In this post, I would like to quickly discuss the opinion I’ve formed on modern teas through discussion, research, and tasting I’ve done. I believe that modern tea has been produced in such a way that it will hit a drinkable age much earlier than “classic” teas known to the puerh world. Included below are pieces of “evidence” arguing this change. Forgive me, for they are brief in nature. My opinion on storing new productions of teas is primarily rooted in saving yourself money down the line. The timeline of modern productions of puerh is likely to be much shorter than teas of decades past. It in no way means these teas are bad, they have simply adjusted their trajectories to the modern consumer’s tastes and situations as puerh becomes popularized and more widely accessible.
I will again bring in a quote from the T4U forum posted by Ulumochi regarding “oolong puerh ” as we call it in the West, or “Green Tea-ized” (綠茶化) puerh .
“I’m sure that very few people actually like overly bitter and astringent tea. I, of course, don’t enjoy these teas either. I, too, enjoy fragrant sweet teas with pleasant huigan. So, if you like teas that are drinkable now, of course you can find these kinds of teas (Green Tea Puerh ). But if you are looking to store long-term, I suggest you find teas with a level of bitterness and astringency to them. These teas have more “gears” to shift through, you could say. This also has much to do with how long you desire to store your teas. What I want to say is, all things oxidize and decay. Taiwanese oolong to be stored over time must rely on roast and sealed storage. As for puerh, with no roast nor sealed storage, and a high level of water remaining in the material, it’s instability is increased even more so. So what does it rely on?
If you want to remove bitterness and astringency the answer is simple. If you want to increase fragrance the answer is simple. All you need is to select the right material and control your processing. But if you wish to look for a product that can withstand oxidation and humidity, while at the same time improving its fragrances and characteristics, you’ve hit quite the puzzler.
Many people think I’m just a fan of bitterness. In reality, I love soft fragrant teas, too! I’m a huge fan of Yiwu region teas. The majority of teas I’ve given high praise in the past were Yiwu teas. However, might you be able to guess how these Yiwu teas I’ve mentioned tasted when I first tried them in 2001? Bitter, astringent, and smokey.
Moderate or appropriate levels of bitterness and astringency can enrich a tea’s flavors and presence, as well as its lifespan. It is my belief that these are a necessary evil among a tea’s inherent qualities.”
And from another post:
Now we come to the main topic. I believe that from Yinji tea (even including a portion of haoji teas) forward, puerh tea already started to become more green tea-like! Even Cloud’s favorite mention, the 88Qing Bing, or the early-era red mark teas mentioned by the older generation that were also “Extremely bitter/astringent and hard to drink,” or the extremely limited experience I have gained through drinking non-traditionally stored haoji teas, I believe that puerh tea, following the foundation of the Republic of China (in 1911), have taken large strides towards becoming more “green tea-like.”
It would seem that material used, processing, and tannins are all elements in the aging potential of a tea. Tannins act as an “armor” for tea via preventing oxidation. Teas with lower tannin levels (without proper protection) will have less protection to age and will reach a drinkable level much more quickly. Teas with more tannins will be protected long-term, allowing them to gain flavor from aging. Perhaps people will ask here: “What of black tea (紅茶)? It is also tannic, why does it not age like puerh ?” You may also be thinking: “Highly tannic teas aren’t necessarily good teas!”
As for hongcha: We need only look at its production to understand why despite being tannic, it lacks the aging potential of puerh . Though tannic, it has already experienced oxidations of those tannins during its initial processing. As for tannic levels in teas: Of course, teas with low tannin levels can be good! Tannins and the other qualities of a tea that make up its flavors are not entirely connected. Fantastic material can lack or have tannins based on the above considerations.
看來原料, 製程, 茶鹼跟單寧酸含量都是影響轉化其及適飲其的因素. 單寧的作用就是抗氧化劑, 保護茶內含物的「裝甲」。 茶單寧低， 轉化期與適飲期就會早點到位。 反之， 茶單寧越高越往後延遲。 茶友讀到這邊可能會有些疑問: 紅茶也有單寧啊， 為何沒有越陳越香？ 單寧高也不見得茶會好喝！ 至於紅茶為何不像普洱茶能越陳越香， 看製程則可知：紅茶的單寧在製程當中大部分已經經歷過氧化了。 講到單寧低的茶品， 當然也好喝! 有茶質與否, 跟單寧的高低程度不相干。
Additionally, I want to especially stress here: it is not only Western boutiques that face issues with long-term storage. Modern puerh, regardless of being large factory, Western boutique, or Mainland/Taiwanese boutique, due to modern refined processing and, in some cases, the popularity of high mountain material, are all following the trend of “green tea-ization.” Grab a 7542 production from the past few years to compare to some moderately aged period productions like the Purple Dayi No. 4 or late 90s 7542s – based on my limited experience in comparing these teas, it seems that the inherent characteristics and qi of more modern productions have already become completely different from their predecessors. It goes without saying that the comparison with Haoji and Yinji teas would be even more pointless.
