Thoughts from a Closeted Age Hater

Everywhere on Steepster, I see people going ‘Man this tea is so good but think what it’ll be like in 10 years! Aged puer amirite?!’ For the past year I’ve always been like ’Haha yeah, aged tea so good…"

I’ve always thought I was just missing something, but over time I’ve really become certain that I like young puer (a lot) better than old puer.

I think old sheng has mouthfeels but I think young sheng has better flavor.

I think old shu is less complex than new shu. I think brand new shu can have fishiness but after a year or two is at its best.

I think the value people put on aging has a lot less to do with tea quality and taste and more to do with perceptions of value, culture, and marketing.

Am I missing something? Ignorant? Or do others feel this way? I’m interested to hear what people think

9 Replies
Matu said

It’s my understanding that with where the puerh market is right now, Young Sheng and Aged Sheng are just two vastly different products. Lots of sheng are produced now which are good to drink at a young age (W2T, CLT, Yunnan Sourcing, BLT, etc.) However, since the oldest of those curated brands has been making their own tea since about 2009, we don’t know how these productions will age.

The traditional bias towards aged tea likely comes from when the only puerh available (maybe with some exceptions) was factory tea. Young factory tea doesn’t normally taste very good at all.

I don’t think you can concretely say one is universally better than the other now – it’s all a matter of personal taste. You think that young sheng has “better” flavor than aged sheng – I’m sure many would disagree with this. Plenty of young sheng has excellent mouthfeel as well. Personally, I enjoy both good young sheng and good aged sheng. I like them both for different reasons, and which one I might reach for would largely depend on what I’m in the mood for that day.

Interesting, didn’t think about that but you’re right, the young factory tea I’ve had is like a puff from a bitter, vegetable-y cigar. Maybe my disconnect comes from coming to the tea scene late, when there are all these boutique producers out there.

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Yes, if you love fresh tea and shu at 2 years drink that mostly! You can drink and think whatever you want.

I will say I use to agree. I spent lots of money on aged samples right as I started drinking. I never was really wowed. Over about the last year I have realized that they focus on other stuff more. Texture and qi, rather than flavor. It is also, of course, an entirely different flavor. Its pretty correct to say that young puerh, at the least is just more exciting in terms of flavor. There is just usually more going on. For aged its all about that subtlety. Now I have shifted and definitely drink an even mix of young and what i call middle aged pu (6-10 years old) because anything more just cannot be drunk for most people on a daily basis.

So no you are not doing it wrong, and maybe your opinion will change sometime. For now, just keep drinking.

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Dr Jim said

I’ve been having second thoughts about aged tea as well. however, I think part of the difference is that reasonably priced aged tea tends to be lower quality factory teas from plantations, while a lot of the younger teas I’m buying are supposedly old growth. When I have tried older teas of high quality, my feelings have been mixed. Most of my other older teas are ok, but not special, but probably only cost a couple of dollars a cake when they were released, so I’m not sure it is a fair comparison. In the expensive tea category, I really like the YQH teas, but don’t appreciate the camphor quality of W2T’s white whale or some of EoT’s older teas.

When I look at my tea spreadsheet, the number of teas I rate at 90 or higher is pretty evenly distributed by year, with a bit of thinness at around 6 years old. This indicates that my palate likes both old and new.

For me, and I suspect most other western drinkers as well, this is just a big, exciting, and somewhat expensive experiment. I’m looking forward to how it plays out.

Matu said

Haha a “big, exciting, somewhat expensive experiment” is probably the best way I’ve heard to describe a puerh habit.

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TeaLife.HK said

It also depends how the tea is stored—I’ve had tea that was stored in dryer places that was undrinkable ten years down the line, but the same tea stored somewhere with warmer, more humid conditions (but not too humid) is absolutely amazing!

Even within Kunming this spring, I tried identical 7542s from 2014 (same batch): one was unpleasant and the other really lovely, with a distinct and pleasant agarwood note I’ve never experienced before. It’s all about storage. Same deal with 7581. I’ve had 2005 bricks you couldn’t pay me to drink and then I’ve had 2005 bricks that were stored across town in Kunming that had aged beautifully and was extremely pleasant to drink.

That is factory sheng and shu, though. I haven’t had my fancy sheng cakes long enough to see what they’ll be like with age either. That’s why I tend to buy factory cakes/tuos and shu for aging—I feel they have more guaranteed prospects for aging.

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jschergen said

As others have said, it’s at least partially an access issue for the west. We have a far greater amount of young productions easily available from your western vendor of choice. Enough to keep anyone busy tasting. In the west we really only have a fraction of the choices for semi-aged and more aged teas.

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The big question for me is how comfortable on the body a tea is. There is quite a bit of young sheng that roughs up my stomach pretty significantly, and I’ve found that the more time goes on the less patience I have for such things. And sometimes, even though a young sheng doesn’t rough up the stomach, the energy can have a bit (or sometimes a lot) of an “uncomfortable upper” sort of quality, if you know what I mean.

Compare this to a properly aged tea, which is often times fully comfortable on the stomach, if not downright soothing, with often calming and soothing energy. Occasionally young puer can have these sort if qualities, but I find it to be rare.

I do think that I prefer the taste of young tea to old, in general. But when it comes to choosing between drinking through tasty young tea to find one that is comfortable, and drinking through comfortable tea with some age to find one that is tasty, I’m preferring the latter option more and more.

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Cwyn said

I’m in agreement with this, but like the OP am probably in a small group of people who think so. Shah8 posted an observation that many puerh drinkers developed a preference for factory tea with “retired smoke, dirt” etc because, (in my paraphrasing) this is what was available.

In my opinion, so many of the “aged” teas of today suffer still from poor processing, burnt leaves, smoky woks in closed rooms, overly wet character-killing storage or the opposite, sour dry storage. Heat and humidity do work on smoke over time, so a very few of these aged teas turn into a nice beverage. People got somewhat accustomed to the flaws, and many folks can brew around them, or enjoy the leaf hiding in there somewhere. Today, though, processing has improved with the entrance of boutique producers. We get the full beauty of the leaves.

So, I think the young sheng of today by careful producers is processed much better. I think the aging potential is there for the careful collector.

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