Thursday, February 09, 2012

Enjoy the Anticipation: Choosing a Tea for the Ages

This weekend, we will carefully and artfully seal tea for 20 years. Not only will we be putting tea away for long-term storage, we will be creating works of art. The first question I contemplated when conceiving this event was: What tea to seal? I already had an idea about this particular tea based on a few factors. First, how large are the jars? I haven't filled these jars with tea before. The jars are ceramic and they have a large capacity. In essence I've always known a few parameters that would help me decide which tea to use for this type of experiment. One consideration is that the lower the level of oxidation of the tea, the more dramatically the tea will change as a result of the aging process. This vivid transformation allows the drinker to marvel and savor the flavor, the experience of time gone by. It is as if we get to taste the last 20 years that passed since sealing the jar.
Some of the jars that will be available for sealing tea
Green goes to earthy dark, similar to puer. Sometimes, even tea experts can be fooled into thinking that an aged oolong is an aged or cooked puer tea. It changes that much. Some experts believe that the greenest oolongs are the best for aging. The transformation that they undergo seems the most dramatic.
Another issue is that of necessity. This is also a question of restraint. If we seal away a favorite tea, it would be very difficult to stop my urge to drink up the tea long before 20 years has passed. Also, remember that the tea will be transformed, so why change what you like now? Enjoy what you enjoy. This is not to say that we don't enjoy the tea that we are sealing, it just means that once sealed, we can enjoy not drinking it. Instead, we can enjoy the anticipation.

With the question of aging often comes the question of roasting. Some people say that as a tea is aged, it should be roasted every year to remove some of the moisture that is absorbed into the tea over a year’s time. Roasting is an art. There are so many ways to achieve one’s desired results. We have gone another route with regard to aging and roasting, partly due to our lack of experience with roasting tea, but mostly based on information obtained through several visits with aged tea connoisseurs.

Aged tea is strange because a tea can change in so many different ways. We are fans of just letting the tea sit. It should sit in a place where it will not be exposed to direct sunlight, strong odors, and will not have to be moved often. It would be best to keep it in a place that is dark, dry, and cool. Regarding the storage vessel, tea will change differently in different materials. We recommend jars as the optimal choice. If tea is sealed in a jar, it does not have to be air tight.
Storage seals are signed to further document the event.

After aging for twenty years, it would be practical to roast the tea a bit at a low temperature for a certain amount of time to cook off some of the storage energy. In a sense, this works to awaken the tea from its energetic storage state.

About the Dragon Label: Local artist Eliza Lenore designed the tea labels for this event. The dragon was chosen as a time marker, as this zodiac sign happens once every twelve years. In this case, the dragon has been shaped into the image of the J in our J-TEA logo.   


  1. This is a really fascinating and grand tea experiment. I'm inspired to drink some aged tea this afternoon.

  2. Time to start planning the 2032 opening party! Will you be listing the teas that were vaulted?
    This is a beautiful way to capture time.

  3. West does not talk about aging Darjeeling - you made me sit up and think about this - Marshal N - a pu'er enthusiast talked to me about this few years ago - now I wish to do it - I will be in Taipei for a tea expo in last week of June 2012 and would like to meet you there, if possible...

  4. Rajiv,
    I am not planning to attend the Taipei tea expo, but I will let you know if those plans change. Aged Darjeeling would be awesome!