Recipe // Pu’er Tea Muffins

This was the first recipe I successfully developed, so it is a bit funny that I only photographed them in my last week here.

Before this summer, I didn’t like tea at all. Why would I drink grass-flavored water when I could just drink regular water? However, I love milk tea and I love thinking of other flavors way to add a subtle flavor to plain muffins. My siblings are averse to fruit or “weird” flavors in their breakfast foods, so I have a really good plain muffin recipe on hand. Fluffy and moist, trust me – this is the best plain muffin recipe around. Tea sounded like the perfect delicate way to spice up this already great recipe.

Pu’er tea is everywhere here. Each of my coworkers has an endless personal pot of pu’er tea on their desk. I started drinking pu’er tea (because why not) in the beginning of the summer, and now I am hooked. We’ll see if I keep up this habit in the US!

Pu’er tea is the famous fermented tea that comes from Pu’er, Yunnan, a village about 8 hours southeast of Xizhou. When freshly picked, pu’er is just regular green tea. However, after being fermented for at least 3 months (like wine, pu’er gets better with age), the pu’er tea gets a strong, deep earthy flavor.  I visited a local tea plantation to see them make pu’er tea. Of course, it is dried outside on the ground, and scooped up with a rusty shovel by a man smoking a pipe.

If you don’t have pu’er tea on hand, any ground tea will work. Once while testing, I used Earl Grey because it came in a convenient tea bag and was already finely ground (shhh!).

Pu’er Tea Muffins
Makes 18 muffins

Ingredients

3 c all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground pu’er tea, divided
2 eggs, room temperature preferred
1 c granulated sugar
1¼ c milk *
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
coarse sugar and ground pu’er tea, for sprinkling

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray your muffin tins with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon ground pu’er tea until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined.
  4. Boil milk with remaining 1 tablespoon of pu’er tea. When cooled, mix in milk, oil, and vanilla to egg and sugar mixture.
  5. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix everything together by hand. Avoid overmixing. The batter will be very thick and somewhat lumpy.
  6. Pour batter into muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and ground pu’er tea.
  7. Bake at 425F degrees for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and continue to bake for 20 more minutes until tops are lightly golden and centers appear set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

*For a less intense pu’er tea flavor, replace the 1¼  cup of milk tea with 1 cup of plain milk. This will result in a paler muffin, which contrasts beautifully with the ground pu’er tea sprinkled on top!

As an extra side note, the Bai people are famous for their indigo tie-dye. I used two handmade tie-dye vests as the backdrop for these photos!

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