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Aging Puerh.

I have my humidor officially built in a refrigerator. Here’s a pic
http://www.flickr.com/photos/87738073@N05/8270217323/in/photostream
It’s pretty messy and there’s not much in it so far but I have a couple more cakes on order for christmas

90 Replies
Will said

It’s not a bad idea to check on it from time to time, but overall, I think it’s better to forget about it.

Also keep in mind that, unless you are in a very warm and humid environment, and don’t climate control the area where the tea is too much, or unless you’re artificially humidifying the area where your tea is stored, the tea is not going to develop much “aged” taste very quickly. Even after 15 or 20 years, tea with pure dry storage in most parts of the US is not going to change in really dramatic ways. Tea will also often go through an “awkward” phase when aging, and trying it too often can sometimes be disheartening for that reason.

Personally, I wish I had bought smaller quantities of older tea that’s ready to drink, and wetter-stored raw tea when I had started out — these days, those are the main kinds of thing I focus on buying. I think if you live in a relatively dry (< 75% RH most of the time) climate, it is worth buying some tea with traditional storage.

Shu will not change in very dramatic ways, and while some aged shu (especially the less heavily fermented ones) can be nice, I would suggest that most of today’s ripe teas will not benefit from more than 3-5 years of aging. Also, many of the big brands already give the tea a good amount of time to lose the ‘wodui’ taste before selling it.

If you haven’t already, I would really strongly suggest seeking out small samples of well-aged teas with various types of storage from the mid-90s, early or mid 80s (and earlier, if you can afford it), from reputable vendors. This will give you an idea of what range of taste these teas can have, and will give you at least some sense of what effect different types of storage can have on the tea.

Anyway, this is just my opinion. There is not really enough in the way of examples of tea stored in places like the US without any period of wet storage / warehouse storage first, to know how these teas will taste after 20-30 years of pure dry storage.

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mrmopar said

great notes will. insence i would let a sheng age at least 5 years before drinking. and the shu of 2 years old or older should be fine now. if i like a cake i will get one to drink and another to put up for a few years. if you are like me i find a young sheng a little too bitter for me to drink now. if you buy an older shu make sure it has not been wet stored. from what i know wet stored is unhealthy to drink.

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Lynxiebrat said

What does wet stored mean exactly? I think it’s kind of easy to figure out what dry stored is:)

Will said

Wet storage and traditional storage can refer to a wide range of things. In general, both refer to some kind of intentional or semi-intentional storage in higher than normal amounts of humidity. I think this post is probably the best way of explaining it:
http://www.marshaln.com/2011/01/traditional-not-wet/
Historically, tea merchants in HK would just store the tea in humid basements for the early part of its life. In some cases these days, moisture actually is intentionally introduced into the tea storage area. While some people don’t like wet-stored tea, I think a lot of times, they either have tasted it before the tea has had the appropriate time to lose the “storage taste”, or they have tasted tea that’s been improperly stored, or wet-stored too much. These days, I do think that people are starting to recognize that some of this type of storage is essential if you like the kind of aged taste that most of the landmark pu’er cakes have after 40+ years. Too much wet storage can cause the leaves to break down, and will cause the taste of the tea to lose complexity. However, it will also make the tea taste much smoother, and will make the brewed tea much darker. There is a specific type of taste associated with this type of storage, which will get stronger depending on duration, intensity, etc.

Storage can result in certain types of mold (like “white frost”), most of which are perfectly safe to consume (it can be brushed off with a clean, dry toothbrush if it’s problematic for one’s delicate sensibilities). While some people like the yellow mold, in general, this is to be avoided. The storage taste will recede over time with gentler storage. You can also break up a cake that’s ready to drink, and store it in a cookie tin or an earthenware jar, which will also help some of the storage taste recede.

Actually, while it may sound obvious, it’s not totally easy to figure out what “dry storage” is. Even so-called “dry storage” still generally refers to tea that’s been stored in humid areas like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, etc. While these areas have different climates / seasons, all are quite humid much of the time. The concept of dry-storage hasn’t really existed until the mid to late 90s, with the success of the ‘88 qing bing’ (http://www.cloudsteacollection.com/html/webart/webart008_e.html, etc). And even some of these famous “dry stored” cakes have probably had some periods of fairly humid storage. So, you can’t assume that if you buy fresh sheng pu’er, store it for 20 years in most parts of North America in the environment of your home, that you will have the same kinds of results of some of these famous “dry-stored” teas.

In any event, it’s a matter of personal taste as to whether pure dry stored teas are pleasant to drink. But in general, with pure dry storage, you will not see young sheng become less agressive in a matter of 2, or even 10 years. Try some of Yunnan Sourcing’s Kunming stored cakes from the early 2000s – the taste is a bit different from a brand new cake, but there is not really any kind of “aged” taste, and usually there will be quite a bit of astringency still.

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JC said

Thanks for the information Will. I agree with the article that a LOT of Pu in the US are EXTREMELY overpriced. I’ve seen prices that make no sense. But then again, if they have that price tag is because people sometimes will pay for them. :/

Will said

There are definitely some vendors out there who have extremely high mark-ups, and in many cases, intentionally and / or unintentionally incorrect information. However, one good thing about pu’er being a bit more standardized than many other tea products is that it’s a bit easier to do some research about the market price of a tea online.

I think there are also some good vendors out there, though, and these days, it’s not too difficult to order directly from Asia. For young raw stuff, Yunnan Sourcing (both their US and China based operations) has good pricing and a pretty wide selection. I think there’s still kind of a gap in terms of vendors catering to the west which sell good examples of aged raw pu’er at a fair price. And, also, with the increasing demand and increasing wealth in the mainland, all kinds of tea and teaware, especially the older stuff, is just becoming more and more difficult to get.

JC said

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve bought several from yunnan sourcing. Good Tea. As with every trade, there are people who do it because they love what they do. And others because they love the money that comes with it. Thanks again for sharing.

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I’m going to build a puerh aging cabinet. I’m putting a lizard humidifier and heat pad in it to keep it at 75% humidity 75 degrees. That way I can store any future Puerhs I’m planning on buying.

tperez said

Very cool! I’ve been trying (but failing) to convince myself to invest in some pu’erh for aging.
Making a humidified cabinet for it sounds like a good idea :)

mrmopar said

be sure to share the plans on this cabinet. sounds great!

So far I’m planning a W 32" L 24" H 48" cabinet made out of a unfinished scentless plywood. There will be a shelf every foot that are slatted to promote airflow. The very bottom will have a reptile heating pad to control temperature, a bowl of water on that to control humidity, and a hydrometer/thermometer. The top shelves will be for the tea.

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Lynxiebrat said

Wow, neat idea. I hope you post pictures of it when your done:)

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I definitely will. It will be after christmas when I have the money and get some cakes in it. I’m pretty excited :) If anyone knows of some cakes that age well I’d love to know, currently I’m planning on getting about 5 from yunnan sourcing.

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I’m pretty excited. The only thing I’m worried about is deciding what kind of wood to use. I don’t want it to mold and I also don’t want the smell to effect the tea.

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I’m so happy to see everyone taking on their own initial to age teas. I hear many arguments that Puerhs can only be aged in Yunnan, but I have also met many people (even in Japan) that age their teas in other areas and climates. I do believe that you won’t get the same result from aging the same tea in different places even if all other variables are the same. It’s a fun experiment and I hope you guys continue to share your stories.

LyLychee said

It is not exclusively Yunnan that is best for storing teas

Anywhere can have potential

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It should be a good experiment. I’m planning on doing either bi-yearly or yearly updates on steepster to log how it goes so others can see and maybe start doing it themselves

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