Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.


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

Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.

Postby tingjunkie » May 15th, '11, 15:26

The board's been pretty slow lately. Time for an interesting discussion...

I just got back from San Francisco where I bought a few teas from Red Blossom and Imperial Tea Court to bring home and try. Trying teas at the shop is ok, but rarely do the shops make their teas in the same way you would at home- often they just put enough leaf in the gaiwan to make 3 brews before the leaf is spent. Of course, from the shops perspective (read "economics") this makes perfect sense, but this brewing style only gives you half the picture of what the teas are all about.

Back at home now, I am trying some of the same teas in my own style (i.e. fill the sucker up and push it to the limit), and they are not performing as I would have hoped. So, should I write these teas and companies off? Hardly. There are so many little things which can have a BIG effect how your tea is coming out. Most serious tea drinkers think about our choices in brewing vessels, water quality, leaf ratio and brewing times, but how many people pay attention to concepts such as the weather, travel shock, or acclimation?

Weather- Serious tea drinkers might be some of the few people who look forward to rainy days. Almost without fail, my tea just comes out better when the weather is humid. I will actually break out the "extra good" teas on rainy days, simply because I know I will get the most from them. Conversely, a dry day, especially during the cold winter, can kill good teas, making them come out flat and lacking a dynamic range. So, is it humidity? Does it have to do with the barometric pressure? I honestly don't know. It may be time to invest in a cheap digital weather station for my tea table and zero in on those perfect storm conditions!

Travel Shock- In the wine world, people talk about travel shock in terms of too much agitation and movement causing the wine to temporarily go "off." In Ireland, it's commonly heard that Guinness only really tastes like Guiness in the mother country. The old timers in any pub will state, as a matter of simple fact, that crossing a body of water will cause the beer to take a turn for the worse. With tea, it would seem traveling negatively effects the leaf in some way too. I really should have known better than to drink my new San Francisco acquisitions the day after getting home. I thought keeping them in my carry on bag might get me around the travel shock trap. Sadly, not so. Here's another mystery that I have no scientific explanation for. I see no real reason why being on a plane should temporarily effect dry leaves, and cause the tea to not come out right, but it does. The taste buds don't lie. It's like there is a better tea wanting to come out, but it's stuck in bed with a cold! Luckily the effects usually wear off in a week or two. One thing I always do as soon as I receive a shipment of tea is to open the bags, and let the local air get into them for a good hour or so. This seems to speed up the recovery process.

Acclimation Perhaps there is no other "trick" I use to get my teas to show their best other than acclimation. Oddly, I learned of this trick back when I was very involved in the world of hookah smoking. It was widely discussed on forums that taking the shisha (tobacco) out and letting it sit uncovered for 1-2 hours before smoking would make it much smoother, more balanced, and more flavorful. It did indeed turn out to be true, so when I got into the world of serious tea, I thought I'd try the method here too. Undoubtedly, in my opinion, it works like a charm! Of course, letting a portion of tea sit uncovered on the table for a few hours takes patience and planning, but the results are worth it! I try to do it with most teas, but I will not drink one of my top shelf special teas without letting it acclimate for at least a couple hours. Why this works is something I can take a guess at; the humidity inside your storage container is almost certainly different from the ambient humidity in the room. If there is too big of a difference between the two, the tea leaf goes into "shock" when exposed to the air in the room, trying to reach a state of equilibrium. Somehow, someway, this makes the resulting liqueur slightly flat. If you've never tried acclimating your tea, please do so. I think you will be surprised with the results. A smooth, balanced, flavorful tea will be the reward!

So, what are your experiences with these issues? Anyone have some science to mix in with the superstition and magic? I'm interested to know!
User avatar
tingjunkie
 
Posts: 1411
Joined: Jul 8th, '0
Location: NYC

Re: Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.

Postby debunix » May 15th, '11, 17:54

Interesting thoughts. I've been trying to keep my delicate senchas and green oolongs as tightly closed/sealed as I can, following the same logic that brings them to my door vacuum-sealed or nitrogen-flushed, and I've been keeping most of my teas in the resealable bags they came in, except my puerhs. I made a bunch of very simple cloth bags for my puerh beengs and tuos, but have been breaking off and keeping samples of the beengs in the same kind of resealable bags as the rest. Recently I brewed up some puerh from one of these sealed bags, and it had a bit of an off flavor that was not something I remembered from my last few brewings. And I wondered if the sealed container permitted some off-flavors to accumulate in storage.

