; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2015 Shou Fermentation Update ;

Thursday, September 24, 2015

2015 Shou Fermentation Update

Photo of the finished shou from March 12.
On January 27 of this year, I started an experiment of fermenting shou from raw puerh maocha in a stoneware crock bowl. The purpose of this experiment was mainly to demonstrate the viability of crock storage for long term fermentation of puerh tea. To show this in the short term, pushing tea from raw to ripe is the only possible way to get quick results. Fortunately, I had a couple of bags of loose raw puerh on hand. I wet the tea with water and twice with 2014 Last Thoughts infusion, covered the crock with a wooden lid as you would for sauerkraut, and added heat as needed using my cast iron radiators in my home. I turned the tea every few days. At about the six week mark, on March 12 I stopped fermenting the tea as it had appeared to have changed over.

Sept 14 photo of the same shou. 5g
After drying the tea, it appeared fairly dark and had a rather funky smell as most ripe teas do when young. I did a sip-n-spit at the time, and then put the tea away into a stoneware container to rest for six months. Now in mid-September, six months have passed and it is time to try the tea again.

Over the summer, I occasionally turned the tea in the container, gave it a sniff, and allowed it to sit out on the enclosed three season porch for the hot, humid summer season. At some point I noticed the funky smell had gone from the tea. Now it smells a bit minerally in dry form. The tea seems a bit too dry now, and a little crumbly, possibly because I left the lid off the container all summer in order to air it out, so the tea may be drier now than it should be. But I decided to brew up five grams.

Steep 6.
The good news is the tea is not funky tasting or smelling in any way. I poured off three rinses out of paranoia, tasted the next three, and then started drinking whole cups. The aroma from the leaves is incredibly good, still has that cherry chocolate scent. I don't taste much of that nice smell in the cup though. Mainly the tea is rather mild in flavor, a bit of minerals and just a bit of ripe flavor. Also, I noted still a little bitterness in the tea, so perhaps it is not as heavily fermented as I thought, and needs more time yet to age. The color has cleared up a good deal, but because the tea is a bit crumbly I had more powdery tea in the sieve than I do when brewing up chunks picked off of pressed cakes. I needed to rinse out the sieve a couple of times during the brewing.

Still have "powder" at steep 6.
Altogether I drank about nine steeps, and the tea was not yet ready to quit and I was still flash brewing. I am wanting more flavor in this, and am hoping the bitterness remaining in the tea translates into that flavor. Of course it is not going to be a stellar shou or anywhere near the best teas I've had. But I am understanding more now the reasons why shou is allowed to rest and age. It really does change and is not a fully finished tea, like other red/black teas are. Another six months of storage will surely tell me more. Like whether I want to keep drinking it or if I've killed it.

Washing tea pets in the rinse.

Back into the storage crock for another six months! I'll return to this tea at its one year anniversary on March 12, 2016, the gods be willing.

Requiescat in Pace.


  1. I love this experiment. And as you found out another reason to rest a shou for a year or so before getting into it.

  2. This article is on Tea Weekly subscription http://tea-weekly.com/issue/25

  3. You mentioned adding heat. Do you think the pile ever became exothermic?

    Do you have an idea what the maximum temperature was in the pile? I’m thinking any brittleness in the leaves might be due to exceeding 50°C.

    1. No, the max temp I could get was about 78F during the day when the radiator was on. My house temps in the winter are 64F during the day and 62F at night. So when the radiator went cold, the tea was cold. I think the brittleness is caused by starting with two-year old dried maocha, rather than fresh, and repeatedly wetting it and drying. The tea tended to stick to the bowl a little.

  4. What was the Maocha that you used?

  5. yea. what maocha did you use? you siad something about mixing Last Thoughts into it?

    1. All that is here http://deathbytea.blogspot.com/2015/01/puerh-storage-is-crock-2.html

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