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.|
|5 steeps or less and I'm coming for yours.|
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.
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.|
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.