Everything comes to those who wait

January 26, 2012

As new leaves arrive from Asia, the urge to explore these new seasonal variations of taste is irresistible, perhaps rediscovering this year's version of an old favourite. Though with the majority of new teas the focus is on the fresh, explosive aromas, some fine teas will benefit from a peaceful retreat in the depths of your tea collection before arriving at a certain flavorful and aromatic maturity, and not just Pu Er. At least two other types of tea will benefit from a slight delay between the time of transformation and the ideal time to enjoy them.

The first type of tea to consider for this short ageing process is black tea from Darjeeling. For a few short weeks the First Flushes will be bursting with explosive aromatics and light brisk liquors. Then due to a very small percentage of moisture retained in leaves (about 3%) they will continue to oxidise. This 'mellowing' generally occurs within a few weeks following the arrival of the tea. It is worth noting that each Darjeeling tea will develop more body and richer flavour from this mellowing.
All are worth tasting upon of arrival. Some are more delicious after a week or two, and others will benefit from resting for a month or two before they stabilize.

The second type of tea to benefit from this application of patience is roasted wulong from the mountains of Wuyi and Feng Huang in China (Shui Xian, Da Hong Pao, Xian Feng Xi Milan etc ...). For this, the wait will be significantly longer than for Darjeeling, though of course it is a matter of taste. The fact that these teas have undergone a roasting, some lightly, some heavily, could see their aromas somewhat buried by 'baked' notes resulting from the process. They will soften with time, but it could take up to a year. The best way to keep the teas during this time is to store them in a ceramic jar (or earthenware) to allow a gentle aeration of the leaves, which will facilitate 'ripening'.

This restraint may seem cruel, but the wait will certainly be worth it. In addition, it will give you time to concentrate on other types of teas that need to be appreciated as soon as possible upon arrival.