Tin vs. Straight from the Cake.. 1990s HK Style Raw Pu’erh via White2Tea — TeaDB James InBetweenIsode Episode #27

This week’s inbetweenisode is a comparison using the 1990s HK Style raw pu’erh sold by White2Tea. One of the brews has been tinned for the past few months, whereas the other was freshly broken off.

41 responses to “Tin vs. Straight from the Cake.. 1990s HK Style Raw Pu’erh via White2Tea — TeaDB James InBetweenIsode Episode #27”

    • Hi Cwyn,

      Yes! Thanks for carrying the storage flag for the past 6 months. Glad to contribute a little bit.


    • Hi Uncle Larry,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, that’s one thing I neglected to mention. The dry leaf of the tinned tea was far more aromatic.. It’s something I’d recommend all pu-heads explore.

      Yes, perhaps I should do a quick inbetweenisode on breaking up a cake..


  1. I’m going to sound crazy, but what If I actually like very much the storage taste
    on my teas ? For the sake of the experiment and the fact that I own 2.5 cake of
    my favorite wet stored tea, I should try tinning 100g and check on in in a year.

    Thanks for this ep. quite interesting 😀

    • Hi Xavier,

      Thanks for the comment. I think you definitely should try it!

      The storage flavor in that tea (7572) didn’t really rub me the wrong way (neither did the HK Style), but you might be surprised at some of the changes it’ll do to round out the profile. For this tea, I’d say that the differences between the brews had a similar base, but there were some distinct differences. Definitely something I should continue to explore. Would be interesting to do it on a tea that has been not aired out as well as the 90s HK Style.


  2. Volume tip, you can put your gaiwan on your scale then fill it with water to the brim. 1g H2O = 1ml volume =)

    • Hi Brian,

      That’s a good tip! I started doing it about a month ago for my gaiwans. Originally thought they were 60ml, then 80ml, and now I realize they’re actually 70ml :).


  3. Thanks for covering this topic. I’ve been interested in storage methods and have had good results tinning raw and ripe pu’erh in unglazed yixing jars and ripe pu’erh in glazed (Taiwanese) clay jars, neither having air-tight lids. (Cwyn’s blog posts on the topic have been very helpful too.) I haven’t come to any definite conclusions yet regarding the difference between tinned tea vs. cake tea, but then I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, and mostly I tin smaller amounts of pu’erh to be consumed in the short term. I’m looking forward to longer term experiments with storage as my pu collection keeps growing, and because some pu is just too dank or sour to enjoy straight off the cake. But I’m afraid some ready-to-drink pu might lose its aroma and flavor to the unglazed yixing jars. The last one I bought came with the suggestion to boil it with tea (like seasoning a yixing pot) or soak it in tea water for up to 3 days to prevent the clay from affecting the flavor of the tea. Which leads me to wonder about the 7 yixing jars I have not seasoned. Maybe glazed clay jars are the way to go. I guess I have some more experiments to do!

    I’ve got a sample of the 1990’s HK Style Raw Pu’erh on order from White2tea. I think I’ll split the sample for a storage comparison as you suggest.

    • Hi Phil,

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your experiences aging pu’erh.

      Interesting! I actually don’t own any of those clay jars so I haven’t done any experimentation with them. The tins that I use do seem to do a very good job with the aroma of the tea. They’re cheap and definitely not 100% airtight which (I believe) makes it work well with alot of these more mature cakes.

      Good luck with the 1990s HK Cake. You all know I’m a fan!


  4. Great episode James (as usual)! One thing I’ve been thinking about watching some of your previous videos and which also struck me here is that you seem to be cooling off your water quite a bit as the session progress, right? Personally I’ve found aged shengs pu erhs do really well with boiling water and I tend to continuously bring my tetsubin back up on the rolling boil before the next steep. What are your thoughts on this? As for topics for further InBetweenIsodes I would love to hear your thoughts on aging oolongs, especially yancha, at home in the west.

