The in vitro and in vivo protective effects of water extract of pu-erh tea (WEPT) on tert-butyl-hydroperoxide (t-BHP)-induced oxidative damage in hepatocytes of HepG2 cells and in rat livers were investigated. After treatment with 200 μg/ml of samples, the survival rate of HepG2 cells induced by t-BHP increased. WEPT concentration-dependently inhibited reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in HepG2 cells in response to the oxidative challenge induced by t-BHP. Administration of WEPT (0.2, 0.5 and 1.0 g/kg of body weigh) to rats for 56 consecutive days before a single dose of t-BHP (0.5 mmol/kg, i.p.) exhibited a significant (p < 0.01) protective effect by lowering serum levels of glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT) and glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT), as well as reducing the formation of malondialdehyde. Taken together, these results demonstrate that WEPT is able to protect against hepatic damage in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that the drinking of pu-erh tea may protect liver tissue from oxidative damage.