The purpose of this experiment is to observe the effects of resting dry samples of aged raw puer tea prior to brewing.
For this experiment, I have chosen 2003 Wistaria Ziyin Yo. The storage on this cake was quite active, which made it easy to notice differences between the storage treatments.
- Samples were extracted from the front face of the cake, in sheets, keeping the leaf mostly intact.
- Samples were rested in small, practically airtight tins at room temperature prior to tasting, except for sample A, which was extracted from the cake immediately before tasting.
Storage Treatments, Observations
A – No rest – Most upfront flavor and richness. Most smoke of all. Most astringent and dense character of all, especially in early steeps. Very good.
B – 12 hours rest – Similarly flavorful qualities as A, with slightly less smoke. Somewhat “opened up”, though less than C. Some dense/astringent character in early steeps. Very good.
C – 1 day rest – Very “open”. Good richness, just not quite as good as B or A. Good.
D – 2 days rest – Additional creaminess over E. Not quite as rich as C. Okay overall.
E – 4 days rest – Very similar to F, except with a tad more sweetness and mouthfeel. Better than F, but still not good enough.
F – 6 days rest – Thin texture, lays flat in the mouth. Low richness. It appears the smoke has almost completely dissipated from the sample, as I’m barely able to taste it in the cup. A hint of sharp lemon juice acidity. Not very interesting or pleasurable to drink.
Disclaimer: There are potentially infinitely many alternative storage treatments to subject broken up tea samples to before a session. The treatment described earlier in this post is the only one being discussed in the analysis below.
A and B were the clear winners, as I continued to gravitate to those samples throughout the entirety of the tasting session. There was a gradual shift tasting from A through F, as the closer I got to F, the less flavor, mouthfeel and smoke I experienced. It doesn’t seem to me that there’s much reason to regularly rest samples dry before a session. I tend to get similar or better effects from simply letting my tea sample sit for 5-30 minutes after being rinsed, which usually solves the issue of taming the dense astringency and “opening up” the tea without letting its aromatics dissipate for hours or days.
Having had previous experience resting tea samples with similar storage treatments, it’s worth noting that beyond the 1 week mark, the sharp lemon juice acidity usually becomes much more apparent, and it’s quite unpleasant. I also noticed some correlations previously that are worth mentioning here: The more airtight the container, and the less free airspace in the container, the better the aromatics of the tea were preserved, also helping to avoid the unpleasant acidity mentioned.