White Tea Storage Experiment: Unheated vs 36C (6 months)

The purpose of this experiment is to observe the effects of heated storage on the aging process of white tea.

For this experiment, I chose 2019 From Here We Go Sublime from Kuura, since it’s sun-dried and in cake form, meaning it should improve with age (as the product page confirms).

Methods

  • The cake was conditioned to 65% RH at room temperature, then split into two halves.
  • Boveda packs (and silica desiccant packets, later) were used to control the humidity.
  • The samples were rested at ~22C for 4 weeks before evaluation.

Storage Treatments

  • A – 22C, 65% RH
  • B – Conditioned to 65% RH at 22C, sealed in mylar without Boveda, stored at 36C.

Evaluation

A look at the tea:

Unheated left, heated right. The difference is so subtle it’s almost not there. It’s especially difficult to judge because of the variation in material.

The samples were broken off the outer rim areas of the cake halves.

3g leaf samples in 45ml gaiwans. Boiling water. Not much longer than flash steeps.

My tasting notes are limited only to differences between the two samples.

  1. Unheated performs just as I expect, and is effectively identical to its state 6 months ago. Heated has a highly unpleasant sharp taste, mostly in the finish, which lingers. The leaf aroma is more sour from the heated tea.
  2. The sharp, weird taste is mostly gone from the heated tea, which also exhibits less of a fresh, young character in comparison to the unheated tea. Less present.
  3. As the unheated sample calms down a little from its vigorous, detailed profile, the heated tea is becoming more lively, with almost none of the strange taste remaining.
  4. Return to form for the unheated sample, better than cup 3, with no real difference in brewing to account for this. Heated is still improving slightly, with no remaining sharpness/weirdness, and more good white tea character as per the previous cup. These teas are very similar to each other now.
  5. Unheated is becoming mellower. Heated is even stronger now, gaining momentum.
  6. The main difference now is the presence of fresh character, which is higher in the unheated sample. The heated sample is picking up a honeyed taste, especially in the finish. This distinctly warm, mellow honey taste is not present in the unheated tea.
  7. Even more honey from the heated tea. The tea continues to steep in this direction, with lots of potency remaining.

To clarify, the strange sharp taste I noticed in the first couple of steeps is not the same as the lemon ester note. It is a more superficial unpleasantness, and as luck would have it, easily washed away. In an attempt to rid the tea of this strange taste, I will be dehumidifying both samples to around 50% RH, then continuing with storage.

Expect an update in 6 months.

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