Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Broadening Our Experiences with the Aging Process

The magical influence of time in connection to the aging process is a topic that has long captivated me. For those who share the same interest and have the passion and drive to willingly pursue information and knowledge I would suggest considering additional avenues to broaden your experiences. The process of aging and its benefits extend far beyond the subject of tea. It covers various items of food and drink that have become a part of human consumption for many centuries from cheese, to pickled vegetables, cured meats, vinegar, soy sauce and a great assortment of alcoholic beverages. The aging process forms an integral part of our relationship with food, satisfying a need within our bodies beyond fresh produce.

i) Cheddar from Hookscheese, aged for 20 years, ii) Jamón Ibérico Bellota Gran Reserva, aged for 64 months, iii) Famous Yuan soy sauce from Hong Kong, aged for 1 year. iv) Traditionally made kimchi ripened in clay jars buried in the earth

The 3 key stages of the aging process starts from young, develops to adolescence and then reaches maturity. For each stage it is important to be aware of the relationship that exists between the food item and its source of preservation (whether that comes in the form of bitter tannins, high levels of alcohol content, etc). The law of nature dictates that as food ripens and becomes ready for consumption there is no longer a need for preservation and therefore the elements that help preserve the food diminishes. This generally applies to the natural process of aging and as a result food that is ripe (or fully matured) will often need special storage to prevent deterioration. – Nature’s law is also applicable to old vintages of mature puerh tea which needs to be stored with extra care.

My bottles of aged balsamic vinegar from Italy and Scottish and Japanese whiskies.

The 3 stages within the aging process act as markers for us to see the big picture. Becoming familiar with the characteristics of these markers allows us to better grasp the changes that are continuously taking place as each stage is in the process of transitioning to the next. From experiencing and comparing multiple tastings and reflections of various food items at different stages of their maturity it becomes obvious that the changes that takes place under the aging process is far from random. Furthermore despite the differences in the items of food there are common grounds that are identifiable and reaffirm certain aspects of the aging process. Training our senses to become familiar with the diverse characteristics that progressively develop under the aging process and subsequently allowing our senses to tune in to these changes provides a deep insight in the intrinsic qualities of aging. With enough familiarity, experience and understanding it is my belief that a person can assess with a degree of accuracy, i) the aging potential of whisky, wine, puerh tea amongst others, ii) estimate the length of time to maturity and iii) speculate on the quality of the matured product. It is an important and useful skill for those in the business and collectors who have a sizeable investment budgeted for their collection. This expertise makes the difference between making a profit and a loss as well as building a meaningful and valuable collection as opposed to what amounts to buying a lottery ticket and hoping for the best.


  1. Great my friend as you know the :puerh" storage is a main project of mine. Hopefully in a decade or so I will be able to pull out some of these teas I am presently aging. When this comes about I will make sure you have a chance to try these and we both shall see how they have progressed. I am thinking of taking some samples of the aging ones and sealing them to be a test subject to be able to compare the changes.

    1. Hello Mr Mopar,

      Great initiative and thank you for the kind offer. I look forward to it.

      I remember your ref to the storage as the “pumidor”. It is a great name. For some reason I get flashes of the gold vault when I think of it. You may need to build a puerh vault sometime in the future as some old vintages of puerh teas today are worth more than gold by weight :)

      Best, VP

  2. Good article, my experience is that people don't often see the link between food and tea with fermentation. It is like tea is some sort of esoteric product compared to sauerkraut, but they aren't so different.

    1. Hello Cwyn,

      Thank you for stopping by. Age tea, fermented tea are not a common concept to most people. You need to mention Lipton teabags to reestablish the tea connection :) … but my little dig aside things are improving and the premium tea market continues to grow annually.

      The old ways of preparing traditional foods with the attention, care and effort that our mothers and grandmothers used to put forth is fast disappearing and being greatly compromised. I can see it all around me here in Thailand.

      In terms of food many big businesses give the highest priorities towards self life and profits. As a result it is my impression this is why there are so much processed foods that are low in nutrients and loaded with cheap fillers and chemicals. Food that is quick and easy, microwavable and ready to eat, quick takeaways appears good on the surface but are not really very healthy compared to going direct to nature. McDonald’s is perhaps the most recognizable name.

      For people who may be interested. Link revealing the questionable chemicals in your McDonald’s meal

      Sorry for the out pour. I really should not be eating as I reply.

      Best, VP