Many of us tend to buy more tea than we can drink, and even our good teas will eventually become stale. The following two methods will help you to get rid of the staleness, revive some of the strength and bring out more body in a tea (please note, this is good for a pot or two worth of teas. It doesn't stabilize a tea, so please don't use these techniques for too much tea).
The first method only requires a candle and a piece of paper. Please see the picture below:
It's very simple, but please be careful. You want to get the paper close enough to the flame for heat, but not too close that it overheats the paper; I have seen the paper get burned from time to time. If you try this method, please focus on it and do not do anything else. Hold the paper steadily so that the heat can get into the leaves. Occasionally shake the paper a bit so that the heat can evenly get into the leaves. This method requires some patience. It takes at least 25 minutes for me to revive a tea.
There is a second, simple method you can use at home. Please see the picture below:
You can find this kind of metal stand in many kitchenware stores. Use a Yixing pot that you don't care much for or from which the lid of the pot has broken. When you use this method, it's faster than the previous one. I notice that sometimes it takes only 15 minutes to revive a tea. Like the paper method, you want to shake the leaves around from time to time. You can gently shake the pot; I also like to cover the pot with my hand and give it a good shake.
So how does one tell if a tea has been revived? Smell it. When a tea is stale, you can smell the "moisture," the disappearance of the original scents, and some sort of plummy smell. When refreshing a tea, you should be able to smell the moisture leave the leaves. It seems to me like some sort of "baked" smell starts to show up. And of course, the best way to tell is to taste the tea. Try to remember the smells in the tea when you think you have done a good job of reviving the tea. Over time, you will be able to learn how to be consistent with your "roasting."
In my next post, I will talk about other ways to revive or roast a stale tea at home.