jamin said

What's up with long term aged shou??

Pretty new to pu’er. I see info often that says shou peaks at five to seven years but obviously there are people who enjoy shou that has been aged much longer. There is plenty of it on the market too. I do plan on sampling some and also am the kind of person that appreciates absorbing a lot of information and opinions so I have a framework of ideas and lingo to help put new tastes in a context. Any thoughts??

26 Replies
AllanK said

Yunnan Sourcing has a few good ones in the way of aged Shou. Some vendors will tell you it is aged shou when it really is not. If they claim it is from 1999 but are selling it for $19.99 it is probably fake.

Teasenz said

Or it’s really low quality and not well aged…There’s a lot of stock out there which is really hard to sell.

jamin said

Thank you for replies. I’m busy tasting my way through several hundred dollars worth of samples from YS and CLT. I didn’t get an old ripe though so thought I’d post question here to find out more about old ripes and help me decide whether to prioritize that or not. So many many worlds to explore in pu’er and only so many grams of tea I’m able to drink per day.

AllanK said

In my experience it takes about 20 years of dry storage for puerh to completely lose it’s fermentation flavor. Something like the 1006 CNNP Green Mark Te Ji is a good one to sample.
https://yunnansourcing.com/products/1996-cnnp-green-mark-te-ji-ripe-pu-erh-tea-cake

Hi! Happy to hear that you’re getting into the world of pu-erh. It is definitely a very extensive subject with many differing opinions. And even I think there is always a lot to discover.
If you’re interested in learning more about shou pu-erh and what makes it differ from sheng you can feel free to check out our article: https://pathofcha.com/pages/pu-erh-raw-vs-ripe

We do carry a pu-erh sample set of 4 different types of pu-erh, 2 shou and 2 sheng. The shou are aged 9 and 5 years. (https://pathofcha.com/collections/pu-erh-teas/products/pu-erh-teas-discovery-collection)

A heavily aged pu-erh can really be compared to aged wine. Some people like it more. But the fact that it is aged longer doesn’t necessarily make it better. I would suggest trying different things and getting a sense what qualities attract you more in a brew. There is much to experience! :)

jamin said

Not that new to pu’er. I definitely understand the difference between ripe and raw. What I’m asking specifically is what is the difference between a 5yr old ripe and a 25yr old ripe. If you could answer that then it’s possible I might consider buying something from you but seems like you posted here just to solicit business without even reading my question.

Hi. I apologize if I misunderstood your question. It wasn’t clear how experienced with pu-erh you are. In any case there is no need to be rude, especially when someone is trying to help. A little “thank you” instead is always appreciated and never hurts.

I see that this question has already been answered by many others so I don’t have much to add to it. But just in case:

90% of pu-erhs that are aged over 10 years (some say that even just over 7 years) are overpriced. The general rule is that the older pu-erh gets (given that it is stored properly) the more rounded and smooth its taste becomes. But after about 7 years of aging the taste doesn’t change radically anymore. So it is very hard to tell the difference between 15 years old and 20 years old pu-erh (there are exceptions, of course).
The prices, on the other hand, start growing really fast and really high once pu-erh breaks 10y.o. mark. So when talking about price to quality ratio it rarely makes sense to purchase 25 y.o. pu-erh. And if someone is offering a 25 y.o. pu-erh for a small price I’d be suspicious as well, taking into consideration how much time and effort it took to age the tea-cake.

I hope you were able to find the answer you were looking for. Have a great day! :)

jamin said

Thanks Path of Cha. I apologize for getting snappy. Appreciate the reply. Just the kind of info I was looking for. I think I’ll stick to younger shou for now and maybe down the road can try some older stuff. I’ll check out your website soon too.

Thank You Jamin! And glad I was able to help.

You just have to taste it to notice :)
If you’re ever nearby or I’m ever nearby remind me and I’ll bring a 1960s ripe and a 1980s ripe for you to taste the difference as taste always does justice e over words.
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For starters you have the milding out of the fermentation and if stored correctly a stronger depth of the taste/color plus the best is the mouthfeel that can become thicker with less oil feeling if it was there previously.
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Much of it comes down to preference. One thing you’ll notice is that within the last few years theres been a push for a higher grade shou, like stuff people dont move with their bare feet; not literally but look up how it’s made because now some factories are releasing shou that says it never touched the ground. That aged stuff is from a time period in which low grade leaf was turned into shou by those who didnt perfect the process with the lower quality stuff. It tends to be 100x cheaper than aged sheng too so if it was lightly fermented itll resemble 30yr sheng at a higher precision.
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I suppose I could sit down and show your taste buds while talking through it because I’m just rambling on my phone while waiting for someone.
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P.S. some people just try to drink older stuff because of thier brain is wired after a lot of reading and opinions that they are ‘rare’ or ‘better’ but this is my opinion… got to watch how I far I go into this

jamin said

Thank you. Exactly the type of brain food I was looking for. I’ll put exploring older shou on the backburner for now. Much love lp

jamin said

It was quite a while before I could ‘get’ pu’er at all. The tea served at the kind of events I frequent tends to be cheap shou and I couldn’t understand why someone would prefer that to some wonderful fragrant black tea. Then one day someone served me a very nice aged sheng that they had got while in China in the 90’s. Definitely affected me deeply. Am now enjoying ripes and raws. As for shou what I have enjoyed most is some of Hai Long Hao’s more affordable offerings. Tried a few YS brand shou as well but not as impressed as with HLH. Any suggestions on some other teas to try?

