3 ingredients are all you need.
First, you need time. To properly age a tea, there are no shortcuts. This doesn't mean you need to wait 20 years before noticing an improvement. The tea will taste better and better, year after year. And it's actually a good thing to check on the tea regularly, at least once a year. (Yesterday, a young Wenshan farmer showed me a gift he had received from another Wenshan family: a jar of 80 years old Baozhong. He was quite excited, but I immediately pointed out to him that some of the leaves had rotten (!) close to the cover. It smelled moldy).
Second, you need high quality leaves. Since I'm limiting my subject to Oolongs, I can further add that it should be well roasted, in a way that preserves the freshness and energy of the tea. (This is the easy part: just choose any of my best Hung Shui Oolongs or roasted concubines or oriental beauties from my selection).
Third, you need a good porcelain jar to store the tea. Some of you may remember that I have performed several Oolong storage tests in the past. These tests caused me to drop the industrial porcelain jars from my selection. Contemporary potters can provide a better alternative, if they employ good materials, firing and designs. However, they can not rival antique Chinese qinghua jars. After almost 2 years of searching, I have stumbled upon a batch of such medium sized jars. After several weeks of testing, I am glad to add them to my selection:
|2 designs: Flowers or Phoenix|
|2 designs for the covers|
Before using an old jar, there are some steps to take:
1. In case it is not clean, wash it well without hurting it. (Fill it with water for a day. Then use my magic sponge, for instance. Water and the sponge are enough to get rid of very strong stains). I have washed them already, but it's better to wash them twice, I think.
2. Dry them, preferably under the sun.
3. To remove bad smells, you can place a few grams of fresh Oolong in the jar and then shake it for 30 seconds. Dry tea is good at absorbing smells from its environment.
1. Fill it to the top with leaves. Store it in a dry, clean and cool place (no direct sunlight). It's not necessary to seal the cover. But you could wrap it in a fabric for extra protection. Then, check the content once a year by brewing a few grams.
2. Empty the bag of your favorite and most often brewed roasted Oolong in the jar. Then, each time you want to drink this tea, take some leaves from the jar. Since you'll finish it off quickly, you don't have to worry that the jar isn't full. (This is how I'm currently using my jar with winter concubine Oolong.)
3. Do the 'magic trick' with this jar. Use it like a decanter, a day, an hour or just a few minutes before drinking a particular tea. Fill it with what you plan to brew and enjoy the short term change. The jar helps cleanse the leaves from the plastic foil scent and refines the fragrances.
Beyond storage, these jars are wonderful objects for a Cha Xi. Smelling the leaves inside the jar is a pleasure by itself! With time, the tea scents transform into perfume, and I already feel like the Warren Buffett of Oolong storage!