Pu erh tea may be one of the most unusual teas you find as it has unique processing and storage techniques as well as one of a kind flavor profiles. Pu erh is the only type of tea that is fermented, like wine or cheese, and oxidized.
Pu erh generally consists of two categories, raw, sometimes called green or uncooked, and ripened, sometimes called fermented or cooked.
Raw pu erh is processed like green tea and is sometimes pressed into various shapes. Once processing is completed this tea is carefully stored and aged for future consumption. The process takes several years as very young raw pu erh can be quite astringent. The aging refines the tea and brings out flavors unlike any other variety. Essentially, pu erh is a living tea, much like wine, and carefully aged pu erhs are some of the most expensive teas on earth.
Ripened pu erh undergoes a faster, deeper aging process to encourage oxidation and fermentation. This only takes about three months and is therefore significantly less expensive than raw pu erh. The ripened pu erh will taste like a green pu erh that has been aged for 15 to 20 years, but not exactly the same.
Ripened Pu erh teas are properly steeped between 205° and 212° Fahrenheit for 3-5 minutes. Green Pu erh teas are properly steeped between 175° and 190° Fahrenheit for 3-4 minutes.