Choosing Tea Based on Season and Storing it: A Complete Guide

Tea enthusiasts and vendors alike often wonder how to choose tea based on the season and how to store it properly. Tea, like other crops, is an agricultural product that has different harvest and dormant seasons. To preserve the freshness of tea, different storing methods are required. If you’re seeking the most desirable teas, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of these seasons and storing methods. In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the necessary information to make the best tea choices and keep them fresh for longer.

Green Tea

Green tea is a beloved beverage that is popular around the world. However, it is important to note that its harvest season is restricted to spring only. In China, the most freshly picked green tea is harvested before Qinming, which is a season on the traditional Chinese calendar, and is thus referred to as ‘Before Qiming tea’. Since green tea is all about freshness, it is better to consume it as soon as possible once it is picked. For this very reason, green tea is typically recommended for consumption in the spring and early summer seasons, but less so in the fall and winter as the year comes to an end and the tea becomes less fresh.

The best way to preserve the freshness of green tea is by storing it in the refrigerator. However, it is important to note that tea has a natural tendency to absorb other scents. Therefore, it is recommended to wrap the product in a food preservation bag to prevent any unwanted odors from damaging the natural aroma of the tea.

Unlike white tea and Pu Er, green tea is not suitable for long-term collection, as its fragrance and taste will fade away over time. So, it is best to consume it while it is fresh and store it properly to ensure that it retains its unique flavor and aroma.

White Tea

White tea is considered to be one of the most exotic teas available, with a harvest season that spans across three different times of the year: spring, fall, and winter. The two most well-known varieties, Silver Needle and Bai Mu Dan, are harvested in the spring, while the less popular Shou Mei is harvested at the end of the spring season, after Bai Mu Dan. Shou Mei can also be harvested in the fall, while a winter version, known as Han Lu, typically boasts darker green leaves and a fresher floral aroma.

One of the most interesting things about white teas is their ability to be aged, with the aromatic compounds changing over time and the polyphenols (which are known for their antioxidant properties) increasing. Whether to consume Silver Needle, Bai Mu Dan, or Shou Mei right after their respective harvest seasons really depends on individual preferences. Generally, fresh-picked teas have more floral notes, while aged white teas offer a more complex flavor profile, including combinations of flowers, dates, herbs, mint, and even wood.

People tend to buy Shou Mei and not drink it until two or three years later, as it undergoes a dramatic change in both appearance and flavor. While white tea can be consumed at any point during the year, aged white tea is more recommended for colder seasons because of its anti-inflammatory health benefits. Generally, white tea does not need to be refrigerated, but should be kept in a dry, cool, clean, and well-ventilated space.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea boasts a wide variety of harvest seasons due to the many different plantation regions. Although the general seasons for harvesting are spring, fall, and winter, the specific region and altitude play major roles in determining the harvest time. For instance, Phoenix Dan Cong is picked in spring, fall, and winter, with the spring plucking point occurring much later than that of green teas. This is because green teas prioritize picking buds and young leaves, while oolong usually consists of fully-grown leaves. Phoenix teas that grow at high altitudes on Phoenix Mountain have a slower growth rate due to the colder temperature, though still faster than high altitude grown oolong teas from Taiwan. This is because the temperature in Canton Province, where Phoenix Mountain is located, is generally warmer all year round.

Another example is High Mountain Honey Oolong from Taiwan, which is harvested in the summer when green leaf hoppers come to chew on the leaves. Thanks to them, these teas produce a type of chemical compound as a self-defense mechanism, which results in the exquisite high floral and fruity notes. Oolong is many people’s favorite tea not only for its health benefits, but also for its craftsmanship and highly diverse aromas and flavors. Oolong can be consumed at any point of the year and can be stored for up to a year and a half to two years before losing its prime time. Refrigeration is unnecessary, but keeping it in a dry, cool, clean, and ventilated space is essential.

Black Tea

Black tea is a straightforward option. It’s already fully oxidized during production, so additional time or oxidation won’t alter its flavor. Black tea’s sweet and malty taste, along with its smooth texture, make it a popular choice for colder seasons like fall and winter. For instance, the Golden Lily black tea has a sweet caramel and sweet potato flavor. It doesn’t require refrigeration, but it should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area to maintain its quality.

Pu-erh Tea

Not only do we love Pu Erh for its health benefits, but also for its unique earthy and woody notes. Nowadays, there are many varieties of Pu Erh tea available on the market, ranging from traditional Pu Erh cakes to loose leaves, Pu Erh wrapped in dry lychee or lime, and more, making it an increasingly popular choice for tea lovers. Storing Pu Erh is easy, as aging is key. However, longer doesn’t necessarily mean better, as an aging Pu Erh’s prime time is generally between 15 and 20 years. As a naturally fermented tea, it doesn’t require refrigeration or special care, but it’s important to store it in a dry, clean, cool, and ventilated space. In China, many people store their Pu Erh tea in large clay jars, a common practice in Chinese tea culture.

Yellow Tea

We haven’t talked about yellow tea yet. While it’s not as common and popular as other types of tea, it’s slightly more oxidized than green tea and has a similar taste profile. As a result, it’s recommended to drink yellow tea sooner rather than later. Although it’s not necessary to refrigerate it, storing it in the fridge is a reasonable option.

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