    • I would also be interested to hear James opine about aging oolongs. I tried to research this and came to the conclusion that aged oolongs would need to be re-roasted every few years, as necessary, to keep moisture from ruining the tea. I had purchased glazed clay jars for the purpose of aging some of my oolongs, but decided that anything past maybe three years would not lead to good results unless I wanted to learn how to roast oolongs. A great topic for the future.

      • The better ones are not re-roasted; just stored in an oxygen limiting environment. I’ve tasted 30 year old non-roasted oolongs vs younger ones that had been re-roasted and there’s quite a difference.

        • I don’t think its quite as clear cut. My favorite aged oolong was re-roasted. My second favorite wasn’t. What I really like about the re-roasted one is the mouth feel along with cacao-nut aroma. The one that wasn’t re-roasted has more tartness and a bit more depth in the flavor.

          I suspect that both methods have risks: If you re-roast, you are introducing additional handling and the possibility of killing the good flavors with the roast. If you don’t re-roast you can end up with a tea that picks up undesirable flavors.

          I haven’t had enough aged oolongs to know (and have been fortunate to get mostly good ones), but is sourness associated primarily with one type?

          Best Charles

          • Sourness is too much moisture. The tea should’ve been roasted or sealed for storage when the humidity was lower

          • Hi Phil & Charles,

            Thanks for the comment. While, I’ve had some decent re-roasted oolongs most of them just taste like the roast/charcoal and aren’t particularly good or exciting. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible to get a nice aged re-roatsed oolong, but doing this roast well overtime takes skill and labor. Like bw85 and Nick, I’ve found that my favorites have not been re-roasted at all (or at least to my knowledge). It’s usually just used a way to cover up excessive moisture that got into the tea.


    • Niklas & Phil,

      Thanks for the comments.

      In regards to the tetsubin and water temp.. It’s also something that I think about alot, here’s my thoughts. It keeps water hot really well and I try to heat it up right before I start filming. For the sake of smoothness I usually elect to just brew with the water I’ve got. When left to my own devices I’ll usually do ~2-3 brews before adding more water to the tetsubin and re-heating.

      A couple other considerations that I think about.. How long has it been since the previous brew? One advantage to quickly re-brewing is that the brewing vessel is already hot and won’t fall in temperature as much when pouring water from the tetsubin into it. I find when brewing from a cold vessel, it won’t get quite as warm on the first steep but if the second steep is done immediately after the first it’ll be very hot. The second is the time since the leaves have last been brewed. I find this has a somewhat surprising effect, mainly because the leaves are wet and have been sitting there slowly brewing away.

      I also definitely agree that aged shengs do well with very hot water.

      That’s a good suggestion re: aged oolong. I do feel a bit underqualified for this topic. There’s a big gap in what I’ve consumed (lots of <5 year stuff and 20+ year stuff) so I don’t have a great grasp on aging trajectories. That being said, it’s a topic that I’m highly interested in as well.

      In regards to re-roasting oolongs, I much prefer the unreroasted type. In many places in Asia, there’s a much greater chance of the oolongs accidentally getting wet which is why I suspect we see alot of re-roasted oolongs there. The west may actually be a fairly decent place to age them.. From my experiences with the teas, I much prefer the type that was only roasted once at the beginning.


  5. …and what about leaving oolongs in airtight storage, such as never opening a foil pouch of oolong for, say, 15 years? That’s one long wait to find out the results. And would it be better to age oolong that is more heavily roasted to begin with? So many factors involved.

    • Like james, i’m of the opinion that most of the US and Canada is dry enough that oolong wouldn’t need re roasting throughout the years. And in regards to more heavily roasted teas, these would ideally be better for aging as they have less moisture to begin with.

      And yes 15 + years is a long time to get results! but if you store enough to make it worth that wait it could be a very rewarding pay off in the end =)

      • Thanks for the reply. I think you and James have it right. So, I think I’ll be aging some oolong. The Taiwanese clay jars are made to store oolong, but my location is dry and cool enough that I might be able to age oolong in them as well. And I have more oolong than I can drink, so I have little choice but to set some aside and see what happens. Maybe I’ll store some in an airtight container as a control, to see the difference in the results. If it turns out anything like the 1990 aged oolong (Wang Tan Pei) that I had last year, from Tea From Taiwan, then it will be worth the wait. Unlike any other tea I’ve ever tried. I’ll let you know how it turns out…in 2035!

