The Ultimate Guide to Aged Tea in 5 Minutes

Reading time: 5 minutes 

What is aged tea? Can we age all types of teas? Are there other types of aged tea besides pu-erh tea? 

As a tea sommelier specializing in aged tea, I get so many questions from tea lovers who are starting on their aged tea journey.

In this article, I explain the origin of aged tea, the aging process, and different types of aged teas.

Before diving further into a discussion of aged teas, it’s beneficial to understand a little more about the six types of teas.

So if you are not familiar with the six types of tea and what differentiates different types of teas, I recommend you read our article "Six Types of Tea: Flavors, Processing, and Examples" first.

This post is part of our Aged Tea 101 series. Sign up to get the full series!

The Origin of Aged Tea: Raw Pu-erh

While food and drink connoisseurs have been aging food and beverages like wine, cheese, and liquor for centuries, the idea of aging tea is a relatively new concept for many.

However, the history of aged tea goes back more than a thousand years when teas from Yunnan Province were transported to Tibet in exchange for Tibetan horses. 

During this almost a year-long journey, teas had gone through a slow fermentation process and their flavor profile changed. They found the tea became less astringent and more mellow and sweet over time. 

The Origin of Aged Tea: Ripe Pu-erh

As the natural aging process takes a long time, tea makers began to experiment to find ways to expedite the aging process. 

It wasn't until 1972 that the Menghai Tea Factory and Kunming Tea Factory in Yunnan Province developed the expedited fermentation process of making ripe pu-erh tea. 

This process also called wo dui, speeds up the manufacturing of pu-erh tea by wet-piling the tea leaves. 

Factors to Consider When Aging Tea

However, pu-erh tea isn't the only type of aged tea. Teas that can be aged well are usually:

  • Made from high-quality tea leaves: A handful of years won’t magically turn the worst teas into beautifully aged teas. The quality of raw materials is important to benefit from the aging process. The same way that a bad wine won’t improve with age, a low-quality tea will lose even more flavor over time.
  • Undergoing post-fermentation: Dark teas, including pu-erh teas, go through microbial fermentation. The microbes involved in fermentation are part of what makes aged tea so rich, nuanced, and unique. 
  • Protected from high-heat processing. High heat kills the enzymes in the tea leaves, which help develop flavor over time. Therefore, aged teas are typically gently sun-dried although high-heat drying processes can bring out stronger but shorter-lasting flavors that disappear after a year or two. For this reason, carefully sun-dried white teas have higher aging potential.

Mansa Handcrafted Aged Tea specializes in raw and ripe pu-erh teas and other aged teas

This post is part of our Aged Tea 101 series. Sign up to get the full series!

Types of Aged Tea

Pu-erh may be the most famous aged tea, but other types of teas can be enjoyed after aging, too. For example, it’s not hard to find aged tea of the following:

1.  Aged White Tea

Aging white tea imparts another dimension entirely to the delicate flavor profile of unprocessed white teas. The aging process makes the white tea sweeter and less vegetal over time.

Our White Tea collection is an excellent introduction to aged white teas for those curious about comparing tasting notes.

Mansa Handcrafted Aged Tea | Pearl White - aged white tea collection

2. Aged Green Tea

Raw pu-erh isn’t exactly a green tea, but it does start as one.

More importantly, young raw pu-erh’s resemblance to green tea makes it an aged tea perfect for green tea aficionados.

Our Raw Pu’er collection features both young raw pu-erh aged less than three years and mature raw pu-erh so that you can take your pick. If you like sweet notes, we recommend our Yiwu Wild Lao Raw Pu-erh (2018). If you prefer smoky notes, we recommend our Smoky Pu-erh (2017), which is especially loved by whiskey lovers.

3. Aged Oolong Tea

Oolong also tends to age well with periodic re-roasting every few years.

Aged oolong is also highly susceptible to the precise humidity and temperature storage conditions during the aging process.

4. Aged Black Tea

You can also age certain black teas. Typically the ones that age well are sun-dried.

However, the aging potential for aged black tea tends to be lower than the other types of aged tea. 

5. Aged Dark Tea

Most of our aged tea collections fall under this category, precisely because fermentation is considered one of the most important processes responsible for making aged tea what it is (and because this is the category pu-erh calls home).

Pu-erh is the aged tea that many tea connoisseurs fall deeply in love with. It has a wide range of flavors based on different terroirs, age of tea tree, processing, and aging conditions. 

Our Raw Pu’er collection, for instance, includes both young and mature raw pu-erh teas. Our Ripe Pu’er collection, on the other hand, contains excellent examples of ripe pu-erh teas.

Explore Aged Ripe Pu'er

However, there’s more on the horizon for those who want to expand their tastes of aged dark teas beyond pu-erh tea.

Dark brick teas from Hunan Province (like the Dark Tea collection) teleport tea drinkers back to a time when brick tea was actually used as currency in China, Mongolia, and Russia between the ninth and twentieth centuries. 

Where to Buy Aged Teas

If you are an aspiring tea connoisseur, we encourage you to try our bestseller 14-year-old ripe pu'erThe best way to start experiencing the complex, mellow flavors of aged teas is to try them.

As a handcrafted aged company specializing in aged teas, we’re eager to continue learning and experimenting to find the best teas for your learning and enjoyment.

Try Our 14-Year-Old Aged Tea

This post is part of our Aged Tea 101 series. Sign up to get the full series!

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