Baking or natural drying after pressing


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Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby ciphoto » Sep 30th, '12, 16:55

I'm looking at some young sheng, 2010, 2009 and one says it was baked low temp 35C after pressing, the other was not.

I'm wondering if and how this will effect the future aging and taste development of the tea.

I'm a noob and have no point of reference and in the reviews I've read I don't recall any mention of this.

I like the teas but am curious.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby shah82 » Sep 30th, '12, 18:09

Low temperature drying can result in tea that's a bit more green tea, and ages not as well. More reliable, though.

Sun dried compressed tea is dependent on the weather. If there is sun, then it's pretty good. If it's kinda humid, you can have a bit of extra fermentation.
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby gingkoseto » Sep 30th, '12, 18:50

So far what I've heard are a few different opinions:

1. sun dry is good, baking is worst.
2. shade dry is good, baking is not as good, sun dry is worst.
3. baking dry is good, sun is damaging, shade dry is risky of wet core.

I personally favor the 2nd opinion. But even people who hold the second opinion believe tuos and machine pressed cakes, especially iron cakes, can't be shade dried.

Also baking dry is pretty much the only option for any large operations of big factories. Also most manufactures who don't mention it, I guess, use baking. Even though I don't believe in sun drying, if the manufacturer takes all the trouble to do it, they must believe in it, take pride of it and brag about it.
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby ciphoto » Sep 30th, '12, 23:25

Thanks for the replies...
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby zhi zheng » Oct 1st, '12, 06:09

gingkoseto wrote: shade dry is good, baking is not as good, sun dry is worst.


Agreed. I think most people would say that shade drying is the best choice for stone pressed cakes. And yes, volume and weather are factors. The temperature of the drying room is also a factor. On sunny days in Xishuangbanna, it can easily hit 35 C under the roof of a pressing factory, which is what a drying room would normally be.

If tea is poorly dried - the moisture content is still high after drying - it runs the risk, depending where it's stored, of going mouldy inside the cake. Cakes that have been exposed to (strong) sun can taste a little sour.
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby nada » Oct 2nd, '12, 14:58

This is a really interesting topic and one that has quite a big effect. I think it's only really in the past year or so that I've become aware of quite how big the difference is.

In previous years the factory we pressed our cakes in used a drying room, as they do with all their pressings as standard. I didn't really think about it too much, but we seem to have been meeting more and more people in the tea industry saying that their shade dried cakes were aging better.

This year we decided to shade dry our cakes. The results were mixed in the beginning. They seemed to take much longer to recover from the pressing. For the first couple of months, they'd lost much of the life that was in the maocha and tasted a little 'flat' by comparison. Around 3 months after pressing they really came back to life and are much fuller and richer than they were before. We'd been warned of this before opting for shade dried cakes, but thought it was worth the short term loss for better cakes in the long run.

At this point (about 5 months after pressing), I'm really happy with the decision. The cakes are quite full and rich, with a lot of life. Tasting our cakes from previous years, and those from other producers who've used drying rooms for their cakes, they taste a little hollow and overly aromatic in comparison - the flavours tend more towards the high notes with a lack of base flavours.

Of course all of this is quite subjective and a more standardised test is really necessary. Perhaps next year we'll do a small run of cakes dried in a drying room and shade dried for comparison.

To Zhi Zheng or anyone else with some experience of this - have you noticed a big difference in the flavours or the aging potential between these different drying methods?
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby shah82 » Oct 2nd, '12, 16:36

You can taste the effect of sun dried cakes with XZH, who've made that one of their calling cards over the years. Just recalling on memory, their are pics of sun drying cakes (in the sunshine) for their '11s. So that year for sure, but I think it goes back aways (on Houde, the emphasis is on sundried maocha and not cakes).

As far as effects go, I'm not sure I could say very much. The most notable aspect of XZH processing is how often the tea is relatively fermented (usually in the acceptable range). The aroma is usually a pretty stable performer over the years, and aside from Yiwu Chawang from '06 and '07(flaky performers), they seem to be aging well, with increasing depth. There are so many things that can affect performance that I'm not sure it makes a huge difference.

Going with Nada's tea (I just had his '10 Mansai today, incidentally)...I think other things are at issue. The '10 Mansai really did suffer from handling, more than anything the difference between bing drying methods. In general, maocha handling/fixing in the field swamps *everything* first. It's a matter of greater skill at that, such that this matter of bing drying matters. That's a good thing, at least. I suppose the effect is from open air drying only equalizing the humidity within and without the bing--none of that damage that comes from storage in very dry places. The speed of drying may also matter.

I could imagine the '10 Nadacha being fuller (and I suspect Nada's words in my vocabulary means louder taste as well), but I'm not sure the Manmai and Bangwei would have had much difference, due to the character of the leaves. The Banpen, given my minimal experience, I suspect would have been a very large difference, even in the short term. And in '11, the tea from Nadacha is getting fuller at the expense of a bit of complexity in my care. The chief difference in 2012 that I've noticed is the superior thickness and texture. I may not have been happy with the fresh tea, overall (aside from the really expensive Bangwei), but I've grown to enjoy thickness, in part from these '12 teas, and they contributed much to my tea awareness and capacity to enjoy tea.

