How to Age PuErh Cakes

How to Age PuErh Cakes


Hey teaheads! This is Don from Mei Leaf. In
this video, how to age Puerh cakes. In this video I’m going to be explaining the basic
factors for you to get the BEST out of aging your Puerh. This video is going to go under
the “Tea Masterclasses” playlist. If at any point in time you enjoy this video
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to come your way. If you haven’t subscribed to our YouTube channel yet then go click that
button. So some of you may HAVE Puerh cakes. Maybe
you are INTERESTED in buying Puerh cakes. I thought it would be useful to go through
some of the factors that you need to consider if you’re considering aging your puerh. Let’s
first talk about what it is about Puerh that makes it suitable for aging. The process to
make Puerh keeps the tea alive. What I mean by that is that in the tea leaf – in ALL tea
leaves – there are enzymes that catalyze the oxidation process. In MOST tea types what
they do is STOP the oxidation process by halting the enzymatic process. They basically deactivate
the enzymes, and they do that by heating and drying. But with Puerh what they do is heat it at
a lower temperature – so just over 120 [to] 130 degrees Celcius, compared to, say, an
Oolong tea that would be heated well above 250 degrees Celcius. So they reduce the temperature,
and that means that instead of deactivating the enzyme completely, they slow it down to
a crawl. Then they sun-dry the tea. This is a really important step of Puerh making. most
teas goes through, kind of, industrial heating racks that heat the leaf up and dehydrate
the leaf. But with Puerh tea they sun-dry it, so the tea leaves still have a little
bit of moisture in [them], again, keeping the tea alive. Then when they compress it
into cakes they steam the leaf to soften it to make it into a cake. So they’re locking
in moisture. [This] means that inside the cakes there is moisture that allows the tea
to age over time. So this enyzmatic process, coupled with the
fermentation process that comes from picking tea leaves in a relatively wild ecosystem
with lots of microorganisms floating around [means] that the tea will start to darken,
the flavor will change, and the effects will change. So I wanted to go through the key
factors of what makes the Puerh age, and factors that you can control. First of all, with raw Puerh tea I always
recommend that you drink the Puerh tea fresh – within the first two years of picking – or
you wait past six [or] seven years. Because the period between two and seven [years] is
kind of an in-between. It’s neither here nor there. It’s too mature for a young, fresh
Puerh, and it’s too young for an aged Puerh. The aging process usually takes between 10
to 20 years. [At] 20 years you’re starting to approach properly matured, fully aged Puerh.
But really you can go 30 [or] even 40 years. A lot of people consider 40 years to be the
kind of pinnacle of Puerh aging. But it also depends on how fast it’s aging. Generally
it’s considered that the slower you age a tea – whilst keeping it alive [and] keeping
the leaf active – aging slowly produces a better aged tea, rather than rushing the aging
process. However, I am not a very patient person [laughter], and judging by the fact
that you’re talking 20 [to] 30 years to age a Puerh cake I don’t know how many Puerh cakes
we’re all going to age in our lifetime. So I’m more of the opinion – and slant – that
we push the aging process a little bit harder so we can enjoy the tea, rather than just
passing it on as an heirloom. Okay. Let’s talk about the factors. The first
factor is temperature. Temperature is really important. You don’t want it to be too hot,
[and] you don’t want it to be too cold. Something around room temperature, so 20 to 30 degree
Celsius is about the right temperature for maturing and aging Puerh. For the American
viewers I’ll put the Fahrenheit for temperature in the description section below. Okay, so
temperature around room temperature. The next is humidity [which is] really important.
There is “wet storage” and “dry storage”. You’ll hear people talk about whether or not
wet storage is better than dry storage. [With] dry storage, if you store the tea in a dry
humidity – around 40 to 50 percent humidity – then it will age slower. Wet storage is
[around] 60 [to] 70 percent, or maybe even slightly higher humidity. That will age the
tea quicker. Some people buy humidors, that you normally use for cigars, that keep the
humidity at around 65 [degrees]. They store their Puerh cakes in humidors. That’s something
that you can do if you feel that your natural humidity isn’t right. Between 50 and 70 [percent]
is a good window for aging. The next thing is air. It’s important that
you make sure that there’s enough oxygen for the oxidation process to happen, but you don’t
want TOO much circulation of air that it dries the cake out. What I recommend is that you
keep the cakes in a relatively closed-off environment, but AT LEAST once a year you
open the area where you’re storing the cake and let a good amount of fresh air in so that
