on Sunday, March 6, 2016 7:00:00 PM
When purchasing loose leaf tea today, you most likely receive the standard storage instructions; keep your tea stored in an airtight container at room temperature, make sure that the tea is stored in a dry environment, and ensure that your tea is not exposed to any strong odors. If you follow these instructions, most tea companies would tell you that the 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 a 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 might be surpised to know that Pu-erh is not the only aged tea that can be found in China. Tea farmers will also age red tea (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 tastes whereas a good oolong might acquire some nice fruity or coca notes depending on the initial processing type and growing region.
The leaves are developing this new flavor because of the slow oxidation process. Tea leaves that are stored appropriately are naturally collecting the good moisture and oxygen content in the environment. This explains why the flavors tend to deepen and become more rich and flavorful. Darker style teas such as wu-long and red/black teas are processed in a high humidity environment to force the leaves to soak in larger amounts of humidity and oxygen, quickly influencing a distinct flavor. Letting teas naturally soak in the excess moisture and oxygen content in its environment slowly over longer periods of time influences a different, more subtle flavor change that is well worth the wait.
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. The best recommendation if you are agin your own tea is to either keep the tea in the original sealed packaging or sotre it in an airtight container. Next, make sure you store the tea in an environment that is dark, slighly 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 see what new complexities have been added!
We have a unique selection of aged white tea on our website if you would like to learn further about aged teas!