Oct 21st 16 12:28 pm
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tea storage woes

by JAndrews2 » Oct 21st 16 12:28 pm

I can't figure out how to store tea properly, and it's pretty close to turning me off of fine tea permanently.

The pattern is the same every time. I get a ~50-100g packet of some black or oolong tea. The first time I open it, the aroma is great, the taste is amazing- I say to myself, "This is it. This is my tea." Around 1-10 sessions later, I open the tea and it has no aroma. I brew it, and there's almost no taste. This last was the worst- admittedly, it was just a TGY from TenRen, but after drinking it for two weeks and really enjoying it, I took a break for a week, opened it, and it had literally no aroma, and even with ~5g in a 50ml gaiwan for 30+ seconds I almost couldn't distinguish its taste from the water I used (I tested this).

-I don't think it's the type of tea, because this happens pretty much anything I buy;
-or the quality of tea, because this happens with tea from well-regarded online vendors and tea from my local Chinatown. (and honestly, if I have to pay premium to get, not something that tastes great, but something that tastes *at all*, this isn't the hobby for me)
-or what the tea is stored in, because this has happened with tea kept in the same airtight, lined bag it came in; in plastic ziploc bags; in tins; and stored open in a cake (some yunnan black and yue guang bai, and I know that was a mistake);
-or where in the house it's stored, because this happens whether the tea is sitting on my desk, in a bin on the floor, or stored away in a dark closet, in all cases with nothing else fragrant nearby except other (sealed) tea; and whether it's on the first or second floor;*
-or the water or general climate, because this has happened in three cities in the Midwest USA and in Belgium, in every season;
-or the brewing parameters, because I've tried everything with every tea that goes stale, almost always to no avail; and when I overbrew the tea it gets uncomfortable and gross but still with no real taste, not even bitterness, really;
-or me imagining tea should be stronger than it is, because this tea starts *very* strong, and ends tasting like plain water (and I'm not a coffee drinker :) ),

*One possible exception to storage: the last, terrific failure seems to have happened a week after I put some unsealed tea bags, a gift from a family member, in the same cupboard. These bags are almost odorless themselves, and the affected tea was in an airtight tin, but could it still have done it? Still doesn't solve my general problem, though.

I'm tired of buying 100g of tea and getting max 50g, usually 10-20g out of it. Sorry for being grumpy, but this has been going on for a couple years and I'm close to giving up. Is there anything I could be missing? Could it just be a string of unconnected newbie failures, like putting the tea bags in the same container this last time? I know I have stored tea very badly in the past, and suffered for it, but I've left those instances out of the equation.

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Oct 21st 16 1:23 pm
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Re: tea storage woes

by kuánglóng » Oct 21st 16 1:23 pm

Well, either something repeatedly happens to your tea (e.g. wrong storage, moisture issues) or it's more of a perception based issue - or both.
A few things from the top of my head that negatively influence my perception of teas, especially sheng pu and like in your case to a point where I just taste hot water.

1. Smoking - big smell and taste killer for me - I gave up long ago
2. Some food: oily or fat foods (oil in salads, antipasti, ...), garlic, chili and some other spices and in some cases cheese, ...
3. sick or stressed out people around me
4. own health issues (rare)

I also had some teas die on me within a couple weeks for some reason or another, but only Darjeelings so far and only a few times in the last decades. I suspected that those teas must have picked up some moisture somewhere, most likely not after I got them.

JAndrews2 wrote:I can't figure out how to store tea properly, and it's pretty close to turning me off of fine tea permanently.

The pattern is the same every time. I get a ~50-100g packet of some black or oolong tea. The first time I open it, the aroma is great, the taste is amazing- I say to myself, "This is it. This is my tea." Around 1-10 sessions later, I open the tea and it has no aroma. I brew it, and there's almost no taste. This last was the worst- admittedly, it was just a TGY from TenRen, but after drinking it for two weeks and really enjoying it, I took a break for a week, opened it, and it had literally no aroma, and even with ~5g in a 50ml gaiwan for 30+ seconds I almost couldn't distinguish its taste from the water I used (I tested this).

-I don't think it's the type of tea, because this happens pretty much anything I buy;
-or the quality of tea, because this happens with tea from well-regarded online vendors and tea from my local Chinatown. (and honestly, if I have to pay premium to get, not something that tastes great, but something that tastes *at all*, this isn't the hobby for me)
-or what the tea is stored in, because this has happened with tea kept in the same airtight, lined bag it came in; in plastic ziploc bags; in tins; and stored open in a cake (some yunnan black and yue guang bai, and I know that was a mistake);
-or where in the house it's stored, because this happens whether the tea is sitting on my desk, in a bin on the floor, or stored away in a dark closet, in all cases with nothing else fragrant nearby except other (sealed) tea; and whether it's on the first or second floor;*
-or the water or general climate, because this has happened in three cities in the Midwest USA and in Belgium, in every season;
-or the brewing parameters, because I've tried everything with every tea that goes stale, almost always to no avail; and when I overbrew the tea it gets uncomfortable and gross but still with no real taste, not even bitterness, really;
-or me imagining tea should be stronger than it is, because this tea starts *very* strong, and ends tasting like plain water (and I'm not a coffee drinker :) ),

*One possible exception to storage: the last, terrific failure seems to have happened a week after I put some unsealed tea bags, a gift from a family member, in the same cupboard. These bags are almost odorless themselves, and the affected tea was in an airtight tin, but could it still have done it? Still doesn't solve my general problem, though.

