Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The importance of storage

In my previous post, I shared how storing Chinese tea in your kitchen can be a bad idea, especially if it gets hot, humid and fragrant when you cook there. Also, a good seal is important to keep the teas fresh and pure. Like for wine, an odor free, well tempered place is best.
 
Some friends of Chinese teas, especially half fermented teas like oolong and green teas, feel that storage is just a way to keep the tea from deteriorating as it looses its freshness. The have truly good news from Master Tse, Chung Hsien. There is the process of 'pei huo' (i.e. warming the dry tea leaves with light heat, like roasting coffee beans). Don't push the heat to hard or the tea will have a taste of coal. Tea masters roast their old tea themselves. Oolong teas can then be preserved for over 20 years and have added flavor, just like old Bordeaux.
 
There is a particular Chinese tea that will taste better with age: (sheng) Pu Erh. But contrary to wine, raw Pu Erh is not afraid of some humidity and higher temperature. Taiwan is a perfect place to store it. Humidity and heat will accelerate the natural post fermentation process.  But here again, don't store it around other food or in your kitchen. Best is to create your tea cave in a dedicated place.     

3 comments:

J. in Ithaca, NY said...

Dear Stephane,
Would you please explain the process of 'pei huo' a little further? How can we properly reheat a baked tea for long-term storage? Should we do it yearly? And, finally, does the tea need to rest after re-baking? Thanks!

Stephane said...

To 'roast' a tea is quite complicated. Since tea absorbs smells easily, it is best to have a dedicated machine to do so. You obtain 'pei huo'/roating, by drying the leaves with dry heat (oven or over charcoal). Best is to use low heat for a long time (not high heat for a short time).

It is done yearly if the tea (bag) is constantly opened and closed (in a tea store). But if you store well it for the long term, it is not necessary to do it regularly, provided the tea was dry enough to begin with. That's why very 'green' and fresh Oolongs are not such good candidates.

I hope this helps. Sorry not to write more.

Stephane said...

As for the rest, it depends. It depends how strong you roasted the tea. A very strongly roasted tea needs rest to loose the 'firy' element it received. However, for lightly roasted Oolong, I find that they have a special 'freshly baked' quality when they come out of the oven. It seems like they have just been made and taste fresh again.
A way to experience this with roasted tea: pre-heat your teapot well. Put a roasted (but not freshly roasted) tea in the teapot. Shake the closed teapot. Open the teapot and smell the dry leaves.