Aging Tea

by on Friday, July 8, 2011 12:06:00 AM

When you buy loose leaf tea today in the United States you most likely receive the standard storage instructions; keep your tea stored in an airtight container at room temperature, make sure it is stored in a dry, low humidity environment, and ensure that your tea is not exposed to any strong odors. And if you follow these instructions, most tea companies will tell you that your tea will last anywhere from 1-2 years and the flavor will slowly diminish during that time.

In China, however, high quality tea will often be stored and aged just like high quality wine. The most famous aged tea in China is pu-erh, which is a fermented tea that is often pressed into a tea brick or tea cake and originates from the Yunnan Province. Many tea drinkers however might be surprised to know that pu-erh is not the only aged tea that can be found in China, tea farmers also will age red (black), wu-long, and white teas as well. Even high quality green teas can be aged, although this is the least common type of aged tea.

High quality aged tea will not have a stale taste like one might expect, but rather gains complexity and uniqueness after a few years. Aged white tea tends to have a creamier taste whereas a good aged oolong might acquire some nice fruity or cocoa notes depending on the initial processing type and growing region.

You do not have to be a professional either to age your tea. First it is important to find a high quality source of tea. If your tea is not high quality, then aging will simply cause it to lose flavor and taste bland and flavorless. The best recommendation if you are aging your own tea is to either keep the tea in the original sealed packaging or store it in an airtight container. Then make sure you store the tea in an environment that is dark, slightly below or around room temperature, and with low humidity. Try to also make sure that the space does not have any strong odors or perfumes, as the tea may absorb some of these smells. Store your tea for 2-3 years and then see what new complexities have been added!

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