I'm tired of buying 100g of tea and getting max 50g, usually 10-20g out of it. Sorry for being grumpy, but this has been going on for a couple years and I'm close to giving up. Is there anything I could be missing? Could it just be a string of unconnected newbie failures, like putting the tea bags in the same container this last time? I know I have stored tea very badly in the past, and suffered for it, but I've left those instances out of the equation.
Last edited by kuánglóng on Oct 21st 16 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Oct 21st 16 1:38 pm
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Re: tea storage woes

by JAndrews2 » Oct 21st 16 1:38 pm

That's a helpful reply, thanks! I don't smoke, but I do eat a lot of heavy and spicy food. I also have pretty frequent allergy issues. Once a tea's gone stale, it seems to stay that way no matter what I've eaten or how I'm feeling, but I'll try to be more conscious of that variable going forward. Thanks!

Oct 21st 16 3:33 pm
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Re: tea storage woes

by .m. » Oct 21st 16 3:33 pm

This sounds really strange to me. The only teas that would deteriorate relatively fast to me would be some delicate greens such as gyokuro. In fact, often the aromatics of tea improve on short term after opening a sealed bag due to oxidation, kind of like letting a wine or whiskey to breathe.

I've made an experience with an artificially scented oolong in the past, with a super strong fragrance, but it wasn't something that would just go away easily and fade out. On the contrary.

A very bad storage could be the cause, such as direct sunlight, excesive moisture, excesive airflow, unsealed fridge storage etc, but from what you sat it doesnt seem to be the case.

Quality of water is a major factor, badly suited water (such as chlorinated or very hard) can easily make tea taste flat. Also an inconsistency in your brewing method or in your tasting (stuffed nose, drinking after certain meals etc...) could play role.

In case the tea indeed goes stale, sometimes a gentle reheating/reroasting before brewing can help to improve it.

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Oct 22nd 16 10:11 am
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Re: tea storage woes

by Tead Off » Oct 22nd 16 10:11 am

JAndrews2 wrote:That's a helpful reply, thanks! I don't smoke, but I do eat a lot of heavy and spicy food. I also have pretty frequent allergy issues. Once a tea's gone stale, it seems to stay that way no matter what I've eaten or how I'm feeling, but I'll try to be more conscious of that variable going forward. Thanks!
If your teas are being carefully stored in their bags or in cannisters/caddys, and if they tasted fine when you originally opened them and for a time afterwards, I would conclude that there is a problem with your body chemistry. Eating spicy foods will wipeout your taste buds. Even certain fruits will shield your mouth from tasting other things. Allergies will definitely affect how you taste. Plus, the digestive system, if out of balance for whatever reason, can also result in not tasting or smelling properly.

Being a frequent tea drinker for many years, I have noticed my taste buds zapped for short periods of time for no apparent reason. The body can silently be fighting off stuff while you are feeling fine. It's happened to me many times. Have patience and be observant. You'll figure it out.

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Oct 22nd 16 11:45 am
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Re: tea storage woes

by jayinhk » Oct 22nd 16 11:45 am

Minimize air exposure of the dry leaf. Make sure your containers really are airtight. Storing loose in the bag isn't airtight unless you are clipping the bags closed tight. I use glass jars or metal canisters for blacks and oolongs, or Taiwanese plastic tubes that make the bags airtight. You want to get the tea out of the bag/canister, and then close it ASAP, and make sure you aren't sticking wet fingers into the tea.

Oct 22nd 16 12:37 pm
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Re: tea storage woes

by ethan » Oct 22nd 16 12:37 pm

Jay, Did you find a cheaper source for those clips? I don't need more now but people want me to get them some.

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Oct 22nd 16 12:52 pm
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Re: tea storage woes

by jayinhk » Oct 22nd 16 12:52 pm

ethan wrote:Jay, Did you find a cheaper source for those clips? I don't need more now but people want me to get them some.
Yes, I get them direct from China for a pretty good price. I gave a few away with orders and will continue to do so as they keep the bags of oolong airtight.