Plenty of suggestions… depends on what you like. When you drink a shou what is it that you enjoy?
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There’s always good laocha out there, HK stored raw/ripe mixtures, Dayi’s golden needle white lotus, and then quite a few of small run productions like XiZiHao’s ripe, CLT small batch, or the random huangpian that is cooked.

jamin said

Been thinking how to answer this question and not sure I have the experience or vocabulary built up yet to answer but I’ll give it a go.

For starters with shou I enjoy an effect that is dreamy and grounding. This seems like it could be a common thing with shou.

Also what I am enjoying is the learning process and am buying samples in a way that I can learn from comparing 2 or more teas. For instance I got samples of Hai Lang Hao’s 2014 Bulang tribute brick and YS 2015 Hui Run. Similar year, same mtn, different producer. They tasted similar but liked HLH more as it was a lot more robust tasting. Also got 2015 YS Yang Lou Han so I could compare same year, same producer, different region. So far what I have liked the most is HLH 2015 Bi An Xiang Sui Yi Hao. I think it has what I’ve read can be described as ‘cherry sweetness’ but not sure if that’s accurate. Also am enjoying YS 2017 Rooster King that I just got yesterday and am tasting to get to know how a tea behaves as it adjusts to new home.

So yeah, could use suggestions that will help me learn whats what and what I do or don’t like. Also I think I haven’t tried a very heavily fermented shou or one that brews up a dark brown black. I did get the CLT sheng sampler pack and am definitely enjoying it. I’ll have to take your suggestion and get their shou sampler pack too. Should have more budget for tea come July.

And yes, if you are ever near Northern California or if I am ever near where you live I’d be very greatful to have some tea.

I’ve tried a reasonable amount of shou that’s over 10 years old but never 20+ year old versions, so I could only pass on input from a limited experience in that regard. A bigger problem is that if you can’t tie the versions you try at any age back to original characteristics you can’t really do anything with noticing generalities; you can only experience what you are trying. Maybe some better versions are exceptional because they started off ideal for aging in some way, or maybe others they don’t seem different than typical 5 year old shou because they didn’t.

I haven’t noticed clear patterns that I could pass on. Young shou varies a good bit, and so does shou aged at 5 to 10 years or longer. To some limited extent some versions aged over a decade may have cleaned up related to off flavors fading, and picked up some depth, but I’ve really not noticed what is clearly additional complexity starting in (at a guess; again varying starting points aren’t possible to account for as a main factor). Even when I interpret a tea as being more complex, perhaps due to aging, it’s hard to separate expectation as a factor.

30 to 50 year old shou would seem to be something else. It’s hard to imagine that any type of tea wouldn’t transition some over another two decades. I’ve tried a couple of 30 year old versions of oolong and I wasn’t blown away by how that went, but at least the change was evident, softening and picking up a plum aspect, with one gaining a musty funkiness that took lots of infusions to clear.

The potential Liquid Proust raised of varying, lighter fermented versions aging differently is an interesting consideration I’ve not been able to do much with. I can’t even place the claim that initial odd aspects can be good for potential for aging, that the shou might be better off for tasting a bit off. I’ve experienced positive transition in younger shou I’ve bought that seems to bear that out but it takes more than limited cases of exposure to pull the cause and effect together clearly, and it takes a long exposure time to be there for personally witnessing decade-plus aging effects.

jamin said

Thank you John. I appreciate the info. I think I’ll forget about old shou for the time being and keep exploring younger teas.

One thing that I think is worth trying is raw/ripe mixture that’s been aged in HK together. Over time they become something special.
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As far as the lightly fermented stuff, it’s not the easiest to do and it takes time for the material to taste acceptable compared to others. I only have one which is the 2005 Dayi, but there are not too many runs of 15 to 30 day wet piling time frame vs the 45 to 60 days… or whatever the numbers actually come out to be. I’ve been looking for more, but shou doesn’t come with an in depth breakdown of the material in the way I’ve been looking for.
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The other thing to note here is that some store shou dry, air tight, or humid… lots of variables : )

While you’re on the subject can you say just a little about what character in a young shou indicates it will transition well, or what it means for a shou to be very drinkable and subtle when young (moderate in character, not expressing negative or even strong aspect range)? I get it all that’s too much to ask, but what comes to mind would be of interest, no need for a final answer set. Put another way, in what ways should a shou be unapproachable for the first two or three years to become even better later, or isn’t that how it works?

