In 1993, one of our current growers, Master Lin, helped her Grandmother store this tea in ceramic pots undisturbed until now. This was a recreation of a 1961 event to see if the tea would reach its peak after 25 to 30 years, which they confirmed it did. Exactly as was done in '61, they stored the tea leaves in a ceramic pot with no fussing, no additional baking and of course no sunlight that would damage the tea.
During the years of storage, Maillard reactions (those wonderful fragrances and flavors made when you grill food) crawled along at a snail's pace. The original fresh floral notes long gone, replaced with a wonder of new flavors quite unusual for tea--deeply caramelized honey, heavily roasted orchids and BBQ without even a tiny hint of bitterness, astringency or baked tea flavor.
We now store this tea well sealed in the freezer to stop the aging and preserve what we also believe to be the peak flavor and texture. If you want to see changes over the next several years a ceramic vessel is an excellent choice. Be warned however that aging for extended periods will eventually break down the BBQ like molecules provided by the Maillard reactions. For more details on extended aging, see our 1961 Honey Orchid made by the same Grandmother.
Storage: Store unused portions sealed in an airtight bag away from light in the freezer at 5F/-15C or below.
Brewing water: Poland Spring (called Origin Brand in some areas) brand mineral water most closely matches the slightly hard natural spring water on Phoenix Mountain and produces the finest results. Soft water, distilled water and hard water will ruin this tea. Tap water varies wildly and is best avoided as well. If you don't have Poland Spring (called Origin Brand in some areas) brand mineral water available please see good substitutions on our water page.
Brewing temperature: 100C/212F
Brewing method: 5g tea leaves (~2 heaping Tablespoons), 100ml (a bit less than 1/2 cup) water each time for 5 seconds in a Chinese gaiwan or a small pot. After the first 10 infusions, increase each infusion time by 5 seconds. To produce lighter tea, either decrease amount of tea, increase amount of water or decrease brewing time. To produce stronger tea, either increase amount of tea, decrease amount of water or increase brewing time. You can easily adjust to suit your individual taste. .
Notes: Small quick infusions showcase the changing flavors of each cup. Longer brewing times in larger quantities of water end up more homogeneous, but still very good results.