Storage experiment: 801-8582 — can one year make a difference?

// Published November 5, 2018 by mgualt

Following up on my last storage experiment comparing cold vs hot storage of the 2017 Dayi 7542, we have a very different question: after 9 years of storage in Taiwan, will we be able to tell the difference between one year of additional storage at 23C vs at 32C?

A year ago, I put two cakes of the first batch of 2008 Dayi 8582 into ziplock mylar storage, generating 60% RH at 23C. I put one cake into the hotbox at 32C (which then settled at 63% generated RH).  The cakes settled at these RH values for the entire year and I just tasted them today.  Identical gaiwans, white cups, and a partner drinker.  These cakes are part of a single tong stored in Taiwan for 9 years, and when they arrived to me they looked/tasted identical.

The teas are extremely close, of course.  Their histories have a 90% overlap. But small percentages can have major impacts, as we shall learn tomorrow…

First I’d like to state that neither of these have any black tea taste. This is significant because I have gotten black tea taste on some 801-8582 cakes from other sources. It’s not necessarily a flaw, but I think it’s interesting that this can be present or absent in the same tea, depending on storage conditions.


The cold-stored tea is on the left, and the heated tea is on the right.  Steeps were done with a timer, reheating water, and alternating order. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do without getting a DARPA grant.

Interestingly, there were two major differences between these teas, and they were equally present in all steeps.

First, the cold-stored tea was noticeably more bitter and more green than the hot-stored tea.   Neither was too bitter to drink now, I believe the 801-8582 is getting to the point of being eminently drinkable.

Second, and this was the real surprise to me, the heated tea had a new taste: it is the classic “sweet floral incense” taste that I sometimes note in some storage versions.  I have noticed it in the 2007 teas from Biyun Hao, as well as from several Malaysia/Singapore stored teas.   It was quite surprising (and confirmed by my drinking partner) that the heated tea had this taste/aroma, from the very first steep, where the cold-stored tea did not.

I am not claiming that the difference between these teas is of great magnitude, but only that they are qualitatively different, which is quite surprising with only about 10 degrees C over a single year.

Comments

  1. Beaumont
    November 23, 2018 @ 8:52 pm

    Hi Marco,

    I’ve been following your storage tests with interest, as this would seem to be a very promising way of safely aging teas in the west. I haven’t done any storage comparisons myself, but based on sampling alone I have begun to notice that I’m inclined towards teas stored in fairly dry/sealed conditions, but kept in countries with fairly high and consistent temperatures. It seems like your approach aproximates this kind of storage rather elegantly, with minimal outlay or maintenance required.

    This particular post covered some of the questions I’d been wondering, as I was very curious to see what differences your storage would make to an already semi-aged tea. I wondered if I could ask you a few of my remaining questions, though I’m sure with most it will be difficult to speculate.

    First, I wondered if you were generally happy with the speed of maturation so far, or if – as it seems this particular comparison surprised you – you have concerns that this storage could lead to overly expedient aging, i.e. resulting in a tea which begins to lose complexity to an undesirable extent if stored like this for a longer period? This might be rather naive on my part, and needless to say, impossible to answer with much certainty yet, but I suppose I’m asking if you currently feel optimistic about this as a longer term storage, for 5-10+ years etc?

    I also wondered, do you see any disadvantages in using the sealed Mylar bags, vs. say a heated open enclosure kept at a consistent humidity using more/larger Bovida packs? This does sound a more temperamental approach, and more expensive over time, I just wondered if you thought it might have its advantages.

    Last quick question I had. I’m really interested in your tea conditioning, then sealing idea, and I think I’ll try it. Out of curiosity though, do you think this storage would work as well just keeping Bovida packs in the Mylar bags? Probably unecessary, but I’d be nervous of the higher natural humidity some of yours cakes arrived at, especially if I chose a lower constant temperature.

    Hope these questions are not too speculative and thanks for any thoughts you have. I really think you might be on to something here, and I look forward to future posts to see how it goes. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • mgualt
      November 23, 2018 @ 9:46 pm

      Hi Beaumont,

      1. About speed of maturation: I would not say that it is too fast. In all the tests I’ve done so far, the teas were obviously very similar. I was interested in picking out differences and what surprised me was that I was able to. Over the past six months I have become increasingly confident that this is a very good storage method for young and mid aged tea.

      What I hope was clear in my post describing the system was that I had certain main goals. And I think if you are going to decide on a storage system you need to be clear about what you want to accomplish. If a tea is young and harsh, you will want to expose it to heat and a certain amount of humidity. But if a tea is perfect as it is, it’s not clear to me why one would opt for aggressive storage. So I will keep some of my cakes at room temp and others at higher temps. (and some at much higher temps, to be continued…)

      2. About the heated open enclosure with Boveda packs — this is essentially a pumidor with added heat. A lot of people are happy with the pumidor setup and I think it makes a lot of sense to heat these things, especially if you have a good method to maintain humidity, like a salt jar, or a good seal (I would actually try using a huge mylar bag for this — minifridges leak too much air). But, this method doesn’t satisfy my criteria and is much riskier IMO than the system I decided on (I am not saying it’s bad, or too risky, I am just comparing two options). I needed it to be maintenance free, I wanted to be able to isolate many different types of cakes, prevent contamination or potential over-humidification… etc.

      That being said, you asked if I thought the heated “open” enclosure with added humidity might have advantages. Let me tell you what I really think: if you wanted to actually encourage mold growth, and ramp up humidity to above 70 at 34C or so, and really want to see your cakes develop like crazy, then I think that is what I would try. Something like a home made humid storage. I think that would actually be a cool thing to try, but you can’t be fussy about a bit of white stuff all over the place.

      3. I see what you are saying, using the Boveda to impose an upper limit to the humidity in the bag rather than to humidify a cake… I don’t have any experience doing this. It makes sense, but in my opinion, if you have a cake which is too humid, you should dry it out instead of waiting for the extremely slow process of Boveda humidification which I imagine is just as slow when it’s de-humidifying. It’s worth a try, I am just paranoid about leaving a salt pack with a cake indefinitely.

      Good questions, food for thought.
      Best wishes

      Reply

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