John… Honestly, there is way to do it 100% of the time. It’s is very much like knowing what high/medium roasted oolong will rest and taste better in three years. Just because it is strong now does not always mean it will calm down and be pleasant in a few years as it can just have some ‘eh’ underneath the roast. Just like that, you have ripe puerh possibly becoming more enjoyable or not. Now if you store it in higher humid conditions it is likely you can increase the viscosity of the liquid by a little but not a large amount so body wise yeah you can control the direction a bit as well as some taste… but if the fermentation dies down and the material underneath is not all that good chances are you will be left with a less than desirable session and unlike oolong that you could reroast you cannot really jump start something new out of it that I know of… take for instance half ripe and half raw mixtures. In the beginning they are funky and not too great, but over time the mixture mellows and ages out together into something that eventually will have a balance. So ultimately it comes down to knowing what is in the blend of the shou, as most are blends, and the process that it went through. There are some shou that go through a 60 day process so they are highly fermented, but then you have grades of leaf that age differently and different areas as well as process variations… gosh it gets pretty complicated and I just know some of the basics. Overall I would say that shou has been better as of late in its younger years rather than aged out beyond say 10 years as I haven’t encountered many that are worlds apart of their younger 3 to 5 year cousins; now my experience is based off of less than 50 ripe puerhs that are from the 1960s to 1990s and I must also attach the disclaimer that I am not a big fan of ripe puerh so to me a decent ripe may be top notch for others because I have very high standards when it comes to shou.

Very interesting input, thanks. As with sheng it seems like you just need to get a feel for what lots of versions are like, and then to also experience transitions over time, and patterns will emerge to some degree. I’ve never tried any shou that’s from the 90s and only first started trying pu’er 4 or 5 years ago so in a couple of senses I’m just getting started. In a sense being new to tea themed subjects is nice; it leaves more of the unexplored path ahead. I have a half dozen versions of shou at home I’ve not yet tried, and it’ll be interesting to take another short step. The same is true for sheng, which seems to add that much more to cover (and true related to having tea on hand to try; two vendors sent some and a third set of Thai versions is on the way). The part that takes so much time is waiting the decade to try the exact same teas later, to really know for sure where starting points led. It does make pu’er that much more of a fascinating subject.

Jamin: I’m not mentioning it necessarily related to buying their teas, but a vendor site for teas I’ve been trying might be interesting as a reference. It’s not atypical but their descriptions can seem a little general. They mention flavors but it’s hard to put character together from there. It’s a Russian vendor, so that’s strange, but it’s my impression they sell pretty good tea, just maybe not on the same level curator vendors selling older and pricier stock may be covering. Then again it’s hard to know what is “good,” isn’t it, without sinking a fortune into trying things over a long period of time? In a lucky break a reference authority for the tea type sent me some pu’er samples to help serve as a baseline, in lots of cases just a bit better than I’d tried, but the shou’s I’ve been trying seem to vary less related to better versions. That vendor link:

https://moychay.com/catalog/puer/shu_puer_rassypnoj

mrmopar said

Old shou settles out for sure. Like the others are saying production process being clean and good storage it turns out into a beautiful thing. The process was developed to mimic aged sheng. Sheng can take decades though.

Does shou transition a lot past 5 years, in your experience? I’ve tried shou that was over 10 years old and haven’t noticed any obvious difference between that and other versions between 5 to 10 years old. Of course I’m not saying they’re the same, or that it doesn’t improve, only that based on trying versions it’s the opposite of sheng, where clear patterns in age related transitions across different time periods are obvious.

Error said

focus on taste not on the label /date.
" what is the difference between a 5yr old ripe and a 25yr old ripe" …I choose to not believe that any of us here has ever tried 25y old any tea. Skip that extreme though , difference between 5 – 10 depends on storage. In Guangzhou in 5 years time can happen many things to the tea. It can be soggy, smell like builders socks, “dui wei” would never fade away, can get “diesel” notes …which Russians love :-) It also can be sweet and plummy if right way stored.
If in KM , it will get more dry wood notes. If in very open dry place , might be even unpleasant “sandy scratching throat” feeling when drinking. Some KM stored shu are just too dry.

AllanK said

I guess it comes down to can you trust the seller to not knowingly misrepresent his tea. I believe Scott at Yunnan Sourcing would not call a 2008 cake a 1996 cake. I think the man is honest. And he has been in the tea trade too long to get to easily fooled by other tea sellers that a fake old tea is a real old tea.

TeaLife.HK said

Given that the storage environment is conducive to aging, old shou can be VERY smooth. I have a ‘93 shou that is so smooth that it’s like drinking clean water, even when brewed strong!

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