March 18, 2010

A storage experiment


I had a fun little time yesterday breaking up a couple cakes for storage in some recently-purchased yixing containers. Though I've heard from a number of online retailers that you can store pu-erh in yixing jars, it wasn't until recently that I heard a couple of really intriguing accounts about the specific effects that just a few months' storage in clay jars can have on pu-erh: the tea will become rounder, smoother, and a lot mellower in flavor, I'm told. Now that I think about it and have had another look, I have to give Bret at Tea Goober credit for mentioning this a long time ago--sometimes I have to hear things from a few sources before the skeptic in me can be persuaded, though. Plus, I hadn't actually had someone explain to me until recently the exact effects of yixing jar storage.

The yixing jars come from Golden Teahouse. It's been a while since I've ordered from them, but they had the best prices I could find on smallish yixing canisters. As it turns out, they're actually pretty small. I didn't measure precisely, but they're probably only 300 ml at the most. It's not too big of a deal, though--it just means I don't have to invest as much tea to fill up the container! Also interestingly, although I ordered 2 of the same product, the jars have slightly different clay colors: one is more on the purple side and the other is redder.

To fill the jars I used the Zhong Cha Big Leaf 90's bing and the 90's unwrapped brick from my Skip4Tea purchase. The main reason I got all excited for this experiment is because the supposed effects of yixing storage are exactly what I want for these two teas--I don't consider either of them mature yet, and they both have enough harshness that they aren't especially pleasant to drink. If the jars can accelerate the aging in the short term and take the edge off the bitterness (and hopefully the smokiness, especially in the case of the brick), then these teas could become pretty good everyday pu-erhs without waiting several years. Since I'm not overly enamored with them, it won't break my heart if the experiment doesn't produce life-changing results. The really fun part is that I've still got plenty of each original cake left over, so comparison will be easy. I think 3 months is a reasonable time frame, so we'll check back then. Anybody out there have any experience with yixing pu-erh storage in the short term, or more interestingly, the long term?

If this works out well, I've got a few teas I'm more excited about that could use a little aging acceleration--it would be nice to have a few more teas in the rotation so I'm not drinking up the expensive stuff quite as fast! For now, the thing I'm most excited about isn't tea but--you guessed it--music. Maurice Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé has been bouncing around my brain, speakers and headphones the past week. I'm attending a performance at the Seattle Symphony tomorrow night and I don't think there's another piece of classical music I'd be more excited to hear live (ok, maybe Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, but Daphnis et Chloé is longer, and it's got a full choir for goodness' sake!). Ravel is often overshadowed by Debussy when it comes to the impressionist music movement of the early 1900's, but for my money it doesn't get any better than Ravel's ballet--that swelling crescendo and the whole Lent section has got to be 4 of the most gorgeous minutes in music history, as far as I'm concerned (my neck is tingling just thinking about it). It's a shame how many people could sing John Williams' Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park themes from memory but have never heard one of the pieces from which he has continuously borrowed so heavily in all its glory. *Ahem,* Tea! (Maybe I need to start another blog...)

As for the blossoms, it's hard to believe how early spring came this year in Seattle; probably about a month earlier. Reminds me of the almost laughably melodramatic "The Birds" from Peter Hammill's solo debut Fool's Mate. There was much better work to come...despite the fact this early spring brought blossoms too early for Chinese greens, the weather has at least remained nice enough that the blossoms have lingered awhile without being hailed off of their trees.