Ratbert wrote:We know that a lot of care is taken during the entire process of making Yan Cha, so for them to compress it this way, would they use high quality tea leaves (zheng yan) to do this as it might actually compromise certain characters of the tea? or would the leaves be of lower grade?
Yes, like I was saying above, I imagine that in most cases, the highest quality leaves are not used for these.
As far as zhengyan / not, that's always iffy when buying yancha, even when it's not compressed. There's a lot of misrepresentation going on, and not always intentionally on the part of the seller.
Ratbert wrote:2) Open air storage of Wu Yi Tea?
I find that Wu Yi tea usually doesn't do well if not stored correctly, and leaving it exposed usually does it no favors. So does compressing it into a beeng and leaving it to age like sheng puer help? sure u'll get the taste of "old tea" in the future, but will u lose all the other characteristics of the tea? i think the only characteristic that can be retained after open air storage of yancha is it's "mineral/rock taste" which is usually found in high grade leaves. As for fragrance and other notes, most of it will be gone due to open style storage.
Well, usually this is done with teas with at least a moderate degree of roast / oxidation, and the compression itself will help somewhat in reducing the degree of oxidation for the inner parts of the compressed shape. In my understanding, when aging it like this, you're often going
for a different kind of taste.
I do know of some people who prefer (in fairly dry climates) to age certain oolongs, such as yancha or dancong, in semi-open bags or jars for some portion of their life.
You do lose some fragrance, but personally, I do like the sourness and other characteristics of aged oolongs that are aged with some exposure to air / moisture.