        • I would suggest researching. My intuition would say air tight might be better for aging oolong, and that’s what I’m doing, but I don’t know that for a fact

        • You might want to have a look at the comments at the bottom of this page regarding oolong aging: http://teadb.org/feb-mar-tea-of-the-month-2015/

          I’m using mason jars with plastic lids, so it’s not 100% airtight, but almost. I am planning also to add plastic bags on top of the lids and seal them with rubber bands.

          As Marshaln reported, the best aged oolongs he tasted were stored in big plastic bags, so I think we’re overthinking it 😉

        • If you really want to experiment… You might try an air tight container where you have displaced the air with CO2 (dry ice) or nitrogen (liquid nitrogen is fun).
          Best Charles

          • I remember reading a post from kyarazen where he said that oolong basically doesn’t age when vacuum sealed.

          • I agree with Bef, as I don’t see how vacuum sealed tea can develop with age. I now think I will seal rolled oolong in plastic bags and store the bags in clay jars on a cool, dry basement shelf, thus having (1) some air/oxygen in the bag, (2) a rather tight seal, protecting against too much air and moisture, and (3) good protection from temperature fluctuation and light. Thanks to everyone for their ideas and links.

          • I have a suggestion. Since moisture is the enemy here, you probably want to do the transfer at a cold temperature with low humidity in the air. If you start with warmer air and then store in a cool place, you could get condensation on the inside of the plastic bags. Just to be sure, throw a desiccant into the bag as well. A clay jar can absorb some moisture, but that won’t help much if you seal the tea in plastic.
            Best Charles

          • Hi Charles,

            That’s a good suggestion I hadn’t considered! Thanks for sharing.


          • Thanks, Charles. The desiccant is a great idea. Wish I had thought to do this over the winter, when it was bone dry around here. But a good plan for next winter.

    • Hi Phil, bw85, Bef, Charles,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.. I don’t have any actual experience aging oolong for an extended period of time, but here’s my thoughts.

      I suspect relatively airtight is the way to go. The colder, drier west will be ideal because keeping moisture out is perhaps the most important. Things like mason jars (what Bef outlined) are what I plan on doing.

      That being said, I don’t think leaving oolongs in their original vacuum sealed for a long period of time will do much for the tea. I think there’s also the risk of the vacuum seal breaking and the tea picking up moisture. Vacuum seals weren’t really built for the extreme long-term, so it’s a very real risk.


  6. I’m quite curious about the storing items for pu erh, I’ve not had much success in finding jars (if I could find some they had plastic lids) and was wondering if anyone has tried a cookie tin. Those round ones could fit a cake quite nicely but would using a normal tea tin also work if I break the cake?

    I’m a bit reluctant to buy more cakes before I have a bit more knowledge about storing them for. At the moment they are in the wrapper in a sealed plastic bag but I do not have the money for a controlled storage so finding something cheap for storing would be nice.

    • I think you’re onto something with the cookie tin (for cakes) or normal tea tin (for broken up cakes). The advantage of clay jars is their tendency to insulate the tea from fluctuations in temperature, while allowing the tea to ‘breathe’, being non-airtight. But a cookie or tea tin should work fine for storage, as far as I know. Of course, you’ll want to air out the tin beforehand to make sure no odors remain from the previous contents.

      For the curious, Tao of Tea carries rather inexpensive yixing jars. Nothing fancy. Tea Trekker has fancy yixing containers, but expensive. And the clay jars for oolong storage can be found at Taiwan Tea Crafts, but I just placed another order and wiped out some of their inventory. They tend to carry all sizes. Check out Cwyn’s blog for crock pot storage ideas.

      Good luck, and do try a cookie tin. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Lightproof, mostly airtight. A good inexpensive solution. I think I’ll try that too!

