Every time I am lucky enough to visit Hong Kong, one of my favorite things to do is eat dim sum while overlooking Victoria Harbour. If you have never had dim sum, you should definitely try it some time. You generally sit in a large restaurant while people whiz by with large carts.
In each cart are little dishes of dumplings, noodles, seafood, duck and pretty much anything else you can imagine. The best part is that each dish is really small, with only a few bites in each of them. Therefore, you are able to try a lot of different tasty morsels of food. I do have to warn you that there is a downside to dim sum. Because it is so good, you end up eating more than what you probably should. For anyone that has eaten too much food at one sitting, you are very familiar with that overstuffed feeling. This overstuffed feeling is so common at dim sum restaurants that they almost always serve a special type of tea that helps to settle your stomach. That tea is Pu-erh.
What is Pu-erh?
Unlike most teas that you want to drink as fresh as possible, Pu-erh is different. When the Pu-erh farmers are finished making the tea, it is usually made into compressed discs and set in a dark room or cave to age. This aging process is also known as fermentation.
Fermentation is Also What Turns Grapes into Wine
While the exact process that Pu-erh goes through is a heavily guarded secret, the basic concept is that the air interacts with the tea transforming its simple sugars into more complex flavonoids. These flavonoids give Pu-erh a unique taste that no other tea has.
The Taste is Similar to a Fine Cigar
Some people may call the taste earthy, but in my opinion I feel the taste is similar to a hand rolled cigar. It has a bold flavor that is an acquired taste, but once you actually try it a few times the tobacco taste is quite addictive, as any cigar aficionado will tell you. Unlike cigars, however, Pu-erh is extraordinarily healthy for you, even more so than regular teas.
Pu-erh can Aid in Weight Loss, Settle an Upset Stomach and Lower Cholesterol
While the scientific evidence of these claims is hard to come by, most Chinese believe that Pu-erh can help with many ailments. As I have said earlier, one of the most common is overeating. Another long held belief is that Pu-erh can also help with weight loss and reducing your cholesterol because the Chinese believe that Pu-erh is good for flushing oil out of your system, which in turn allows you to have a "cleaner" system.
The Greatest Benefit is its Taste
While there are a lot of great health benefits to Pu-erh, the greatest one in my opinion is its unique taste. It is rare these days to find a beverage that has such a complex flavor and if it can make you feel better after dim sum, that is just icing on the cake.
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