This 'buying just after harvest' strategy makes most sense with green tea, a tea category that is not well suited to aging (with a few exceptions). Green tea leaves have a higher moisture level, which oxidizes at the contact with air. So, the earlier they are brewed, the fresher the taste. The second advantage of this strategy is to make sure that you're getting an early spring harvest (before April 5) when the buds are smallest and their taste most concentrated and fine.
Oolong leaves are harvested with more maturity (and therefore later) than green tea, because they need more strength to withstand their partial oxidation and drying. If the drying is long and hot enough to cause changes in the aroma, it is called roasting. Oolong is therefore more stable than green tea. And rolled Oolong can even be tightly vacuum-packed to further reduce the contact with air to keep it fresh longer.
The biggest concern for freshness is for the very lightly oxidized and unroasted Oolongs. But the first question isn't how long can they keep fresh? The first question is to ask oneself is if they are good (for your body). While green tea is best brewed light (few leaves and lots of water), Oolong is best brewed with a higher ratio of leaves for water. Sometimes, such low oxidized Oolong can feel uncomfortable for the stomach. It feels too 'green', too raw. Its only advantage is a very light, flowery fragrance. But this scent is also likely to change and sour within a few weeks after opening the vacuum sealed pack. For these reasons, this is not the kind of Oolong I select.
|Wonderful bowl by Michel François|
So, almost any time is a good time to purchase well made Oolong. For Hung Shui Oolongs, I would even recommend to consider the oldest first, before they sell out. The best strategy, in my opinion, is to taste/test a small quantity first and order a bigger quantity later if you find an Oolong that really appeals to you.
|The qinghua jar refines Hung Shui Oolong|