Pu’er is the name of the town from which this tea was originally bought and sold. Unlike other teas, the fermentation process can take anywhere from one to 50 years, and it is considered a medicinal tea by many Chinese.
“Pu’er is more expensive than other tea since it has gone through a long and complicated fermentation, then the leaves are compressed into solid bricks of various sizes to retain the earthy flavor for longer periods of time. Its flavor gets better and smoother with age,” explains Noppaporn Phasaphong, owner of Ong’s Tea. She advises drinking pu’er tea after a meal as it helps digestion. Beneficial to those with particularly stressful or hedonistic lifestyles, the tea is also believed to help lower blood pressure and detoxify the liver.
Due to its minimal fermentation, green teas contain a high concentration of antioxidants. Although it has a shorter shelf life than other teas and generally loses flavor within a year, this tea is said to reduce the risk of cancer and improve cognition. As a staple of the Japanese diet, this tea is cited as part of the reason why they have the longest lifespan in the world. Although it certainly isn’t a cure, much research in the medicinal properties of green tea has consistently found it to reduce the risk of cancer and lower cholesterol.
But watch out: The so-called bottled green tea and iced tea drinks found in your typical convenience store barely contain any health benefits, but instead are loaded with sugar. “They should be called refreshing drinks instead of green tea,” comments Noppaporn.
Black tea, commonly known as red tea in china, is the most widely consumed tea in the world. “Unlike green tea, the black tea leaves are fully fermented, which accounts for its higher concentration of caffeine and more robust flavor,” says Bousarin Methangkul, assistant marketing manager of Whittard of Chelsea. Due to its longer oxidation, black teas retain their flavor for far longer. As a stimulant for the central nervous system, the high amount of caffeine found in most black teas promotes alertness and wards off fatigue.
A popular accompaniment of dim sum, oolong cha lies somewhere between green tea and black tea. “Oolong is half-fermented tea. If it is left longer to oxidize, it would become black tea and have a stronger flavor,” says Noppaporn.
Also, oolong combines the health benefits of both black and green tea but to a lesser degree. Like green tea, oolong is cool in nature and activates the enzymes in the stomach responsible for breaking down oils consumed during a fatty meal.
The discerning tea drinker would describe it as bitter but, like a fine wine, with a sweet aftertaste. “Oolong has a sweet lingering aroma and flavor. Its caffeine content lies between green and black tea, making oolong a great coffee alternative that also works well as a wake-up drink,” adds Ong’s Tea owner.
An entirely different genre of tea, herbal teas (known as huacha in China) usually don’t contain actual tea leaves and are caffeine-free. The widely popular chrysanthemum tea is purported to prevent sore throats and reduce fever, while lavender tisane is a natural cure for insomnia as its soothing scent has a relaxing effect perfect for those in need of a good night’s rest. Different herbal teas usually cater to specific ailments and most are said to have mild medicinal properties, but it is recommended to consult a doctor before self-treating.
Where to Tea Off
4/F, Siam Discovery, Rama 1 Rd., 02-658-0445. Open daily 10am-10pm
With its first outlet on Bumrungmuang Rd., this long-standing teashop offers almost every tea under the sun from pu’er to long jing. Teaware items are also on offer.
Whittard of Chelsea
Try G/F, Q House Life Center, 02-610-7519. Open daily 10am-10pm, and G/F, Siam Paragon, Rama 1 Rd., 02-610-7519. Open daily 10am-10pm
The English tea brand provides a vast selection of eastern and western teas. For those seeking to minimize caffeine intake, various flavored teas and decaf infusions are also available.
Erawan Tea Room
2/F, Erawan Bangkok, 02-254-1234. Open daily 10am-10pm
This beautiful tearoom has takeaway packages of tea from India, China, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Also, you can grab a seat and enjoy an ongoing promotion that allows you to enjoy the famous afternoon tea (2:30-6pm) for B150.
The Oriental Shop
G/F, Siam Paragon, 02-610-9845/6. Open daily 10am-10pm
At this Oriental outlet, there are about 10 kinds of tea, with prices starting at B300/can, for you to bring home. Instant tea packages are also on offer for those intimidated by the tea brewing process.