; Cwyn's Death By Tea: I'm All Wet (and So Are You) ;

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

I'm All Wet (and So Are You)


Currently I'm in a state of suffering in a heat wave of +40s C with high dew points. Now this sort of weather is very common in many parts of the world, but not in snow country where I live. And we're not adapted for heat. I do have a window AC unit, but it barely keeps up when the weather gets this hot. My medications don't help, at least two of them have sun or heat warning labels. Even drinking tea can be difficult, and I only manage to work in a cup or two at night. So I spend more time thinking about tea than actually drinking it. Luckily sheng still makes the cut for me, because nothing is better than fresh, green sheng puerh with its yin qualities to drive out the water that my body is forced to hoard. This brings up some of the issues with drinking a fresh sheng. Some people cannot take fresh green tea, it bothers their stomach or they feel too cold afterward. In that case, aged puerh is the way to go alternating with aged oolong or oxidized red tea. But if you are able to drink fresh sheng, paying attention to brewing parameters is just as important to get the best from your tea as your careful decisions when you purchased the tea.

This past week, my friend and blogger OolongOwl demonstrated her mastery of brewing technique in her blogged brew of white2tea's 2015 "If You're Reading This" cake. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who has purchased this cake needs to read her blog post, and at least try her parameters. Of particular note are the temps she used for her water, aiming for 195F-205F at the very top means let the water cool after a boil for at least 5-10 minutes. She correctly assessed that a fresh green tea needs a lower temp to get the best flavors from the tea. If your tea turns to mush after a number of steeps, you know that the tea is all wet and so are you.

We have heard a bit about the unusual rains in Yunnan during the first part of April. Not only is fresh puerh on the wet side anyway after pressing, but any tea picked after rains will be even more so. Brewing temps are one way to control the flavor and retain leaf integrity. Check the dates on your tea cakes, if you see pressing dates after April 1, this isn't a sure conclusion that the tea got rain, but at least some probability exists for this in 2015. You can let the tea rest for several months before trying it out. But brew temps are one way to drink your new tea without killing it prematurely.

I've been working with another little technique on my fresh teas. When I reach a point where the tea doesn't seem to be giving much, the leaves are fairly opened and I'm brewing closer to 2 minute steeps, I stop brewing and dry out the leaves. I spread them out on a tray and let them dry out overnight or longer. If you have at least some AC going in your house, drying your tea is very easy to do. Then I can start over with steeping the tea and get several more steeps back at a 30 second steep time. In my observation, the tea develops an equilibrium with the water and no longer releases any more essence, however plenty of essence still is in the leaf. By removing the tea from the water and drying it back to just leaf, I can extract more tea from those dry leaves. This has been very successful for me with teas like 72 Hours and Last Thoughts, and with older teas that seem to need a rest. By the way, I dried out the 1960s sheng leaves that I drank with TwoDog a month ago, and I still have them. They are like dried out leather and nowhere near ready to quit.

Darn tootin' I dried these out.
One thing that bugs the crap out of me is when I read about a tea head who has brewed his $20-200 cake for 5 steeps and quit. Yes, I mean you. I am going to show up at your building with a 5 gallon bucket and dumpster-dive your trash can for those leaves you threw out.


5 steeps or less and I'm coming for yours.
I'll never need to buy tea again if I went around to all the houses of people who throw out tea leaves they paid good money for and then brew them halfway or less. I get it that you have to watch your stomach or your caffeine, but all the more reason to hang on to those leaves and dry them out. Next time you'll get not only less caffeine, but MORE flavors, more subtle flavors. You drank off any storage flavors, you're just getting to the real tea at 5 steeps. Throwing the tea out at five steeps is like taking a bite out of a steak and tossing it all to the dog.

So, a few pointers about Drinking new sheng:

1. Consider resting it for a couple of months.
2. Brew at lower temps than you would for aged tea.
3. Dry out the leaves when they seem fatigued and save them for another session.
4. Try and discover what the vendor sees in the new tea. Most western-selling vendors have excellent palates and they picked that tea for a reason. Change up your gram amounts and water ratio.

Storage

You need to know YOUR geographical area and indoor climate. Any advice you read online may not be appropriate for you or where you live. When you are seriously getting into sheng, you must develop storage solutions.

