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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Never Too Soon

I tell myself the question is not how much tea I own, but rather how much I drink. In fact, the first question people ask me when trying to track me down these days (I'm around) is how much tea I am drinking. Oh, I drink plenty. I'm still officially "off" coffee, using my tea brewing machine in the morning to make a cup of whatever. Mostly for my a.m. cuppa I am trying to work my way through a variety of teas that I really should have consumed by now. For example:


This photo of a bag of Korean high mountain balhyocha is by Jeon Jae Yeun and the sticker reads 40g, but the bag is really 40g x 5, or maybe x 6. I have written about this tea before on my blog, as it is quite one of my favorites, imported by Morning Crane Tea. The bag here is about 3 years old at this point, an example of my hoarding as I felt I needed nearly a half kilo, and then proceeded not to drink any of it. Downside to hoarding the tea sits and the bag was not vacuum sealed when I got it.


While this tea is certainly still tasty enough, I notice it developed a malty flavor, somewhat like a Yunnan hongcha, and a slightly sour note. I kept it too long, and I don't mind drinking it now in the a.m. with its light chocolate and rosy sweetness, but a wiser lady than myself might own a vacuum sealer to keep the tea fresh. Even better if I had divvied up the tea into smaller bags before vacuum sealing. My tendencies toward hoarding and/or laziness are probably better suited to puerh.


I also collected a bit of oolong over the past five years and recently dug out this specimen from Taiwan Tea Crafts, a very reputable source for oolong and a frequent holder of sales although I have not ordered anything from there recently.


When did I get this 1999 oolong? Probably about five years ago. I recently brewed up 12g and I can tell the tea got a re-roast, and I'm not entirely sure the tea is 1999, but the color of the dry leaf is a faded brown, and it smells like an old pantry shelf so maybe the date is legit.


Again, the problem here is a bag with no vacuum sealing. I can taste the roast faded to a lovely light touch, but so too the rest of the tea has lost most of whatever other flavors. I should have consumed this tea right after I bought it, not five years later.

The oolong is still a little green but with brown edge.
I am on safer ground with puerh tea, assuming I am keeping my collection in decent condition. One of my recent teas finding its way into my cup is a cake of Bitterleaf Teas' 2016 Mansa, another tea I've written about previously. I own a couple of cakes and now am down to one after oops, drinking up all but this last piece I am somewhat hoarding for another day.

Only one chunk left of this cake.
I wrote a bit about the body feels behind this tea, but what I notice now is the large floral presence which just blossoms in the mouth, a huge flavor burst. We usually think of puerh as a tea that will always improve, but this Mansa might be an example of whether hanging on to teas for the future is always the best idea. I assume that puerh improves over time if something other than this beautiful floral must reside in this tea to emerge later on, and I can only guess whether or not that is true. I have a better idea of highly bitter and smoky puerh teas, that something more develops, but my Mansa tea is going to lose its best floral qualities due to normal aging, and I am not sure it has anything else to develop. Maybe it does, but really I just don't know.

What I do know is the tea is so good now, and enough people probably own one of Bitterleaf's Mansa cakes to form some collective idea of whether we should drink this now or hang on to it, hoping for more. I own maybe one more of the 2016 shown here, and also one of the 2017 which I did not like as much but I have not tried it recently. The 2016 though is really an excellent tea and rivals the far more expensive ChenYuanHao teas of the same year.

With so many unknowns with aging puerh tea, I can say that it is never too soon to dig into my collection and drink a tea and depending upon the tea it can indeed get too late. Puerh is more forgiving than, say, the Korean balyhocha in terms of sitting a couple of years. Had the TTC oolong received a vacuum sealing, it might be good almost indefinitely. Many puerh teas are undrinkable young, and speak for themselves that more aging is needed. But I think this Mansa is probably at its best now, and risks fading in the future, and perhaps drinking up highly floral teas sooner rather than later is a good idea.


3 comments:

  1. What a treat. Glad to hear from you again. :)

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  2. Hey there old friend. Good to see you are well and still kicking around. Enjoyable as always.
    MrM.

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