I would much like to hear from the puer.sk peeps about this, as well. I think Scott does too many teas to really handle the extra attention sun-drying of bings would require. The performance of Scott's tea from '09 and '10 can't contribute much to the discussion. The '09 tea I have were Bulangs made by a third party, and we have no details on their manufacture besides some Xiaguan-ish production defects that they are recovering from. The '09 fall DingJiaZhai has aged rather poorly, given my one try, in that 'hey, it's high and hollow', but in a more problematic way than the '10 Nadacha has been to date. Compared to a '08 DingJiaZhai sourced by finepuer.com, this is dead obvious. Storage differences also play a role, but I don't think that explains the qualitative margin in aging nature. The '10 Yongde Xue Shan has done better. Started out thin and higher tasting with some complexity, and by the time I finished the bing, it filled out some. However, I cannot seperate out all the different factors, because I've not had many Yongde teas besides a DaXueShan that's of quite different character. In the end, sun drying might have helped that one, but overall process still swamps, like having bulges of nasty dust filling part of the bing. The '10 fall Xikong has always been notable for being a rather meaty and full tea for Mengla small-leaf. Drinking the tea this year has mostly seen defects (when they occur) of the not-enough complexity kind, and not lack of fullness and depth. Outstanding tea makes outstanding tea, and sundrying is a matter of polishing a cut diamond...
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby nada » Oct 3rd, '12, 09:43

shah82 wrote:Outstanding tea makes outstanding tea, and sundrying is a matter of polishing a cut diamond...


I agree wholeheartedly (at least with shade drying rather than direct sun drying of the pressed cakes). This is really the finishing touch and if the maocha isn't good, or the processing isn't good, drying it in the best way isn't going to magically transform a tea. Once you've reached a certain standard with the raw materials, it's good though to be able to polish to bring out the natural beauty.

Though I haven't tasted and can't comment on the other teas you mention, I also agree roughly with your assessment of the teas we've pressed. It would be wrong to attribute the differences in thickness of the 2012 cakes wholly to the drying method, as that was a major factor in our selection of the maocha, but I do think the drying has some affect and that the cakes are more rich and have more life than they would be if dried in a factory drying room.

I know of a producer in Kunming who has been doing some tests with his cakes and is finding that the shade dried cakes are aging much better after 3-4 years than the ones dried in a heated drying room. I've also heard this from some other sources but without, I think, the direct testing and comparison of like-for-like.

As someone commissioning cakes, I guess I've learnt this year that perhaps it would be better to wait a few months before offering the newly pressed cakes for sale. Within the first few months they're definitely not at their best. Waiting would allow the cakes to settle before offering them to customers to sample and form opinions of them. It's difficult when you've got a fair proportion of your cash-flow tied up in them, but perhaps it would be for the best in the long run.
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby zhi zheng » Oct 5th, '12, 14:22

An interesting topic that also has wider implications.

I too agree that post-pressing drying methods are not going to work any wonders on a lesser quality cake and that it's 'polishing the diamond' with a good tea.

There seem to be many caveates:

If a drying room is used, what is the temperature? How long are the cakes in their for? What kind of extraction/ventilation does the drying room have? (bearing in mind the idea is to get the moisture out, not to stew the cakes), what are the ambient conditions? and so on.

Also, with the producer that Nada refers to, where are the cakes stored after pressing? Are they Kunming or 'Banna? and under what conditions?

I feel also not all teas will respond the same when treated the same and in any case, with maocha that was anything other than sun dried in the open air, it will likely be irrelevant how the cake is dried.

I agree with Nada: I think it's a mistake to put cakes out for sale right after pressing. There is still a fair bit of moisture in the cake and it hasn't yet stabilised. If it has been enclosed in a box or whatever and transported to a different climate, that is also going to affect the cake. In 'Banna, without going anywhere, cakes change considerably in the 2 -3 months after pressing, compounded by the onset of the rainy season.

Given all of these variables, outside of a strictly controlled experiment, I think any conclusions are anecdotal.

The other big issue is that it is widely accepted that it's not best practice to press maocha immediately. The general rule is to wait a month, but then, if you wait till say May, you're into the rainy season and there's limited opportunity for shade/sun drying anyway. So at that point one might as well wait till October before pressing. For many producers this is not realistic.
Last edited by zhi zheng on Oct 5th, '12, 20:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Baking or natural drying after pressing

Postby gingkoseto » Oct 5th, '12, 18:35

zhi zheng wrote:The other big issue is that it is widely accepted that it's not best practice to press maocha immediately. The general rule is to wait a month, but then, if you wait till say May, you're into the rainy season and there's limited opportunity for sun drying anyway. So at that point one might as well wait till October before pressing. For many producers this is not realistic.

This is another good point. I know a few small producers who started to do it at what they think the right pressing time only several years after they had established their reputation and when they rely mainly on returning buyers. Otherwise, the producer would not only miss the best selling season, and would get countless questions about "is this really spring tea?" :mrgreen:
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