Category Archives: Antique tea

Old Tea

1950s Yancha

Perhaps the epitome of one’s tea journey is to have the experience to enjoy a good genuine old or antique tea. To savour a good and optimally brewed old tea is alluring. Not only one has the chance to experience its exotic and complex taste and flavours generated from years of aging, it is also an overwhelming experience to comprehend the history of the tea.

What is the notion of drinking old tea? There are too many variables out there but we can generally summarise them into four categories, in order of hierarchy, from the lowest to highest:

1.  Ignorantly drinking a fake old tea which was thought or told to be genuine;

2.  Drinking a genuine but badly stored old tea;

3.  Drinking a genuine and well stored old tea;

4.  Enjoying a genuine well stored old tea with the optimal and quintessential brewing method.

The first two categories of finding and drinking fake old or badly stored old tea, from what I overheard from some tea connoisseurs, is plausible delusional. There are so many incredible stories and bamboozle to entice one into these directions. The risk is not only in monetary loss but there are high chances that it is likely to be a health hazard as well.

The third category of drinking a genuine well stored old tea is what most proficient tea connoisseurs will go into. Due to their long experience and exposure in tea, their chances of finding good and well stored tea are better. By constant tasting over the years, they are most likely to narrow down their preference for this type of tea.

But a genuine well stored old tea is still so rare with limited quantity that most of them hardly have the chance to experiment with the brewing. Some of them might be lucky enough to find proper guidance from the real teamaster and with bold enough courage to buy those teas in larger quantities to learn and experiment. Then they move to the forth category.

At the forth category, with constant experiment and relentless pursuit in brewing these old well stored tea, they narrow down the margin to get it closer of brewing it right. At this stage, it is crucial to spend a lot of laborious time exploring traditional, conventional and unconventional ways of brewing tea to reinforce understanding of the tea. Then, the likelihood of brewing the tea optimally will progress further as time goes by. After mastering the brewing techniques, the old tea becomes really very enjoyable.


1950s Yancha with original tea and packaging + a cashew nut.

Imagine being able to coax decades old tea of its wisdom, vigour, vitality and dynamism and able to control and articulate all these attributes in the brew in any profile you desire …absolutely joyous.


To be at category 4 of enjoying a genuine well stored old tea with the optimal and quintessential brewing method is really a very hard and long journey. It is usually taken with very small steps and also determined by the blessing of fate. To chance upon a real old well stored tea and learn how to brew it optimally is definitely a rare fate and the epitome in any tea connoisseur’s tea journey.

Assortment of well stored and aged old teas from 1970s to early 2000

However, in today’s context, the chance of finding a genuine well stored old tea with the proper guidance to brew the tea is extremely rare. For most tea connoisseurs, it would be more realistic to find the best new tea, which is suitable for aging, learn how to brew it and follow the journey as it ages. Learn about its’ character and grow along with it in its aging process. It is like following the journey of a growing child. This direction will be more achievable and as joyous too.

Ultimately, that said, everything is still a journey. There is no right or wrong, just our personal experience to reinforce our own understanding.

But the long journey, taken in the right context, is definitely… extremely joyful.



Tribute 貢


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! 🙂

Early 1980s Guangyun Gong Beeng - Sealed tong
Early 1980s Guangyun Gong Beeng – Sealed tong

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 brew
The brew

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.

Brewed tea leaves
Brewed tea leaves

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.



1990s compressed Shui Xian
1990s compressed Shui Xian

Chocolate tea is a nickname given to compressed Wuyi Yancha 武夷岩茶 in the 1990s when they were popular amongst tea drinkers. This tea is compressed in the shape of a chocolate bar with segmented ribs.

1990s compressed Shui Xian
1990s compressed Shui Xian

Usually a segment of the tea is broken along the ridge of the bar, just like chocolate and brewed in Yixing teapot. Sometimes, a chunck of the tea is plopped into a kettle of boiling water;  the casual ritual of drinking and brewing would just continue the whole day.

This tea compression style  concept is very interesting as the tea leaves consist of Yancha 岩茶, but made and aged in Puer style in the shape of chocolate bar. Delightful concept, isn’t it?

Tea leaves
Tea leaves

Today, I will brew a piece of this tea to experience its taste. It is a 1990s piece made from Shui Xian Yancha 水仙 岩茶, compressed in chocolate bar shape.  A segment of the tea is broken and individual tea leaves are carefully removed. Normally, I like to refresh tea before brewing so I will do the same for this tea. The tea is brewed in Chaozhou style so that I can exercise some control over its fragrance, sweetness and body.

