World of Tea Series: A Flight of Aged Teas
A FLIGHT OF AGED TEAS
Hosted by Cinnabar Wright (Phoenix Tea)
While most of the finest teas are at peak value shortly after their harvest and production dates, there are some teas that are produced and stored for years, utilizing traditional practices that enhance the depth and character of the tea. Aging is typically associated with the teas that are referred to as "post-fermented" in English. These are the teas from Yunnan, Hunan, and Anhui, China, which employ microbial agents as catalysts of change in the tea over time. These teas are most often formed into bricks, cakes, and other compressed forms, and they have a great deal of variation within those parameters, but all increase in quality as they become older. Producing a very different style, there is also a tradition in Taiwan of aging oolongs, which are taken out and re-roasted every so often, as they become richer, darker, and more complex.
It is not difficult to find and taste unremarkable aged teas from Taiwan and China in the 2-5 year old range, so in this August 15th tasting we concentrated on teas that have been aged for at least 15 years, including some teas from the '80s and '90s. Teas of these older vintages are considerably more of a challenge to source, which is generally reflected in their price, but they are well worth the cost to the people who really understand and appreciate them. Some tea people attribute qualities above and beyond sensory experience to these aged teas, including high levels of "chi," the energy defined by Chinese medicine and martial arts, and many people experience a state of euphoria while drinking these venerable teas, known in the West by the term "tea drunk."
We couldn't promise that attendees would experience an exalted mental state when you tasted these aged teas, but we can assure you that this was an enjoyable adventure with a flight of exceptional teas that you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else.