I would be reluctant to let some of my very aromatic teas (again, mostly oolongs) sit open, worrying I'd lose some flavor as they scented the air, but I've been pondering some other way to store the puerhs. Given my not whimsical approach to picking the next tea that I brew, it's not likely that I'll ever be organized enough to let the teas air out just before brewing, so I need to approach it at the storage stage.
User avatar
debunix
 
Posts: 4950
Joined: Jan 10th, '
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.

Postby tingjunkie » May 15th, '11, 20:16

debunix wrote:I would be reluctant to let some of my very aromatic teas (again, mostly oolongs) sit open, worrying I'd lose some flavor as they scented the air, but I've been pondering some other way to store the puerhs.


Sencha is a different story since their freshness is so important. I'm not sure how acclimating those would turn out. I really wouldn't worry about any oolongs losing flavor though. I only let them sit out uncovered for a couple hours. The dry leaf may lose a little aroma, but the tea will almost certainly turn out better.
User avatar
tingjunkie
 
Posts: 1411
Joined: Jul 8th, '0
Location: NYC

Re: Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.

Postby BioHorn » May 15th, '11, 20:33

Great post Ting. Thank you for sharing.

I left Tim's '06 Yiwu Sheng Pu (MTR) sample out 24 hours. I cannot compare with not doing it, but the tea brewed up in an impressive manner (like massive cha qi and intense but drinkable flavor.)

Some of the Phoenix Oolongs I drink seem to do better in the humid conditions you mention. Some super cheap eBay Shui Xian arrived last month. It brewed terribly. I broke it out again and it was actually very drinkable.
User avatar
BioHorn
 
Posts: 525
Joined: May 2nd, '1
Location: Shaker Heights, Ohio USA

Re: Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.

Postby Tead Off » May 16th, '11, 03:21

One of the things I always do with most teas is get them out of their bags and into a caddy. I don't subscribe to the airtight theory except maybe with matcha. Somehow, letting the teas 'breathe' inside caddys (which caddys is a whole thread to itself) makes them more accessible to me. Rarely have I had a tea go dead on me from doing this but more than likely if it does happen, the tea was not high quality. Bangkok is a high humidity place and most of my teas survive quite well here.

I just returned from Korea where I spent time in the best tea growing area. Everyone was complaining about the cold winter and the damage it did to this year's crop. I heard all kinds of things from getting headaches from the tea, to no flavor, no this, no that. Quantity was affected in a big way but there were still some good teas to be had. Some farms get spared because of location while others suffer frost bite and must lose a big portion of their plants. Weather seems to be a huge factor in the outcome, but, a good tea master will generally make the best out of most situations.

Weather for drinking tea will probably be a good discussion. The very idea of a rainy day goes well with a pot full of tea and a bit of introspection in my view. But, I'm not sure whether a tea will actually taste better. If you think it does, then it does. Nothing like tea to warm the body and relax. Rainy season is just beginning here. :D
User avatar
Tead Off
Vendor Member
 
Posts: 3360
Joined: Apr 1st, '0
Location: Bangkok

Re: Little big things: weather, travel shock, and acclimation.

Postby debunix » May 16th, '11, 10:39

While it's a little hard for me to imagine how temperature and humidity will effect the tea leaves, which are after all being plunged into very hot water regardless of the ambient temperature and humidity, I can easily imagine some other ways a rainy day might impact our tea enjoyment. As I snuffle through this morning with a nose simultaneously congested and dry, I ponder the impact of weather on the sensory side of the equation: differences in how temperature and humidity impact the ability of the air to carry molecules of tea to our nose to perceive them, and differences in the ability of our nose to receive them. Today, my irritated nose is not very well prepared for subtle nuances, so it would not be a good time for my fanciest Dan Cong.
User avatar
debunix
 
Posts: 4950
Joined: Jan 10th, '
Location: Los Angeles, CA


Instant Messenger

Permissions
You cannot post new topics
You cannot reply to topics
You cannot edit your posts
You cannot delete your posts
You cannot post attachments
Navigation