Finding an old or ancient tea is definitely determined solely by fate. On one fateful day, a tea collector brought a tong of early 1980s unopened Guǎng Yún Gòng Bǐng, 廣雲貢餅. I have found similar tea from similar era before offered by another collector but sadly it was badly stored and was kept exposed to hot and humid environment. It tasted funny and bland and I have to reject that tea with great reluctance. What a pity! 😦
Now, a totally sealed tong, unopened since early 1980s was presented to me (in 2013) to open it. What a great opportunity! 🙂
This tea is call Guǎng Yún Gòng Bǐng, 廣雲貢餅, which is made from tea leaves from Yunnan and Guangdong since the 1960s and the production continued to 1990s. The cakes from 1970s onwards are made solely from tea leaves from Guangdong. It is made using special recipe and the tea was so good that it can be used to pay tribute to the Emperor. That is why the word Tribute or Gòng 貢 is added to its name.
Of course those 1960s or 1970s ones are said to be special and superior but to have a perfectly stored tong of early 1980s tea right in front of you is really a blessed opportunity.
The tong was opened and the tea leaves were brewed. The taste was really sensational and special… sweet, aromatic, full of flavour and has many of the character of a great tea…good yun… great Qi…captivating complexity and mesmerizing. Indeed it was a really special and wonderful experience.
The tea leaves are fresh, due to its well kept condition which allows it to age gracefully whilst keeping all its goodness intact. It is almost perfect in many ways. The collector was kind enough to offer me a piece and it has been one of the precious tea in my collection since then.
This experience was one of the many opportunities for me to taste aged dry-sealed vs. exposed storage condition of the same tea.
I also have a few pieces of the same source 1970s Cultural Revolution Brick from 2 different collectors who also stored them differently for 4 decades, one exposed and the other, dry-sealed. The dry-sealed tea tasted so much better than the exposed one.
Storage for aging Puer has been a widely debatable topic but it would be a more fruitful debate if all parties have the experience of tasting decades old tea stored in different conditions. Otherwise, it is just a debate of presumptive perceptions.
Many would agree that the choice on how we store and age Puer tea depends largely on the climatic conditions of the place we intend age the tea. In the place where I aged the tea, the climate is constantly hot and humid around 31.1°C (88°F) , RH 83%, throughout the year. After years of relentless of studies and experiment and also the tasting opportunities offered by different collectors on different storage methods, my preference is definitely aging Puer tea in dry-sealed storage in this climatic condition. This method appears to achieve what I wanted in aged old tea, i.e. hygienic, clean, smooth, sweet, mellow, captivating complexity whilst still preserving its original vigour, aroma, body and taste.
Nonetheless, we are all free to choose any storage method we perceived to be right. However, in whatever storage and aging method we choose for aging Puer tea, it is very important that we must monitor, taste and analyse the teas’ changing character throughout its’ aging process.
The only way to understand this is through constant and habitual due diligence to monitor the tea changing character over the years under different storage conditions. Don’t just store the tea and hope that it will be good in future. Follow its’ aging process and understand it. Taste other tea that has been stored in different storage conditions too. There is no shortcut or other way apart from our own relentless pursuit and studies over a very long period of time.