Young Raw Puer Storage Comparison: Unheated vs Overheated (6 months in)

This is, in effect, an update on a reddit post I wrote more than a year ago, which detailed my failed first attempt at heated tea storage.

That post discusses the accidental overheating of some of my tea to roughly 46-49 degrees Celsius for about 3.5 months. The tea discussed in this post is Yunnan Sourcing’s 2018 “Na Han Village”, which I had purchased two cakes of.

One cake has simply been stored in mylar at ambient room temperatures and 65% relative humidity, while a second cake was in one of my (46-49C) hotboxes during that 3.5 month period at 72% RH. After that time period, it saw several months of storage at 65% RH and room temperature, but it did not recover. Eventually, I put that cake back into heated storage, this time at a much more carefully controlled 40 degrees C. I let it mature for another 2.5 months (totaling 6 months of heated storage), let it rest at ambient temperatures for a little over a month, and now here we are. It’s time to evaluate the samples.

Here’s the dry leaf. 3g leaf per each 45ml gaiwan.

Unheated on the left, heated on the right.

Rinse: Aroma only so far. Unheated sample is just what one would expect. Pungent and vividly vegetal: broccoli, asparagus. The heated sample is strange, no doubt. It has a tart, (extremely pungent) sugary aroma that I don’t recall experiencing with any other tea.

Let’s check on the leaves.

  1. The unheated sample is vegetal and lightly fruity. The heated sample has more sweetness and a darker profile. There is a direct extension of the lemon ester note, which seems to be evolving rapidly in 40C storage, getting darker, less dense, more nuanced, and more bearable. There is still a strange unpleasantness to the taste/aroma (mildly yogurt-like), but it is somewhat more bearable than it used to be. By the way, some of white2tea’s Guangzhou-stored offerings have a similar lemon ester note, particularly 2019 Undercover. It’s relatively subtle, though, and much more similar to my other 2018-2019 raw puer samples, which were never heated beyond 40C.

2. The unheated sample is pretty much just as you’d expect. The heated sample is producing a hint of black tea taste and a lingering sugary taste as well as the unpleasant aspects already mentioned.

3. Unheated is tasting sweeter, with a soap note and slight bitterness. Some astringency. Heated has dark honey now. Unpleasant aspects still present.

4. The unheated sample is giving me lots of thickness and some nice vegetal notes. Heated is giving me a simpler taste now. Still strange and unpleasant, but less chaotic.

Skipping the rest of the session now because I can’t be bothered to drink any more of this. The heated sample is better than it used to be, but is clearly still problematic. I went ahead and dumped most of the rest of the tea, taking only a sip from each cup to check for surprises (there weren’t any).

Here are the fully steeped-out leaves.

So, here’s what I’m thinking about:

  • The 2.5 additional months of 40C storage has significantly improved the previously overheated sample. There are pleasing qualities in this tea I did not notice last time, such as the dark honey, the incense-like aroma, and the general darker profile.
  • The lemon ester note is less present now, but the discovery of that yogurt note was an unfortunate surprise. Hopefully that will pass.
  • While the heated sample seems to be on a positive trajectory, I have my doubts on whether it will ever fully shed its current unpleasant aspects.
  • 40C storage develops the tea rapidly, which is a good thing in and of itself. However, regardless of this sample here which was previously overheated way beyond my intended limit… I’m skeptical of the idea that it will result in just as good tea as a more conservative temperature applied for a longer period of time. Well, it might turn out even better, no one really knows, but in any case I think it will be unlike any storage that currently exists on a mass scale.

Expect an update in 6 months.

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