If you plan to drink your new sheng in <1 year, storing in a plastic bag is fine since you will be drinking it all up soon.

Can you store new tea with older tea? A variety of opinions are out there on this subject and no proof exists on any of them. Mine is this, I consider the profile of the new tea cake. If it has a floral or sweet quality, then I like to keep this profile and I store the tea by itself or with other similar teas like Yiwu. On the other hand, with bitter teas like Menghai or Bulang, I store these with older, aged teas under the theory that microbes in the older tea will migrate to newer tea. I feel like my bitter teas can take it and need all the help they can get to start fermenting. For smoky tuos or mushrooms, these are similar and I crock store them together. I discovered that bamboo wrappings in a pumidor can get moldy so I won't leave any tea in them anymore.

Crocks are inexpensive when purchased secondhand.
If you don't have a storage solution yet, you can leave the tea in a plastic bag for 1 year or less until you've explored storage solutions. Any more than that and you're risking the tea going flat and drying out if your climate has a dry winter season to contend with. But really, if you're stuck on storage, just get a plastic drinks cooler to use until you find something else. It's not the best option, but as long as you wash it out, give it a sun airing to remove any plastic odors, a cooler can be a decent enough solution if you're on the move or heading to school for the fall. Add a small jar of water in the cooler come winter, and the cooler doubles as a seat and you can still use it for ice and beer while you lock up your tea into a safe for the party.

Enjoy your fresh tea! The fun of owning and drinking has just begun. And take anything I say with a grain of salt, because my sheng shower got me all wet.







10 comments:

  1. From when I used to be a sencha freak, I learned the very useful rule of thumb that pouring hot water from one vessel to another at room temp will lower it about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore if you want your 210 degree water to be at 180, you can simply pour it from your kettle into your teapot into your cup and into your fancy Japanese water cooler (yuzamashi) and there you go! Everything's preheated and no waiting or vibe-killing thermometers.
    I feel like puer is generally much more chill and intuitive and forgiving than sencha (and I've heard Chinese people make fun of how seriously Japanese people take tea brewing while Chinese people simply "throw some leaves in some hot water and there you go!"). But I use a similar system with fresh sheng brewing employing my favorite teaware item I've purchased since my first gaiwan: my Yixing kettle from essence of tea. I boil water with a stainless kettle and then (with a slight preheat to not shock things too much) pour the water into the clay kettle. So my water is probably around 190-200 for a number of steeps. If it gets too cool I put it over a kamjove alcohol burner that David turned me onto, but I can also just add more boiling water. You could do this with a glass kettle, too. The water tastes way better than if you leave it/reboil in your stainless kettle, and the yixing especially works really well at adding a little mineral pizzazz/clay qi to the super soft Portland, Ore water.
    Just some thoughts, great post!

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    1. Hi Ian! I have to admit I love the look of those Japanese water cooler kettles. The ones that are drum shaped. Thanks for jotting some thoughts!

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  2. The page I've been using as my reference for puerh brewing temperature: https://www.white2tea.com/2015/01/15/best-water-temperature-brew-puerh-tea/

    I find some young teas can be very forgiving, while some older teas are quite unforgiving (Bosch vs. Repave).

    As a side note, tried Tuhao today and found it somewhat bitter, while Bosch feels ready to drink right now. Not sure if you already reviewed Tuhao?

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    1. Hi Benoitf, I have not reviewed it yet.

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  3. I thought I was crazy for brewing the youngsters at a lower temp...and for drying my leaves back out for later use. I feel better about things now.

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    1. The green hair just fools everyone and distracts from your smarty pants. :)

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    2. Hehe, I once told Ben that I act like a ditz because it means I get left alone to do research :P

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  4. And store that tea away for a while before getting into it. Give it the time and environment to do so before drinking. Your tea will thank you.

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  5. The green supplement I am about to start with is a decent if not better substitute for those costly products. Green drink comes at a reasonable price and is packed with benefits.

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  6. "I am going to show up at your building with a 5 gallon bucket and dumpster-dive your trash can for those leaves you threw out."

    I am still waiting for you to show up.

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