you’ve got oxygen to replenish the oxidation process. The next is light. Light is very important.
Keep it out of light. Darker is always better. The next factor is aroma. These teas WILL
soak up aroma, so you want to make sure that you keep the teas out of kitchen – or any
strong – smells. You want to keep it in an environment where it’s not going to pick up
too much aroma. You’ll also find that it will CHANGE throughout the year, so you may taste
an aging Puerh in springtime and it will taste different to autumntime, because it’s reacting
to the environment constantly, and to aromas that are in the air too. Finally, how you store the tea. This is really
key. You want to make sure that you’re not storing the tea in an environment that’s non-porous.
That’s why all Puerh cakes are wrapped in paper. If you started sealing it into a plastic
bag you’re going to, again, stop this aging process and prevent the tea from staying alive.
So you want to make sure that you keep it in an environment and wrap it up in porous
materials. I like to use cardboard boxes – just simple
cardboard boxes are great, and they actually speed up the aging process. If you want, some
people like to break down the cake and put it into unglazed clay pots and containers
like that. That will be a slightly slower aging process if you want to age your tea
at a slower pace. Those are the main factors that affect Puerh aging. I’ve just got some teas here and I want to
give you some examples of the aging process as they’re happening. This tea here is a 2015.
I’m speaking to you from 2016, [and] this is 2015. This is a year old. This has been
aging for a year. Let me see if I can focus on that… There you go. You can see that it’s still got some green
hues to it. The buds have still got a lightness to them. Right. Now, I’m going to put it next
to a 2006. So this is TEN years old. Let me just do this. So this is ten years old. It’s
not the same tea [or] the same mountain, [and] there will always be natural variations anyway,
but you can see here that the ten-year-old tea is noticeably darker, and has aged, and
is well on it’s way to becoming a nice aged tea. You can see that I’ve resisted breaking
into this one and tasting it. So this is ten years old. And my oldest tea here – let me just make
sure I’m in focus – is this one here. This is from 2003, so [it] is 13 years old. [There’s]
not a huge amount of difference, but let me quickly show you. This is the 10 years — oh
sorry, this is the 13 years, and this is the 10 years. Again, a SLIGHT difference. [It’s]
not a huge amount, but a slight difference. This has got more of those kind of autumnal
colors [which are] slightly darker [and] with slightly more kind of oranges and browns. So those are my cakes. Here are lots of [our]
cakes, and we have others in the office and in our warehouse, and they’re all aging differently.
But what I like to do ALSO is to break the cakes up. If I want to age a tea a little bit quicker
what I’ll do is actually completely deconstruct the cake. What I do- here’s an example – this
is a 2015 tea. [It’s] a tea we picked up from Yunnan last year. [It’s] a Sheng Cha from
Jing Mai mountain. [It’s] 1,000 year old tea trees, ancient arbor, gu shu; a really, really
lovely tea. I’ve only got a small amount left. This bag was full before and we’ve been drinking
and enjoying it while it is fresh. Now it’s approaching the time where I would STOP drinking
this because it’s just over a year old and I would like to age this. So what I’m going
to do next is I’m just going to be storing in simple brown bags. Make sure you always
label your tea so you know what you’ve got. Make sure it’s always in there. I’ll be transferring the loose tea into a
simple brown paper bag, wrapping it up, and storing it. One thing I forgot to mention
is that Puerh tea likes to be stored together, so keep the tea cakes together, quite tightly
packed – again, not TOO MUCH air circulation. Just a little bit, but not too much air circulation,
otherwise it will dry the tea out. But if you keep them together we find that there’s
a more even humidity, and the tea cakes actually kind of breathe into each other, and it’s
a really much nicer way of storing. So take a cardboard box, stack up your tea cakes nicely
together, and store them away in a dark place with the right temperature and the right humidity. Okay. I HOPE that helps anybody out there
who’s interested in Puerh aging to get the first step in understanding some of the factors
involved. That’s it teaheads. If you made it to the end of this video then
please give the video the thumbs-up. Check out our playlists and let us know if there
are any videos you’d like us to make. If you’re ever in London, come and visit us in Camden
to say “Hi!” and taste our wares. If you have any questions or comments then please fire
them over. Other than that, I’m Don Mei from Mei Leaf. Thank you for being a part of the
revelation of true tea. Stay away from the tea bags, keep drinking the good stuff, and
spread the word, because nobody deserves bad tea. Bye.

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