Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 A few Single Trees, maocha, from The Essence of Tea

A beauty of a tea session today, drinking this lovely maocha. It treated me to all sorts of interesting complexity the moment I started to warm the leaves. A wonderful perfume that continually evolves. But what I like best are the still moments between sips, when it really shows its essence. A profound deep calm, and occasional gifts of sweetness on the tongue, plus the many nuances of perfume filling the head. I feel blessed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New storage experiment

So... my pumidor experiment has lost its luster. Earlier this year I started to notice the teas were losing strength in aroma and complexity. It was as if they were falling asleep and fading away. I have a couple of theories as to why that might have happened. Despite my cabinet being stuffed so full of tea cakes it's sometimes dangerous to even open the door, I think there was still too much air circulating. The added fans, while they were very helpful in bringing all corners of the cabinet to consistent temperature and RH, may have been part of the problem. But after talking with some folks I started to wonder if the other issue might be the fact that most of my cakes are "un-tonged." They're simply stacked, one on top of the other, with only the thin paper wrapper between the tea and the air. So starting around May or June, I began a new experiment.

I plopped down a bit of money (not much) for an impulse sealer and started sealing up some of my cakes, just like you see in tea shops in many parts of China. The results have been encouraging. The aroma becomes concentrated again and it seems that all the wonderful nuance and complexity I love so much about these teas becomes redirected back into the tea again, instead of dissipating into the air. Over the months as I would taste-compare sealed teas to unsealed ones, I eventually became a convert and now nearly all of my teas are sealed up. The only exceptions are those which I purchased originally in tongs (which I think is the most ideal way to store teas), and those few cakes I'm still leaving unsealed to continue with the comparisons.

Another good option (even better) would be to store one's tea cakes in those large yixing jars. Like the tong wrappers, the clay does a good job of keeping the tea protected, limiting the amount of air that can circulate, while still allowing penetration of humidity. Admittedly, the plastic wrap does not do that. But I don't have the funds to purchase a bunch of large yixing jars, and even if I did I have so many tea cakes it would probably require an addition to the house to store them all. So for now, until I come up with a better option, it's the shrink-wrap route for me.

But the pumidor is still useful. It's great for "conditioning" a tea cake, either right after purchasing or after removing it from the shrink wrap. When a tea cake that has been dried out somewhat is placed into that warm humid environment for a short time, it does incredible things to the taste and aroma of the tea.