The verdict?  Hmmm… a nice and exotic taste with a hint of more than 20 years of history imbued into the tea. The taste has the backbone of Yancha, no doubt, but  has more vigour than loose aged Yancha. Perhaps it is because of the compression that allow it to age more graciously and slowly whilst retaining its flavour and vigour. I also enjoy the comforting mellowness which is typical to aged Yancha.


A very interesting experience indeed. Perhaps this compression style should be experimented in other tea that can be aged. I would certainly would be interested in other tea like Semi Fermented Dong Ding, or Tie Kwan Yin, or red or yellow and and white tea done in this compression style.  There are so much possiblities of exploring the compression style of aging other tea, beside Yancha and Puer.

Chocolate Dong Ding, Chocolate Darjeeling, Chocolate Dian Hong, Chocolate Qimen, Chocolate Beidou etc…..Chocolate tea, anyone?

Ancient Dragon Pearl Tea 陳年龍珠茶

Dragon Pearl

Ancient Dragon Pearl Tea 陳年龍珠茶 is a very rare and exotic “tea”. It is actually the excrement from a type of insect larva found in Yunnan, China.  The larvas feed on the leaf of a local native plant. Bamboo tray is placed below the leaf to collect the larvas’ excrement. Scientific analysis shows that the excrement contains crude protein, crude fat, tannins, vitamins and nearly 20 types of amino acids. The excrement is then processed by pan roasting with tea in the ratio of 5:1:1 (Excrement:Tea:Honey) to absorb the flavour of the tea.

Sounds bizzare? But really, it a very highly prized, rare and exotic traditional tea that are sought after by many tea connoisseurs.

Today, I will brew this exotic tea to savor its taste. This tea is processed in the 1950s. The shape of the tea looks like mustard seeds but half the size. After refreshing the tea, it smells like a good aged tea with musky and minty aroma. The color of the brew is very dark brown. The taste is very exotic and pleasant with layers of complexity of musk and dried fruits. It has a pronounce minty and refreshing aftertaste with the profile of a good aged tea.

Overall, it is a very pleasant and unique experience drinking this tea. Definitely this is the type of tea that I will appreciate more and more over time. It reminds me of my experience with truffles when I first tried them and now I am a great fan of truffles. Or perhaps even, the caviar of tea.

Dragon Pearl 2

But beware! This is a very rare traditional tea processed in a very remote area and the authentic ones could hardly be found in the market nowadays. Although this tea may sounds bizzare, it is definitely a rare and exotic tea that is part of the tea history.

Big Mouth Centre 大口中

Ta Kou Zhong

Icon always comes with interesting nickname. Likewise, the iconic  Puer tea nicknamed Ta Kou Zhong , 大口中, which is directly translated as Big Mouth Centre.  It refers to the character of Zhong 中 in the wrapper of Seven-sons Puer tea cake made in 1970s to 80s and also some tea cakes wrapper of the early 90s made by various producers.

The stylized rectangle character of Kou 口 in the character of Zhong 中 is bigger than normal, and therefore Ta 大  is used to describe the unusually bigger size of  Kou 口 in the word Zhong 中.   That is how it gets its nickname from.

This iconic Puer tea is said to be of higher quality and some described it as the tea that possess the dynamism and vitality of a galloping horse.  Wow!

Today, I will brew this (1970s 大口中) tea just to find out the truth behind its description.

This piece of tea that I kept  is very well stored. The tea leaves are clean, reddish dark maroon and smell fresh without any undesirable odour.   After  removing some tea leaves carefully, I refreshed the dry tea leaves and let it settle for a while before brewing it.  The tea is really wonderful and last many brews. The colour of the brew is translucent golden amber. It is really very beautiful.

This tea has a pronounced  enticing taste of lotus and bamboo leaves aroma and sweetness with tranquil complexity.  It also has hints of similarities to the 1950s Liu An tea that I had tried.  The overall impression is quite far from any galloping horse dynamism or vitality as described by others, but close to something that we would  describe as perfect. Voilà!

Now, I just like to enjoy this tea without getting distracted by writing too much technicalities…

Patiently, respectfully and attentively, as I sip this tea, just like when we are in the company of an honoured veteran.

Hmmmm… Viva el té!

Flying Horse

Flying Horse

A tin of late 1950s Flying Horse Brand Fujian Tieguanyin  铁观音, unopened since then. Today I just opened it to share with everyone. Will brew and write more about it in later post.

Brewing old antique tea has certain technique and rituality.  Be patience, my friend, it waited so long for us and now it is our turn to wait…

Old antique tea has its charm and exotic aura. It might not necessarily be a perfect tea but its rarity and history imbued into the brew is often breathtaking.

Flying Horse 2