The remnants of a 20 year old petrified looking toucha I picked up from Hong Kong. The tightly compressed tea leaves have rigid and unyielding characteristics. Brewing this tea under normal circumstances gives a muted and lack luster brew. However once the leaves are sufficiently rested the tightness in the tea dissipates and the characteristics open up to reveal decent qualities.
The following practice I am about to share may not be for everyone but if you are open to new experiences and ideas outside of the common practice of brewing tea then read on. For most tea enthusiast a single tea is brewed, drunk and discarded in a continuous transition within a tea session that normally does not extend beyond an hour let alone a day. The thought of resting the tea leaves once it has been awakened with hot water for many hours and at times overnight before brewing can appear most unusual. My own initial impression (like some of my readers at this moment) was once doubtful but in time I learned to value the practice after experiencing on multiple occasions greatly improved results in the brew.
After twice flushing the dry leaves the tea is rested and allowed to open up. The resulting brew from this age toucha gives a fuller and richer character that is softer and sweeter in the mouth comparative to a muted and rigid brew had the leaves been too hurriedly brewed.
The tightness in puerh tea can be attributed to many factors. The more common examples affect puerh tea that have been recently removed from storage and have yet to settle down. Age tea that have been plastic wrapped or sealed away for many years will often possess characteristics that is tight and rigid during the initial weeks to months upon being opened. Tightly compressed teacakes and dry weather can also be contributing factors. It is for this reason that age tea (esp. wet stored) will often perform better in humid conditions when the moisture from the wet season and rain will help to open up the characteristics of the tea. It is important to note that the quality that is revealed in the tea really is dependent on the intrinsic quality of the leaf. Good tea will open up to charming qualities and bad tea will reveal nothing that is worth seeking out.