We separate our oolongs into two camps, fresh and fired. The general rule is fresh should be drunk fresh, and fired can be aged. It's comparable to white and red wine. You probably wouldn't set aside a delicate white wine the same way you might with a bold, oaked red.
We cycle through fresh oolongs every 6 months for Winter (November) and Spring (April/May) harvests. For the most part Baozhong and High Mountain Oolongs make up this category.
These teas will perform at peak aroma within about 2 years of purchase date. With these teas you are drinking the freshness of the tea, and it will deteriorate when it comes in contact with oxygen for too long. Thanks to modern vacuum sealing technology we can keep them fresh much longer, but still 2 years is our recommendation for when to finish them even if kept in vacuum packs.
Many of our fired teas are well suited to aging. Firing, or roasting, is the traditional method of removing excess moisture from the leaf to preserve the tea. Taking Dong Ding as an example, about three months after the roast the fire taste will start to recede and the body will open up. This is the first peak, and the tea is very drinkable here. Then about two years later (roughly, it changes a lot based on the tea) the roast has really subsided and the complex fruit aromas can really shine. We’ve had batches stored for up to ten years with excellent results. The tea had more of the depth and complexity that age lends. It's not easy to describe, you just have to experience it.
For long term aging plans, the bigger the bag the better. We don't know why, but tea seems to get lonely when the bag is too small. A 60g baggie might start to feel a little flat after two years, where a 150g at seven years is still going strong. So we recommend purchasing the 150 gram bags if you’re planning to set an oolong aside for a few years. The nice thing about aging oolong is that it doesn’t require any special environment. Just keep it out of the sun and away from odd smells and moisture, and it will keep very well as long as the bag is sealed. Even if the bag loses its vacuum suction the mylar material does a great job of keeping everything stable.
As with anything tea, it's a living thing and full of surprises so your milage may vary. If you have any questions about aging or storing oolong, please ask us.