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Oct 26th 16 9:50 am
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Re: tea storage woes

by john.b » Oct 26th 16 9:50 am

It's been sort of implied in what's already here but I'll fill in my own experiences to clarify further, especially considering the good company of other responses; ordinary levels of sealing up a tea that would be fine for foods isn't good enough for tea. Apparently normal ziplock storage bags are a lot more porous than they seem, since a tea can go relatively dead in one in a short time, and twist-tie sealing a bag isn't as good a seal as it might seem. I'd expect the thicker freezer bag ziplocks are much better but I've not confirmed that.

Multi-layer, ziplock-style sealing bags teas come in are generally fine, and with clips designed to seal mylar-type bags those are fine, but anything else not so much. If a tea came in some sort of tin it would seem best to store it in a bag inside that tin, rather than to rely on the tin lid to seal it (unless it's something like a Twinings Earl Grey, then who cares).

For larger quantities of tea, 250 grams to half a kilo, it might work best to separate out some tea you want to use sooner and not keep opening and closing the larger bag, but for 50 to 100 grams that wouldn't seem necessary.

It's an interesting idea, about sense of taste changing over time. I could swear that mine changes with time of day too, that I'm not tasting best right away in the morning, although I don't change when I drink tea based on when I think my sense of taste would be at its best, not so much even for reviews. In a blog post comparing chocolate tasting to tea a chocolate blogger mentioned to taste best you should eat or drink nothing at all, except water, for one to two hours prior to tasting, and she even said this about palate adjustment:

if I am to enjoy a 100% dark chocolate, I cannot eat a super sweet chocolate bar just before, or sometimes within a few days before. I work my way up so my palate is used to the bitter taste.

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Re: tea storage woes

by kyarazen » Oct 26th 16 2:26 pm

buy Kraft pouches or mylar bags.
oxygen absorbers

split 100g into 4 x 25g. add one oxygen absorber per pack. done!

Oct 27th 16 4:27 am
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Re: tea storage woes

by ethan » Oct 27th 16 4:27 am

kyarazen wrote:buy Kraft pouches or mylar bags.
oxygen absorbers

split 100g into 4 x 25g. add one oxygen absorber per pack. done!
+1 I like being able to write directly on the kraft paper. (Name of tea, when bought, etc.)

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Re: tea storage woes

by entropyembrace » Oct 27th 16 7:28 am

Storing tea shouldn't be that hard?

I wonder how hot is the tea when you actually drink it? I wonder if you're burning your tongue and not really realizing it?

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Re: tea storage woes

by Bok » Oct 27th 16 2:07 pm

How about a having the tea with other people, whose taste buds you trust, and see if they feel the same way? Share a cup when you open it first, and then a few days later. So you at least know if it is a storage issue or your own perception.

If you keep the tea in their original vacuum pack, resealed tightly with a clip, the flavour should not change to dramatically for a few weeks. I tend to finish my bags in a week, two tops. For greener Gaoshan the first few days after opening are definitely ideal, afterwards it only deteriorates.

What does not surprise me is the Tenren tea, their teas are really bad.

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Re: tea storage woes

by ethan » Nov 7th 16 9:31 am

[quote="Bok"]How about a having the tea with other people, whose taste buds you trust, and see if they feel the same way? Share a cup when you open it first, and then a few days later.

Taking Bok's advice is a good way to know what is going on with our own tastebuds etc. I have not been picking up all the notes, nuances, flavors, etc. of excellent teas that are being stored well & prepared well. Last night I shared some special dongfang meiren (oriental beauty) w/ 2 of my sisters who loved it more than I did & assured me it was great tea. I then thought about what was wrong w/ ME.

It is too much exposure to chemicals in the swimming pool & hot tub at the YMCA. I usually swim for an hour, shower, go home. Because I hurt a bit from fractured ribs, I added use of the hot tub 15 minutes to my routine. The hot tub has a huge amount of chlorine etc. in it. That additional exposure to fumes of chemicals & the water going up my nose when I dip my head in..... too much.

I rinsed my nose last night & again when I awoke this morning. Now I am enjoying the first tea of the day much more than I have been enjoying tea lately. (I will stop using the hot tub & start rinsing my nose frequently.)

As Teadoff mentioned, it is easy for us to get out of whack & hurt our enjoyment of tea.

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Re: tea storage woes

by kuánglóng » Nov 7th 16 10:28 am

Bok wrote:How about a having the tea with other people, whose taste buds you trust, and see if they feel the same way? Share a cup when you open it first, and then a few days later. So you at least know if it is a storage issue or your own perception.
+1
I have 2-3 longer sessions with some old friends every week.
While I truly enjoy my solo explorations and it took my friends a while to get used to my more experimental, often comparative approach (different vintages, storage, vessels, parameters, types of water, ..., including blind tastings once in a while) none of us would want to miss those collective experiences anymore - way to slurp, learn and have ....loads of fun. More often than not though I wonder how the heck they find their way back home after those camilla p...-ups :mrgreen: