Aged vs. Young/fresh


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Aged vs. Young/fresh

Postby taitea » Aug 15th, '08, 17:45

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around what is usually considered "good" when it comes to oolongs. It makes sense to me that they would be better if they were as fresh as possible. I also did some price comparisons and found that the fresher they are, the more expensive they seem to be, for example:

2008 Shui Xian Wang for $24.95 for 50g: http://www.goldenteahouse.com/Shui-Xian-Wang.htm
vs.
2005 Shui Xian for $7 for 50g: http://www.teacuppa.com/Shui-Xian-Oolong-Tea.asp

Of course these are different vendors, and the first one has an extra "Wang" in its name, so maybe this is not a good comparison. My guess is they are also different grades of tea?

Either way, I'd like to hear some discussions about aged vs. young oolongs. What's the difference? Is an "old" oolong the same as an "aged" one? Maybe the amount of fermentation plays a role here as well?
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Aug 15th, '08, 19:45

I have always wondered this myself. Puerh I understand that really powerful flavors in young stuff will mellow out much more over time, but what aspects of oolong give you a hint of it being a prime example for ageing?
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Postby Proinsias » Aug 15th, '08, 20:41

I don't think freshness = goodness when it comes to oolongs.

If you are drinking high elevation greenish Taiwanese oolong, or something of that ilk, then freshness can play a big part. The shui xian teas are often fairly heavily roasted and it's said to taste better if given a while, maybe a few years, for the strong roasted tasted to ease a little. Left for a few years or so after roasting is what I would consider an old oolong.

Aged oolongs are a different beast altogether, like green sheng and aged sheng. The best oolong I've got atm is some 1980's dan cong oolong, delightfully thick and sour.

The more I learn the more I don't know. A few years ago I wouldn't have seen myself making fresh green tea with boiling water, enjoying young pu-erh with cooler water, leaving oolong in unsealed packs at the back of my cupboard to improve them and contemplating buying very old oolong or shu.
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Postby Space Samurai » Aug 15th, '08, 23:25

Kind of what Proinsias said. From what I understand, some oolong (though less and less now, and don't even get me started on that) are roasted rather heavily, and can use some aging to diminish some of the smokeyness. I've had some wonderful aged oolong an I think they are far better than that high mountain stuff.
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Aug 15th, '08, 23:27

Space Samurai wrote:Kind of what Proinsias said. From what I understand, some oolong (though less and less now, and don't even get me started on that) are roasted rather heavily, and can use some aging to diminish some of the smokeyness. I've had some wonderful aged oolong an I think they are far better than that high mountain stuff.


There is of course always doing the roasting yourself :)
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Postby Space Samurai » Aug 15th, '08, 23:30

I've done some roasting, and I've had okay results, but I'm no Tea Master.
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Postby Chip » Aug 16th, '08, 00:21

This topic has been hurting my head since the OP. I am reminded how little I know and how much there is to learn about all teas. I used to think, buy freshest only and drink ASAP. This is a variable that is seemingly infinite to me right now.

I am hoping this topic will enlighten me which won't take much. :)
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Postby ABx » Aug 16th, '08, 06:25

Pretty much any oolong has the potential to age, particularly if it doesn't have a lot of moisture content (such as if it's roasted).

A lot of aged oolong is re-roasted over the years, but others just get tucked away, forgotten about, and then rediscovered years later.

Wuyi Yancha, such as Shui Xian, Rou Gui, Da Hong Pao, and the rest are always better aged and usually relatively heavily roasted compared to other oolongs. Whether heavily roasted or not, it's safe to say that it takes a few years for the flavors to balance out. The heaver roasted ones will have a lot of the roasted (or "charcoal" flavor) that needs to mellow out, and the younger ones will have something of a cacophony of flavors competing for attention that need to mellow to a balance.

Aged yancha will take on a particularly defining refined balance and texture that just can't be found in younger yancha, though some will need to be brewed right to get. Personally I just can't get into young yancha, and if you look at the descriptions at places like Jing's it doesn't even really seem to be considered. For some comparisons you can visit my Rou Gui comparison blog post here.

