I love coffee, but for various reasons, I try not to drink it every day. (I even quit for awhile once.) The thing is, it's been hard to find something that I like as much. Green tea is great sometimes, but other times it just doesn't seem appealing. I do raw cacao drinks too, but it's really not an everyday kind of beverage (but once a week it is ideal!) I have been trying — and failing — to find something I like as much as coffee, something that I look forward to when I wake up in the same way. 

Well, it's not quite an almond-milk cortado (my fave way to get juiced up on java), but recently I've been getting really into pu-erh tea — and it's been incredibly satisfying. It has a really rich flavor, and I can enjoy it both plain or with a bit of hemp or soymilk and honey (I like a flexible tea). It has a fair amount of caffeine according to the label, but so far, I've never gotten the jitters from it; it seems to be that perfect combination of mild stimulant without going over the top. 

A disc of Pu-erh tea

Why is it so good? I suspect that part of the reason is that it is fermented, which, in my reading about the tea, seems to account for the fact that it is jitter-free, though still caffeinated. The process starts off as other teas do, with green tea leaves being grown, gathered and dried. But instead of popping that into some tea bags and calling it a day, pu-erh teas are then made into a base sun-tea where they ferment, is then rolled, packed into bricks, discs or melon shapes and left to age (some are aged like wines, can be up to 50 years old, and are highly valuable).

During the aging process, the tea both oxidizes and ferments, meaning it has lower antioxidant content than other teas (and the resulting brew has a different chemical makeup), but numerous other health benefits, including promoting weight loss, and as a hangover cure (both unproven, but with a long history in China). 

As Dr. Andrew Weil writes on his website, "A Chinese study performed on rats and published in 2009 showed lowering of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglyceride levels after the animals were fed a pu-erh tea extract, along with an increase in  HDL ("good" cholesterol). We know that tea, in general, is protective against heart disease and cancer. It's likely that pu-erh tea has similar effects."

While it looks like a black tea, it is an aged green tea, and as such, mixes well with numerous other flavors, including jasmine (my favorite), ginger, magnolia, and mint. It's easy to find under the Numi Organics brand, which is the kind that I have been drinking. 

Have you tried pu-erh tea? Did you like it? 

Related on MNN: 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Why pu-erh tea is my new favorite thing
This ancient tea from the Yunnan province in China has numerous health benefits and tastes wonderful.