Friday, 26 June 2015

The ultimate tea

What tea is the ultimate tea?

The tea that you can enjoy now or stack up for its value to appreciate in the future.

You may say the fragrant Goddess of Mercy, the Oolong of Wuyi Mountain (the great red robe). Yes some of these tea may cost hundreds of dollars per gram., especially some grown by professors in Taiwan and auctioned for couple of thousands per piece. However, if you were to keep these tea for a couple of years, will its value increase or will it be fit for drinking. Everybody knows that this tea has a short shell life, if you don't drink it when it is still fresh, the fragrance and taste will be gone in 6 months' time. Then you will end up with a horrible tea even you have paid a premium for it.

In my opinion, the ultimate tea would be puerh.

In a recent article published in the press, 140 g of puerh tea dating back to the Qing dynasty made headlines when it was auctioned off at a whooping US$24155 - nearly five times the value of pure gold of  similar weight. The West has its wines, but in Asia, puerh tea has fast become a strong investment commodity for high net-worth individuals.

Puerh tea comes in two varieties, fermented and raw. The former is aged through a fermentation process while the latter is aged naturally over a period of more than 20 years or even longer. Fermented puerh may take weeks to make and it is ready for consumption once it is sold to consumers. Raw puerh tea will need at least 10 years' storage before it can be consume. The tea is usually compressed into shapes like bricks, discs or bowl for easy transportation and storage. The puerh discs are usually bundled into 7-a-piece for transportation. As raw puerh tea takes time to mature naturally, obviously the older the tea, the better the fragrance and the higher the value. This is the reason why people stack up lots of raw puerh tea in anticipation for an appreciation in value in the years ahead.

Of the raw puerh tea, the value is graded by the source where the leaves are harvested. Premium grade puerh tea is handpicked from tea trees that have grown for hundreds of years in natural forests on some famous tea mountains such as Yiwu,  Panchang, etc. This is where the name of the so-called Wild Puerh Tea derived. Some of the raw tea leaves are sold at thousands of RMB per kilogram even before the leaves are processed into tea.

Although fermented puerh can be consumed straight away, it is best to keep the tea in a jar for a couple of  months or years. The tea will still taste better than new.

If you aspire to collect some puerh tea for investment, take time to check out the tea from your suppliers, learn more about the tea and know the types that best suit your palates. The best way to distinguish good puerh from average ones is to taste it yourself. If you are not too sure initially, just buy one cake and drink the tea to be familiar with its taste, fragrance and texture. Once you are certain that this is the tea you like, then don't hesitate to stack up this tea for future consumption. Although puerh tea has no expiry date, it is best kept in a cool, dry and odour-free place away from direct sunlight. Don't forget, keeping ten pieces is different from keeping ten thousand pieces. As the tea mature in the years ahead and it turns out to be a tea of superb quality, you would regret if you just have ten pieces in your possession.

A good puerh tea should have a pleasant aroma, a smooth taste and a bitter feeling that disappear quickly which is then followed by a pleasant lingering after taste.

The above picture shows a type of raw puerh tea made in 2004 by the state -owned puerh factory in Menghai. This tea brick weighs 250 g and has the word Wild printed on the wrapper. An interesting thing about this tea was that the date of manufacture was printed as March 2004 on the reverse side of the wrapper. Everybody knows that the state-owned factory ceased operation in October 2004 due to stiff competition from privately-run factories . In my opinion, this may well be the last few batches of raw wild puerh tea rolled out from the state-run factory before its closure.

The tea is more than 11 years old now. It is ready for consumption now, but as it is a raw (and hand picked from old trees on natural forests) tea by nature, the taste and fragrance will improve further as it matures in the years ahead. What's more it comes from the famous Yiwu region of Yunnan.

This is why I think the ultimate tea should be puerh, not Godess of Mercy or any Oolong tea that has a short shell life. Puerh tea ages with time. This tea that will bring you endless joy and fun as it matures and marrows in the years ahead. Don't put your money in the bank where its value depreciates over time, go stack up some good puerh tea. This is the best way to beat inflation.

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