Most teas have a shelf life and lose quality over time. Pu-erh is a notable exception. Pu-erh is a fermented tea, and improves in quality over time. In fact, certain pu-erh teas may take 10 years or longer to develop their full character.
An aged pu-erh has a more complex character and smoother texture than fresh pu-erh. Also, an aged pu-erh is resilient to multiple infusions before losing flavor. The unique flavor is created by a process known as ‘wet piling.’ ‘Wet piling’ involves damping and turning the leaves in a controlled setting, allowing them to ferment.
Certain bacterial and fungal cultures are cultivated in the piling process. Over time, the cultures mature, lending the rich flavor associated with a vintage pu-erh. An aged pu-erh is a living thing, and should be stored in a warm, semi-dry place away from sunlight.
After much experimentation, we have selected our favorite aged pu-erh: a vintage 1992. This tea has aged over 20 years, developing an outstanding smoothness and complexity that lasts over multiple infusions. While this vintage pu-erh may cost more than a standard grade pu-erh, we find that the value of this tea is its resilience to multiple infusions. We have re-steeped the tea over ten times in one stretch and find it still robust and smooth.
In order to maximize the enjoyment of this tea, we recommend using a Yixing teapot. The teapot will absorb the flavors of this tea over time in a process known as seasoning. The pot itself will age and improve the flavor of a vintage tea. In this way, the process of drinking a pu-erh becomes an experience.
As a special promotion, we are offering a discounted pu-erh and oval blossom yixing set
Brewing Vintage Pu-Erh
Because of its musky nature, pu-erh should be rinsed initially to remove strong flavors. For a yixing pot, the tea leaves can be placed directly inside the pot and 200 degree water poured inside. The water should then be discarded after 15 seconds. After the initial rinse, the pot can be filled again with 200 degree water and allowed to sit for around 30 seconds to 4 minutes before serving. A shorter steeping time will result in a weaker tea that will last over more infusions. A longer steeping time will result in a stronger tea that will last over fewer infusions.
The tea can be resteeped over the course of several hours, providing continual enjoyment and health benefits. For more on the health benefits of pu-erh, check out our About Pu-Erh section.