Green oolongs will be the most fragrant when they're fresh. After some time the aroma will start to diminish, however. As oolong ages it tends to change from floral to fruity.

As far as what determines whether something will age well or not, I think that's a bit like predicting puerh; one can really only draw on experience, and then it's still just speculation in the end. There are a lot of unknown variables and schools of thought. The more heavily roasted, however, the more likely it is to age well. With yancha it's almost a given, though I don't know about the greener ones.

Of course these are different vendors, and the first one has an extra "Wang" in its name, so maybe this is not a good comparison. My guess is they are also different grades of tea?
That seems to be the case, and "wang" does mean "king" which usually denotes a higher grade.

Take a look at Jing's selection and you will see two different grades of Da Hong Pao for very different prices. Each farm will usually produce batches at different grades. These higher grades are usually evident in the dry leaf being full (few, if any broken leaves), more carefully processed, and of consistent size - you can see this in the pics of the two Rou Gui's from Seven Cups in my blog post above. They will carefully separate out the (relatively few) best leaves to carefully craft into the higher grades, and use the bulk that's left to produce the cheaper stuff in quantity.
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Postby taitea » Aug 16th, '08, 10:47

Good info! I'm definitely going to read through your blog post more thoroughly a little later.

As for the aging, does anything special need to be done? Can I just leave it sitting in one of those air tight ziplock bags?
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Aug 16th, '08, 14:13

ABx wrote:As oolong ages it tends to change from floral to fruity.


This is particularly interesting as I love fruity oolongs. Is there any special care that needs to go into them?
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Postby ABx » Aug 16th, '08, 15:12

Like I say, some get roasted at regular intervals and some just get stuck in a corner to be re-discovered years later. Roasting also brings out more fruity characteristics in most/any oolong, but I'm not sure about the results along the spectrum. I know that a tea has to have little to no moisture to age and to keep aging oolong from going sour, which is why they're usually roasted to some degree, but I don't know how they differ when they're not roasted regularly after they've started aging. I suspect that it depends on how good the container is that you keep it in and how much it gets opened.

Personally anything that I want to keep for the long haul would be kept in a good container that wouldn't be opened until it's ready to keep exposure to air and humidity down. A ceramic jar sealed with wax, as Stephane from TeaMasters blogged about, would be sure to keep the elements and people out, but I would think that any particularly good container would do as long as it doesn't get opened much.
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Postby Proinsias » Aug 16th, '08, 15:57

Much like aged sheng I would recommend trying some 'here's one I made earlier' offerings from vendors before attempting to age your own. I suspect the fruitiness I detect in aged oolong may differ somewhat from the fruitiness you have in mind.
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Postby ABx » Aug 16th, '08, 16:03

I just mean that in general it will shift from a predominantly floral profile to something more fruity, but yes there is quite a spectrum. Yancha can be an exception. The only type of aged oolong that I can think of that I haven't tried is Dancong, and I plan to remedy that shortly :)

I should also ammend my previous posts to mention that it's been pointed out to me that unroasted oolong can indeed be aged. What makes some of these age better than others I don't know, and suspect nobody does, but it's possible.

MarshallN seems to be pretty into aged oolongs, and may know much more. Perhaps he'll pop into this thread at some point, but you can find his blog here:
http://www.xanga.com/marshaln
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Postby ABx » Aug 16th, '08, 16:25

Proinsias wrote:Much like aged sheng I would recommend trying some 'here's one I made earlier' offerings from vendors before attempting to age your own.
Thinking about this, I think my recommendation would just be to drink anything you really like, and just don't throw out the stuff you don't. Let it sit for some years and try it again.

Yancha is pretty easy, though. Just keep it in a good tin and it will likely improve in a couple years. I have a couple of 06's that I bought last year that are much better now. I would just make sure not to open it very often, and would probably pay even closer attention to anything I wanted to keep more long term.
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