Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Pu’er: The Gut-Healing Tea You’ve Never Heard Of

Add tea to your growing list of gut-healing foods and drinks. The traditional Chinese Pu’er tea has all the benefits of a caffeinated bev and a source of probiotics rolled into one.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

It’s well known that various types of teas possess a wide range of health benefits. Black, white, red and green teas are all linked to boosting immunity, fighting inflammation and warding off heart disease. And with Pu’er tea, you can add gut-healing to that list.

What is Pu’er Tea?

Native to the Yunnan Province of China, Pu’er tea has been consumed for hundreds of years, referred to by some as the “tea of emperors”. Like red wine, this tea is dark and aged. While many teas lose flavor with time, Pu’er relies on aging to develop a deep, robust fermented flavor.

The Camellia Sinensis plant from which Pu’er leaves are plucked are native to the Yunnan Province. Often hundreds of years old, tea connoisseurs credit the age of these trees as one of the factors in creating the complex, layered flavors of Pu’er.

How is it made?

This ancient tea is unique in that the tea leaves themselves are fermented, instead of the brewed beverage.

Firstly, after the tea leaves are picked, they are piled and left to wither in the sun. To ensure even withering, the leaves must be raked constantly. As the leaves lose moisture content under the sun, they develop much of their flavor.

Then, these withered leaves are heated in small batches. Traditionally, this is done in a large wok heated above a wood fire. To prevent them from being scorched in the hot woks, the leaves must be moved around constantly, an arduous process.

Once heated, the leaves are rolled to release all the oils from within the leaves. After this, the leaves are sun dried once more, this time under shade instead of direct sunlight.

Lastly, the leaves are formed into Pu’er cakes. Moisture is added for fermentation and then the leaves are molded by hand into the shape of a cake. The cakes are traditionally further compressed. The tea-makers place the cakes under heavy stone presses and then stand on top.

What is it good for?

Increasingly, research is linking Pu’er to improved gut health via probiotic effect. This comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with the health benefits of fermented foods on gut flora. Scientists have linked administration of this tea to promoting gut microbial diversity and changing the composition of microbiota.

Researchers have also found that this tea can have beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome (MS). This disorder is characterized by clusters of at least three of the following conditions: Obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides and low serum high-density lipoprotein. Research shows that gut microbiota and its interactions with dietary, environmental and host genetic factors is a key player in the development of MS. The biological activity of Pu’er include antioxidant, antiobesity, hypolipidemic, hypocholesterolemic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antibacterial effects. This polyphenol- and caffeine-rich tea improved diet-induced MS.

Pu’er has also been tenuously connected to aiding weight loss efforts, though more conclusive research is needed at this time.

Improving your gut health is one of the best things you can do for your body. The diversity of your microbiota can determine your health from tip to toe. Feed your good bacteria with the following intel on cultivating a happy gut: