretty different in a couple of ways. First, it comes from mostly unoxidized green tea harvested from the larger leaves of wild Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Assam) plants that have been allowed to grow well past maturity into trees in the southwestern Yunnan Province of China. Most teas we enjoy from Camillia sinensis are harvested from small-leaved Chinese varieties which are more compact with smaller leaves. While traditional teas are often oxidized, the large harvested pu-erh leaves are aged and fermented for 60+ days.

Yunnan Province

Original “China location map” by Shadowxfox. Specific location label applied by Heart of Pixie, CC BY-SA 3.0.

We well know the benefits of fermented foods; pu-erh offers healthy gut-loving bacteria, and studies have also shown positive effects of pu-erh consumption on cholesterolweight gain, and inflammation. Like most teas, pu-erh also has antioxidant properties.

Pu-Erh gets better and better as it ages, and you can keep a brick indefinitely. The taste will alter over time, too. Think of it in the same way you would a vintage wine. Journalist Jill Neimark, of The Salt‘s Tea Tuesday, suggests that pu-erh should be savored and enjoyed slowly, the same way you’d enjoy wine, too.

Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-Erh Tea

Here’s how Numi describes their pu-erh process on the website: “Broad leaves are picked from ancient, wild tea trees in Yunnan, China. Leaves are piled, dampened and turned–fermented for 60 days. They are then left loose or compacted into brick-like shapes for aging.” They provide more commentary on the box, which explains that their 500-year-old organic wild pu-erh trees are “communally owned by the local villagers who pick them for their livelihood.”

Emperor's Pu-Erh

Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-Erh

What you’ll notice first is its distinctive aroma–pu-erh can smell like anything from dried mushrooms to dried fish depending on the type and/or brand you’re steeping. Don’t let the smell turn you off, though, because it doesn’t taste how it smells. I find its mellow, earthy, malty flavour really comforting and soothing.

You can brew anywhere from 3-7 minutes. I brewed for 5 minutes and thought it was perfect. It tastes fine on its own, but I fixed it as I would my coffee, because it’s an awesome coffee alternative with high caffeine content.

Happy sipping!