    • Hi Fiona & Phil,

      Thanks for the comments. You should definitely make sure you avoid light exposure, but beyond that I don’t see why it wouldn’t function similarly to the tin method I’ve been using.

      I do agree that it’s prudent to make sure that you figure out your storage before you go too heavy onto pu’erh buying..


    • If you can’t find a vintage stoneware crock, or don’t want to buy one, I think a cookie jar or casserole dish is better than a tin. Metal gives off flavors to something you’re keeping a little humidity in. Metal tins are better for very dry leave teas that you want to keep dry like black tea.

      • Cwyn, thanks for the casserole idea I should be able to find something like that or borrow my mums chicken oven thingy which is also from clay. I believe the trouble I have with finding vintage jars/crocks or something like that is that I live in the Netherlands and not in the USA so there is probably some kitchen items that are harder to find or impossible without paying a lot of shipping costs. I could buy some glass pot’s with a rubber sealing device but I would have to break the cake and that would not be necessary with a cookie tin.

        I’m not to sure about the humidity in the tins I was planning to use those cookie tins stored in a closet to keep it out of the way. I’m not going to add a dish with water so they should be pretty dry sealed and the humidity should not change that much.

  7. LOVE this experiment style episode please do more of these. As you stated far from a controlled experiment but definitely interesting adding another layer of appreciation of tea.

    I have noticed a quite larger difference in “fruity” being more fruity and bitter teas being softer with certain water sources also body varying with both makes sense do to the mineral/ph level of water interacting with dry leave extraction differently . I’d be curious to see an experiment with different sources of water with varying ph (spring, distilled, alkaline) and how they affect flavor of different teas. I believe this experiment would take repeated samples of a tea you are very familiar with to notice the difference.

    Keep up the experiment! Maybe replicate some from the
    The leaf magazine

    • Hi tea,

      Thanks for the comment. That’s a very cool idea. Will look into doing it in the future.


  8. James
    Really like this experimental, compare and contrast kind of format…keep them coming. Also, as evident in the comments, there is a real interest in explorations of storage and aging for both pu erh and oolong.

    I have been drinking through a cake of the 1990s HK style W2T Pu erh – as suggested by Denny in InBetweenIsode 12. I have put some in a tin; however, my tin was pretty air tight (not on purpose, just used the tin to transport some to work). I found the tin tea to have more wood and less ‘fruit’ then the fresh off the cake. Can’t say I really prefer one over the other but the contrast is fun to explore.


    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your experiences with this tea. Very interesting stuff. I think I should do this same comparison for something a bit wetter/danker. This tea is really quite clean on its own, and I suspect the advantages aren’t as clear-cut as other tea that has seen some humidity.


  9. Hi James,

    Storage is one of those things where no extreme is favorable. I believe Scott and TwoDog have said this, as well. Storage measures for pu-drinkers living in Singapore are probably not the same for those in Bolder, Colorado. I second many of the comments above requesting more videos (or blog posts) on experimental storage methods and their proven effects based on your tastings. Super fascinating subject! I had no idea Daiso (Japan’s Dollar Store) was in the States until you mentioned it. Perhaps they haven’t yet reached the east coast. Are what you are using ‘tins’ or ceramic cups with lids?

    For those who often move like myself, I say ziplock bags are the cheapest and most reliable way to maintain and gradually develop one’s teas. However, I have noticed that temporarily keeping small chunks of intact leaf in small Japanese tea tins or earthenware jars for several days before consumption creates a cleaner taste, clearer tea soup, and enhanced fragrance of the tea. For this reason, I just ordered 9 $3 matcha tins from Yuuki cha. They’er also great for traveling!

    Thanks again for another excellent episode!


    • Hi Theo,

      Thanks for the comment! I’m using the chubby ceramics with lids. Not sure if those are cups.. I have an inbetweenisode coming up about how I store tea with lots of pu and stuff. Will try to show those for sure.

      That’s a fine idea re: tea tins. I had no idea the Yuuki-Cha ones were so cheap! Going to go browse over there now ;).


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