Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How to choose a tea for aging

Conventional wisdom holds that puerh is the best tea to age. However, if one doesn't like puerh and especially aged puerh, one simply shouldn't age puerh! The class I gave here in my now weekly live video stresses this point: if you age tea to drink it one day (and not as a financial investment), then age the teas you like! Teaparker, my tea master, has proven that even green tea can age beautifully!

The other preliminary point I made is about why we age tea. After all, life is short and its end can come unexpectedly, so why postpone the joy of tea? I see 2 good reasons: 

1. Kids. In France, we like to purchase some good bottles of wine when a child is born and age them until he/she is 18! It's a way of  transmitting a certain culture and 'art de vivre'. There's a similar custom in China called Nuer Hong (gift to the daughter). 

2. Improving tea. A tea is worth aging if time helps to make the leaves taste better, if your pleasure is greater.

Let's examine the advantages and disadvantages for each type of tea when it comes to aging. 

1. Green/yellow tea. Advantage: big change. Disadvantages: high moisture content makes it prone to turn astringent/sour. It looses its freshness, a key quality of green tea. Light flavors are difficult to age.

2. White tea. There's a saying in Chinese about white tea. 1 year tea, 3 years medicine, 7 years treasure. Since this type of tea is well dried it's easier to age. The disadvantage comes from its light aromas, because aging always means loosing strength and flavors. So the tea becomes even lighter. Also, white tea is rather bulky and not practical to store: that's why white tea makers have started to press their leaves into cakes or bricks (like puerh). 

3. Oolong. Advantages: partially oxidized leaves have a good potential for post oxidation and aging, especially if they are well dried (roasted). There are a lot of aged Oolongs to prove it! Hung Shui Oolong is one such tea that is very well suited and takes little space to store. Aged scents appear within 10 years already. Disadvantage: Dry and clean storage is essential. Actually, it is easier to age Oolong in a dry and cool climate than in Taiwan. 
4. Red, fully oxidized, tea. Advantage: high stability, such leaves don't fear further oxidation. Can be kept for a long time. Disadvantage: the tea is so stable that it hasn't much room for change and improvement. 

The same can be said of Oolong that is roasted to strongly or shu puerh.

Winter 2007 Lishan Hung Shui Oolong

5. Sheng puerh. Advantages. Puerh, and especially gushu puerh, is the most powerful and concentrated tea. Puerh has a lot of transformation potential. Puerh has a proven track record of aging well for over 100 years! Pressed, it doesn't take much space to store and doesn't require a jar. Disadvantages: puerh is slow to age, especially in a cool and dry climate: if you're a certain age, you may not have 30 years+ to wait for your puerh to improve! 

During this class, we tasted how a Hung Shui Oolong ages. We started with this top 2019 Shan Lin Xi Hung Shui Oolong and then compared it to 2007 Hung Shui Oolong from Lishan I have aged myself in a porcelain jar.
The result is that after just 13 years, the roast flavors are gone and the typical aged fragrances are present. And it still tastes very lively and sweeter than before.
We did a similar experiment with an Imperial grade Oriental Beauty Oolong from Hsin Chu from 2020 (not yet in the selection, because I prefer to age and improve it first!)
And then we compared it to my (sold out) 2000 top Oriental Beauty Oolong. 
Oriental Beauty is highly oxidized and therefore more stable than a Hong Shui Oolong. But since a high grade OB is mostly made of buds and small leaves, it's very concentrated and the aging does bring a lot of finesse and new perfume like fragrances to the brew. 
The other difference is that OB is a much more feminine tea. So, if it's intended for a gift for baby, it would suit a baby girl very well!
This Friday evening (10 PM Eastern US time), the subject of my next tea class will be Wenshan Baozhong (history, characteristics, brewing...). This time, I will broadcast it live on my YouTube channel. See you then!

 Note: It is again possible for me to send tea to Canada and New Zealand, but only via EMS.

Note 2: I couldn't broadcast live on YouTube. I apologize for those who couldn't follow my video because of that. I need 1000 followers on YouTube to be able to make live video on that platform. So, please subscribe to my channel, so that my videos can be stored on YouTube and easy to retrieve in the future. 

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