Where to start Pu-erh tea as a beginner

Chinese puerh teaA frequently asked question by Pu-erh (Puerh or Puer) tea beginners is: where should I start? (Raw or ripened? Young or aged? Loose or cakes? etc.)

Tea selection is like any food, highly personal. There are however a few considerations that the beginners can take to avoid paying high learning costs:

  1. Start from a small amount: loose, mini nuggets or even some mini cakes or bricks offer the opportunity to sample small volume without committing into the standard 357g full size cakes
  2. There are generally two clans of Pu-erh teas: raw (Sheng 生) and ripened (Shou 熟). (Please visit this page for more info on these two varieties: pu-erh tea, raw or ripened). I would recommend a raw (sheng) pu-erh to start if you are more a green tea drinker, or a ripened (Shou) if black tea is preferred.
  3. Similar to premium wine tasting, it can take some time to appreciate the subtle differences. I would therefore not recommend starting from the top of the range. On the other hand however, I would not recommend starting from a very cheap tea either in case you get put off before you have really started, as price is mostly a reflection of the quality.
  4. Ask for samples if possible (Valley Green Tea offers: free samples). Try before purchase.
  5. Join a discussion group (eg https://www.facebook.com/groups/puerhtealovers ) , ask any question you may have. It is a great way to learn and it does not cost anything.