Introduction to Aged Tea
In Wuyishan, some people say that three-year-old tea is medicine, after ten years a panacea, and aged tea over 20 years is a treasure. Wuyi rock tea, or yancha, is one kind of semi-fermented oolong tea. Wuyi oolong tea has its own special fragrance and flavour because of the tea polyphenols, alkaloids, organic acids, vitamins, and other aroma components. Most of them are susceptible to breaking down from environment factors such as humidity, temperature, light, and oxygen. A series of chemical reactions, such as hydrolysis, oxidation, condensation, or polymerization will have effect on the tea’s color, fragrance, and flavor. And this is also the main mechanism of tea aging. Because of the endogenous transformation of aged Wuyi yancha, the tea has different performance in each period. At the same time, people have their own feeling of aged tea.
Good aged Dahongpao is brown in color and retains a tight twist, when people drink aged tea, they can feel the woody distinctive aged flavor. The color of the tea looks darkens with time and takes on a red hue. We can feel that the tea is smooth and soft, mellow and sweet. The wet leaves are thick and glossy.
At the beginning of the fermentation period, usually about five to ten years, it tends to be slightly acidic, and gradually become stronger. Until the 15th year, the sour gradually fades, and tea rose fragrance may emerge, in Chinese we call the fragrance meixiang (梅香), so the tea may become aged meixiang tea. The rose fragrance will last until the 20th year, then the transfer to flower and fruit fragrance, which will last until the 25th year. The tea will continue to transform if we keep storing it, and the tea will continue to become more and more smooth. As time goes by, the tea leaves will break, not as complete as they were; It could be dark color, it could have white frost, it could be medicinal, it could be woody.
We said that as time goes by, the tea’s original fragrance will slowly reduce, or change to another fragrance, or be totally lost. But there are also some special teas that have aged fragrance, from freshness to aged “chen xiang”. The most obvious fragrance is the fragrance of zongye, the large bamboo leaves that wrap steamed rice. Fresh Da Hong Pao and aged Da Hong Pao can not be compared because there is no comparison, they are quite different. Aged rock tea is not as youthful and energetic as new tea, but old tea is reserved and profound. People may fall in love with new rock tea after they first try, but the aged tea is more surprising and addictive. Some people said that people who can drink aged Da Hong Pao are ones who really understand rock tea. Aged tea is not common for people to drink and understand. A bag of good aged tea has spent more than ten or twenty years to get where it is, and may come by luck, but not by searching for it. The oldest Da Hong Pao I have had was 48 years old. That was back when I was in college in Fuzhou, and I was working in my aunt’s tea shop. One day, a customer brought a bag of tea and told us to drink with him. He said the tea was called “Liang Shang Jun Zi ”, a gentlemen on the beam. The owner forgot the tea he put up on the beam in the attic, and 48 years later, he found it. The tea had broken into tiny pieces, and the liquor was like dark ink. But the tea was very smooth, and we drank the whole night. That was a great memory.