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Last year's tea


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I don't have much tea experience, but that may explain why some teas that have glowing reviews in the shop or in the press, turn out to be very disappointing. The problem is, none of the shops in the UK where I buy tea from will give any information on the age of the tea,date of harvest or how long it's been sitting on their shelves. I should look for one that does. 

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Unfortunately, green tea is a big no-no after the 9th month of the harvest. You can prolonge it up to 1 year, if you keep the tea under good conditions (e.g. at a dark place, around 5-10 Celsius degree, vacuum sealed), but there is a good reason why green teas should be consumed ASAP after the Qingming harvest. Even if you keep the tea in line with the recommended conditions, the fragrance and taste would deteriorate over time, simply because the production process (no fermentation, only slight oxidation) makes the tea vulnerable to aging. The best way of using old green tea is to brew it, let it cool and place it in the fridge, it eliminates the odors in the fridge :) My experience is the same with most 青乌龙s as well.


On the other hand, the fermented teas can get better over the time. It is particularly noticable in case of roasted oolongs (very good examples are all 凤凰单丛 teas from the Phoenix Mountains, and the oolongs from Wuyi), good quality black teas and puerhs. The next time you buy a good quality roasted oolong, put some aside for a year or a year and a half - just put it in a metal container, keep it at room temperature with a little humidity if possible, and I can guarantee it would taste much better compared to the year of the harvest. I just opened my 蜜兰香单丛 last week from 2014, and it was much sweeter than it was two years before, so it worth the waiting time.

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Unfortunately, green tea is a big no-no after the 9th month of the harvest.


Agree with you, ZhangKaiRong. Green tea is an exciting spring love, but by fall the ardor is gone. One of my tea teachers used to tie it up in small muslin sachets and put them in her closets to draw away unwanted smells. Good trick about using expired leaf in the fridge as a deodorizer. I have not tried that (I use baking soda instead.)


...but that may explain why some teas that have glowing reviews in the shop or in the press, turn out to be very disappointing.


Luxi, that's a good observation. When you get tea that isn't tasty, it may not have been originally defective: it might just be old. From what I've seen, lots of on-line tea stores do give harvest information, at least for their better teas. Good luck ever finding such information for tea bags, which is another reason that they usually are disappointing.


Right about the roasted Oolongs improving, ZKR. I've noticed that too. But green tea, by contrast, isn't something to put in the back of the cupboard and save for a rainy day; it needs to be enjoyed while it is fragrant and young.

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Sounds like I've been doing tea wrong for a very long time. There's some horribly aged teas in my cupboards


Not necessarily, LiMo. It's the light and delicate green teas that deteriorate most rapidly. Think of them like a bouquet of freshly cut roses or a basket of garden strawberries.


Pu'er improves with time, generally speaking, as do several others as indicated by ZhangKaiRong, above. This morning I'm having a cup of a different black tea 红茶 which is also from Yunnan. It's three years old and still full of well-balanced flavor.


One thing I suggest to the friends to whom I give Chinese tea when I return to the US for my annual visit is to write the date prominently on the outside of the tin. I also urge them to drink it up instead of saving it.

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