Aging Oolong?


Owes its flavors to oxidation levels between green & black tea.

Postby gingkoseto » Sep 27th, '08, 11:19

It seems that some of you talked about aging oolong purposely and some talked about preserving oolong and preventing it from aging. Am I confused.

I recently got some oolong claimed to be 6 years old "aged oolong". Haven't tried it yet. The retailer warned me before buying that this oolong has a heavier flavor and strong roast flavor. But since I am also a coffee lover, I think heavy and roast flavor is fine :D

I will try my "aged oolong" and report later.

So, exactly, are you guys talking about purposely age your oolong to make it have a heavier flavor?
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Postby shogun89 » Sep 27th, '08, 11:24

Not exactly. One ages oolong for the same reason as puerh, to actually take away from the harsh heavy strong flavors and reduce them to release a more complex overall nicer cup. Some oolong is aged for over 30 years so you 6 year one may still be harsh.
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Postby edkrueger » Sep 27th, '08, 12:12

and if they are not re roasted they get a nice plum taste.
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Postby wyardley » Sep 27th, '08, 16:13

gingko wrote:It seems that some of you talked about aging oolong purposely and some talked about preserving oolong and preventing it from aging. Am I confused.

I recently got some oolong claimed to be 6 years old "aged oolong". Haven't tried it yet. The retailer warned me before buying that this oolong has a heavier flavor and strong roast flavor. But since I am also a coffee lover, I think heavy and roast flavor is fine :D

I will try my "aged oolong" and report later.

I think we are all talking about *intentionally* aging oolongs, though the reason (and result) can vary, depending on the variables mentioned earlier in the thread.

Sometimes retailers will say that a tea is aged (to sell it for more money) when it's really just stale tea that they've heavily roasted. While teas can be re-roasted, which could cause an aged tea to still have heavy charcoal notes, with some experience, you can usually tell whether the tea is aged or not by the color of the broth (typically reddish) and the taste.

So, exactly, are you guys talking about purposely age your oolong to make it have a heavier flavor?


Not really. However, oolongs that start out heavily roasted can be good candidates for aging, and often, age will take off the heavy charcoal taste that would be present if you drank such a tea when it was recently roasted.

Over time, age can introduce sweetness, richness, smoothness, and complexity to a tea. It can also introduce sourness, which depending on the degree (and your personal preference) may or may not be pleasant.
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Postby gingkoseto » Sep 27th, '08, 16:53

Thank you guys. Now you got me really curious about this tea!

But I guess I am still somewhat confused. Now I have two lines of understanding. Can you tell me which line is closer to the fact, or neither of them.

Line#1: The new oolong is first heavily oxidized (unlike most lightly or medium oxidized oolong in the market), and then it takes the aging to recover its smooth fruity flavor. Would that be what you guys described that the non-aged oolong has heavier flavor than aged oolong?

Line#2: The new oolong is barely oxidized (even less oxidized than regular oolong). Then slow, gentle roasting (or as chrl42 pointed out, hong bei) is applied on it continuously during the aging to allow a very slow oxidation instead of quick fix for regular oolong in modern market (in some sense, similar to aging of pu-erh).

Both of the above seem to make some sense but which one is it?
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Postby wyardley » Sep 27th, '08, 18:10

gingko wrote:Both of the above seem to make some sense but which one is it?


I think you should re-read the whole thread carefully, as well as the threads linked to in my earlier post. As stated earlier on, there is not one way to do it, and there is not one specific way it's always done. There are just about infinite possibilities. The tea may start out with (widely) varying degrees of oxidation and roasting, just like any normal oolong.

The tea may or may not be re-roasted one or more times later, depending on the initial roasting, amount of exposure to moisture, and how well the tea is sealed. Typically, you might want to re-roast a tea that's not high-fire every 2-5 years, and a tea that's more heavily roasted every 4-10 years (I'm mostly pulling these numbers out of my ass), but sometimes, teas are not re-roasted at all.

Oxidation and roasting are two separate things. Oxidation has to do with how much the tea is allowed to oxidize before a kill-green process (frying in a wok is one way) is applied to prevent further oxidation. With oolong tea, there is usually some bruising of the leaf before it's allowed to oxidize.

Roasting is baking of the tea much later in the process (see the tea processing article on Wikipedia for a good flow chart for different types of tea). The roasting / baking is usually either in an electric roaster or over a charcoal roaster. This roasting may be either very high fire, which will usually result in a very dark colored outside, or may be over lower heat.

So we're not talking about a specific type or style of tea, but simply something that may be intentionally (or unintentionally) happen to any type of oolong over any period of time, with different results depending on the many factors above.
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Sep 27th, '08, 22:39

wyardley wrote:
gingko wrote:Both of the above seem to make some sense but which one is it?


So we're not talking about a specific type or style of tea, but simply something that may be intentionally (or unintentionally) happen to any type of oolong over any period of time, with different results depending on the many factors above.


So is it moreso a trial and error type of thing, with a bit of good fortune and perhaps planetary alignment? :wink:

Are there any type of general guidlines?
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Postby ABx » Sep 27th, '08, 22:42

shogun89 wrote:Not exactly. One ages oolong for the same reason as puerh, to actually take away from the harsh heavy strong flavors and reduce them to release a more complex overall nicer cup. Some oolong is aged for over 30 years so you 6 year one may still be harsh.
I don't really know of any oolongs that are particularly harsh. There are also many aged oolongs that aren't terribly complex. Most just change to something that you can't find in a fresh tea. Those that are very heavily roasted, however, will generally mellow the "charcoal"/roasted flavor to bring it into balance with the other flavors, which does reveal a greater complexity than what you can taste when it's fresh. I wouldn't call the roasted flavor "harsh," though. It can be quite good if you like it, it's just that it can cover up the more nuanced aspects of the tea.
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Postby ABx » Sep 27th, '08, 22:49

PolyhymnianMuse wrote:
wyardley wrote:
gingko wrote:Both of the above seem to make some sense but which one is it?


So we're not talking about a specific type or style of tea, but simply something that may be intentionally (or unintentionally) happen to any type of oolong over any period of time, with different results depending on the many factors above.


So is it moreso a trial and error type of thing, with a bit of good fortune and perhaps planetary alignment? :wink:

Are there any type of general guidlines?
I suspect that any oolong will age, it's just a question of whether it will age into something really worth waiting for and how to get those results. Anything highly roasted will tend to age gracefully, whereas the greener ones may require some extra care for the best results. Of course "best" [results] will probably be a matter of personal preference.
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Postby ABx » Sep 27th, '08, 22:52

One thing I've been wondering about is Yixing canisters. Whenever I see these sold by an online vendor, they're described as being best for puerh and some kinds of oolong; I just wonder what types of oolong are suitable for aging in a Yixing canister, and why.

I've also heard of some Yancha aging well in brown paper bags, which is something else I've been curious about.
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Postby wyardley » Sep 28th, '08, 04:13

ABx wrote:One thing I've been wondering about is Yixing canisters. Whenever I see these sold by an online vendor, they're described as being best for puerh and some kinds of oolong; I just wonder what types of oolong are suitable for aging in a Yixing canister, and why.

I've also heard of some Yancha aging well in brown paper bags, which is something else I've been curious about.


Well Yixing canisters, even if they're sealed, might be able to breathe a tiny bit due to the porous clay (though I don't know if moisture can get in that way - I'd tend to think not); I think the bigger thing is that many of them aren't built with an airtight seal. High-fire teas can handle a little more air while aging than greener teas, and can sometimes actually benefit from it, so I think that if you're going to use a yixing canister to age oolong, you'd want to use a more roasted one.

Most of the yan cha producers I've seen seem to use pretty heavy tin / lead canisters with a double-lid and small opening to age their teas, even the high fire ones.

Climate may be a factor too... if you're in a super humid climate, I'm guessing a fairly airtight canister might be a good idea.
Last edited by wyardley on Sep 28th, '08, 13:14, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby wyardley » Sep 28th, '08, 04:23

PolyhymnianMuse wrote:So is it moreso a trial and error type of thing, with a bit of good fortune and perhaps planetary alignment? :wink:

Are there any type of general guidlines?


Well I think I alluded to them in some of my comments before... but because I haven't been personally aging teas for 10-20 years, I can only base my opinions on what I've read; there's not a ton of English language information available on this subject. And, like everything with tea, it's not something that everyone agrees on.

*In general*, teas that are heavily roasted can take more exposure to air and can be re-roasted less often.

*In general*, teas that start out greener (less roasted, and possibly less oxidized) will probably change more radically. (They might taste just plain stale for a while, though, before they start to taste good again).

*In general*, moisture is the enemy of good aging. So steps need to be taken to avoid too much moisture, typically, proper storage and / or periodic re-roasting, either by you, or someone else.

All of this also depends on environment, though.

So the answer for any particular situation depends on your tea, the type of storage, and your environment; I imagine the best ways to achieve good results are:

* Experiment on a small scale and see what differences you notice with different methods

* Smell / taste the tea every once in a while and make sure there aren't any major issues you can taste (off odors / flavors, sourness) that need to be dealt with before they become bigger problems.

If you really want to get aged tea without thinking about all this stuff, or without the risk of messing something up, buy tea that's been aged already, and that tastes good to you.
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Postby Salsero » Sep 28th, '08, 17:30

I have a couple vacuum packed mylar (I suppose) bags that I received a year or two ago and just never got around to opening. One is a Tea From Taiwan Aged Tea 1990 (a tad generic in name!), the other a YSLLC Fall 2006 Tie Guan Yin, probably a fairly average example of its class.

Since they have been sitting around so long, my plan is to let them sit longer, hopefully to age more in the oxygen-free, moisture-proof bags.
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Postby edkrueger » Sep 28th, '08, 18:40

Some moisture is necessary to the process. I don't think much anything, other than becoming stale will happen. Also, ethylene will be likely to be released from greener teas, possibly causing spoilage.
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Postby shogun89 » Sep 28th, '08, 18:42

Heres todays project. Wuyi in a mason jar. Will store it for about 20 years, then open it up. Sal, I think you should drink the '90s tea.

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