Yunnan province produces the vast majority of pu'er tea. Indeed, the province is the source of the tea's name, Pu'er Hani and Yi Autonomous County. Pu'er is produced in almost every county and prefecture in the province, but the most famous pu'er areas are known as the Six Famous Tea Mountains.
The six famous tea mountains are a group of mountains in Xishuangbanna, renowned for their climates and environments, which not only provide excellent growing conditions for pu'er, but also produce unique taste profiles (akin to terroir in wine) in the produced pu'er tea. Over the course of history, the designated mountains for the tea mountains have either been changed or listed differently.
In the Qing dynasty government records for Pu'er, the oldest historically designated mountains were said to be named after six commemorative items left in the mountains by Zhuge Liang, and using the Chinese characters of the native language of the region.These mountains are all located northeast of the Lancang River (Mekong) in relatively close proximity to one another. The mountains' names, in the Standard Chinese character pronunciation are:
- Gedeng : The term for "leather stirrup"
- Mansa : The term for "seed sowing bag"
- Mangzhi : The term for "copper cauldron"
- Manzhuan : The term for iron brick"
- Yibang : The term for "wooden clapper"
- Yōulè : The term meaning "copper gong"
Southwest of the river there are also six famous tea mountains that are lesser known from ancient times due to their isolation by the river. They are:
- Mengsong Shān
- Menghai Shān
- Jingmai Shān
- Nánnuò Shān : a varietal of tea grows here called zĭjuān whose buds and bud leaves have a purple hue.
- Bada Shān
- Yōulè Shān
For various reasons, by the end of the Qing dynasty or beginning of the ROC period, tea production in these mountains dropped drastically, either due to large forest fires, overharvesting, prohibitive imperial taxes, or general neglect. To revitalize tea production in the area, the Chinese government in 1962 selected a new group of six famous tea mountains that were named based on the more important tea producing mountains at the time, including Youle mountain from the original six.
Drinking pu'er tea is purported to reduce blood cholesterol.This belief has been backed up by scientific studies not only demonstrating experimental results of lowered LDL cholesterol in rats, but discovering specific mechanisms through which chemicals in pu'er tea inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol.Pu'er tea has been shown to have antimutagenic and antimicrobial properties as well.
It is also widely believed in Chinese cultures to counteract the unpleasant effects of heavy alcohol consumption. In traditional Chinese medicine, the tea is believed to invigorate the spleen and inhibit "dampness." In the stomach, it is believed to reduce heat and "descends qi".
Pu'er tea is widely sold as a weight loss tea or used as a main ingredient in such commercially prepared tea mixtures. Though there is as yet no empirically backed evidence as to how pu'er might facilitate weight loss, there are widely proposed explanations include that the tea increases the drinker's metabolism, or that the high tannin content in the tea binds macronutrients and coagulate digestive enzymes, thus reducing nutrient absorption. Although evidence is still sparse, it has been shown that rats experience reduction in body weight, blood triglycerides, and blood cholesterol following a diet containing pu'er tea.
Some pu'er brick tea has been found to contain very high levels of fluorine, because it is generally made from lesser quality older tea leaves and stems, which accumulate fluorine.Its consumption has led to fluorosis (a form of fluoride poisoning that affects the bones and teeth) in areas of high brick tea consumption, such as Tibet.
*Information from Purple Cane, Wikipedia.