Since getting into puerh I have been wanting to run a couple of experiments, but they required freshly pressed cakes so I have been patiently waiting for my favourite vendors to drop them. Earlier this week I received my order of new 2019 puerhs from Bitterleaf Teas, so I can finally get things underway!
The world of puerh is vast and interesting and there is so much to learn. For the most part, the tea drinking community and vendors are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. If you are just getting into tea and are going it alone, I urge you to head over to /r/tea and /r/puer on Reddit, join a tea chat, find a Facebook group, message your vendors. Most likely any question you have has an answer and generally speaking, people who are into tea like chatting about it. Some questions don’t have solid answers, though and you’ll need to do some testing for yourself.
One question I have had is in regards to young puerh. As you probably know, puerh undergoes many changes from the time you first purchase it to your last cup, and the first year is when the most rapid changes occur. If you’re new to puerh, knowing this can make navigating new purchases difficult. If you buy a fresh sample and love it, how do you know if you’ll continue to like it down the line? Or if something is totally unpalatable a couple months after it’s pressed, what can you expect down the line? Should you buy a cake or hold off? The most common answers I’ve received to these questions are “it depends” and “you’ll learn with experience.” While both of these answers are correct, I don’t find them to be all too helpful. For many teas you don’t need to worry about it too much and can pick up a cake down the line, but some popular teas go out of stock quickly so you need to act on them before they’ve had time to really rest.
My other big questions are in regards to storage. If you are planning on building up a collection of teas to store for the long haul, your storage is pretty important. When you start trying to find the best parameters to store your tea in, you’ll find almost as many answers as you will people – and most of these people claim their solution is the best. This is hard because the different climates people live in are all so vastly different that all of these people may be right. The way they are storing their tea in the place they live actually might be the best way for them, but wrong for you.
So, that brings us to this post and the two experiments I am beginning. I have bought two cakes of Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good from Bitterleaf Tea. One of them is going straight into my pumidor and the other is being placed in a mylar bag. For the cake in my pumidor, I am having my first tasting today (check back tomorrow for my notes), and then I will sample it every month for the next year and post updates for each session. At the one year mark I’ll open up the cake in the mylar bag and do a side by side tasting of the two storage methods. If at a years time the tea is still going through rapid changes I’ll continue with monthly updates, and if it has leveled out I’ll stop and periodically check back in.
Now, I don’t think my plans here have any real inherent flaws but I should stress that this is limited in scope and not a ‘be all end all’ experiment. I want to give a look into the changes this specific tea goes through, but you would be off the mark to think that because “x tea” does one thing that “y tea” will do it as well. For a broader look at how teas evolve over the years, keep checking back. I’ll be doing yearly updates on many of the cakes I own, but this will be the most frequent and intense look into the the first year of a tea’s life.
For more information on how I am storing my teas, please check out my post on my storage. If I have overlooked anything I would love to hear about it – please leave me a comment below and let me know what you think!