Today I drank a sheng pu’er tea that was produced in 2013 by the Nan Qiao tea factory. Nan Qiao is a small / medium sized tea factory based in the Menghai region of Yunnan province’s Xishuangbanna prefecture. They usually specialize in wet piling (wo dui 渥堆 in Chinese) tea, and producing ripe pu’er. However, they also make a few sheng pu’er productions for natural aging such as today’s tea.
Today’s tea brings up an interesting topic which I have not yet touched upon in this blog: the storage of pu’er tea after production. There are many different methods for storing pu’er, and it is common for pu’er lovers to have personal storage styles as well as opinions on what storage methodology produces a good aged taste. To grossly summarize, there are two main categories: dry storage and wet storage.
- Dry storage refers to the storage of pu’er tea in a region with relatively lower temperature and humidity levels. Kunming is a city in Yunnan province that is known for having a cooler and less humid climate that is conducive to dry storage. I would think that new pu’er tea bought and stored in New England would also produce a dry storage effect, because we have a moderate climate in terms of both temperature and humidity.
- Wet storage refers to the storage of pu’er tea in a region with relatively higher temperature and humidity levels. The southern province of Guangdong in China is known for having a hotter and more humid climate that is conducive to wet storage. Malaysia is another place that is well known for producing wet stored teas.
Some producers of tea will consider a teas storage climate while producing their products. An example is that Xiaguan tea factory has produced productions called “Fei Tai” that were meant to be exported to and aged in Taiwan. Nan Qiao tea factory apparently produces some of its productions with wet storage in mind, and exports them to places like Guangdong.
A friend of mine found today’s tea on their trip to Malaysia, where it was stored for approximately 4 years prior to being brought to Maine. It would make sense for my friend to find a tea produced by Nan Qiao in Malaysia, if the tea factory is known for sometimes producing teas that are meant to be aged in a wet environment.
Looking at the dry leaves of the cake, it can be seen that the tea is a factory production that may have been intended for aging in wet storage. This is because the leaves are very tightly compressed, which indicates a hydraulic pressing of the leaves rather than the artisanal stone pressing method. Machine pressed cakes can react well with wet storage because the high temperatures and humidity help decompress the leaves over time. The dry leaves are also a fairly dark brown color despite being only 4 years old, it is likely that wet storage produced this color, because similarly aged teas stored in dry climates will still have some silver or green colored leaves.
The flavor, fragrance, and color of the brewed tea were very strong initially. The tea had a very wet, thick, and soupy texture. The flavor and aroma had slight and sweet notes of honey and plum that were pungent and lingered after the tea was drunk. There was a bitter & astringent component to this tea that balanced out the sweetness. However this component came across as sour if I brewed the tea for too long. I believe this is due to the somewhat lower quality of leaves because they were produced in a factory.
Below is a photo that shows the color of the brewed tea. I’ve had older teas stored in dry areas that produced a lighter yellow / gold color. Color can sometimes be an indicator of a teas progress in aging, and I think this darker color can be attributed to the wet storage of this tea in Malaysia.
The tea yielded 4 – 5 nice and rich brews, and then died off sort of quickly somewhere in between the 6th – 10th infusion. Once again I think this is due to what I suspect were younger leaves used for a factory production, because older tea trees tend to have a stronger and smoother qualities that come out more evenly over many infusions.
Below is a photo of the fully brewed tea leaves. There is a blend of some yellow/green leaves and some darker brown leaves. The quality of the leaf is mostly broken, with a few medium sized whole leaves remaining intact.
Despite some of the bitter / astringent qualities of strong infusions, and the fact that the tea died off somewhat quickly, the tea had a very good price to value ratio. The main flavor, fragrance, and feeling of the tea were enjoyable, and my friend was able to obtain the whole 357 gram cake for only $17. In this way I feel that the tea can be enjoyed regularly as a daily drinker. I think it also offers a good example of what I feel are typical ‘wet storage qualities’ at a great price.