另外，在此想特意強調, 不光是歐美精品店面臨久藏的問題。現代普洱茶無論是大廠, 歐美精品店, 或大陸/台灣的精品店, 現代生普由於精緻工藝以及推崇高山化的現象都隨著時代「綠茶化」的趨勢。 拿近幾年的7542與01紫大益4號或者90年末的7542相比， 在我自己有限的經驗之中，前者的茶性及茶氣已經完全不一致。更不用說更早期的號級/印級茶品。
If you plan to drink your teas immediately, essentially planning to finish them within the first few years of purchase, you needn’t concern yourself too much with other details. If the tea tastes good now, drink it and enjoy. Any puerh can be stored; however, considering when a tea has reached its most drinkable age is a more important point.
As for how modern teas will do in the future, we’ll have to wait and see. This isn’t a “told ya so” piece, either. It seems that of late in forums there has been a lot of excitement about modern teas, and many folks quickly snatch them up as soon as they hit the market. Even with a very short history, Western vendors have been very successful at grabbing Western customers with their fresh take on tea. As for whether modern productions (of Western or Chinese/Taiwanese origin) will really transform into something comparable to earlier teas, I feel that the chances are slim. This of course doesn’t mean that these teas will be bad or won’t safely age; however, what direction they will take is still unclear. I assume that as aged products many will taste quite nice, but should not be expected to land the same results as their predecessors. It will still take many years to see what degree modern puerh has been “green tea-ized.” That said, if these teas make you happy, buy ’em up! I certainly am looking forward to how they change!
究竟現代普洱茶未來的發展如何，大家等著瞧吧。最近在論壇上看到很多茶友已經對新上市的茶葉蠢蠢欲動。盡管這些公司歷史不長，但是由於是行銷策略符合歐美市場，已經將不少客人吸引過來。其中最主要的策略是有人炒作。基於以上的論點，我以藏家的角度來說說拙見，現代普洱茶對於久藏的問題希望不太大。現代生普的精緻化導致茶品的很多變遷。是否真的能夠轉化到與早期普洱茶的相近很難說，不過小弟個人認為不太可能。那也不是說不好喝不耐放！然而，現代普洱茶的走向目前還不明確。照理講現代普洱也有轉化的空間, 也會越陳越香。過十幾年後才能知道現代普洱茶綠茶化到什麼地步。 若您喜歡，買幾款也可。
A Buddhist Philosophy: Seeing Mountains As Mountains. No longer seeing mountains as mountains. Seeing mountains as mountains again.
見山是山， 見山非山， 見山又是山
Tea essentially follows the same philosophy. This is a process of learning that enthusiasts will all eventually go through. The results vary from individual to individual.
The First step: “Seeing tea as tea.” This could be seen as the average consumer’s understanding of puerh . Tea might all be seen as what it is. The idea of factories, gushu, arbor, plantation, whatever it may be. It is as it appears.
見茶的第一階段： 「見茶是茶」。 這就是一般買家對普洱茶的最初認識。台地茶， 大樹茶,，認為一切都是實實在在。
Hushi once said: “To examine and learn, one must preserve uncertainty where there should be none. To seek out an object’s true qualities, one must peel back its outer layers.” This is our second step: “No longer seeing tea as tea.” This is essentially the step being discussed in this post (and quite honestly many others).
胡適說： 「做學問須於無疑處存疑.剝開事物的表象,去探究其本質」這就是我們所謂的第二階段: 「見茶非茶」本文就在參考這階段。
The third step: “Seeing tea as tea again.” Those veterans rich with experience may finally grasp this step. Only having already doubted, critiqued, and discerned what information is true and mastered their own process and tastes, can they comprehensively understand the unique intrinsic qualities of tea. Thus, they finally see teas they interact with for what they inherently are.
第三階段： 「見茶又是茶」經驗豐富的老手才能夠掌握的階段.經過懷疑, 批判, 辯證後,透徹瞭解事物的本質。