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Pu'erh Storage and Purchasing Advice

My birthday is coming up in a little over a month, and I was thinking of buying myself some sheng pu’erh cakes to experiment with- storing the same cakes in different environments and seeing the difference in how each ages.

Can anyone tell me about their own pu’erh aging experiences, or direct me to some good resources. What is the difference in the effect of humid vs dry storage, etc?

Also, if anyone has recommendations for the actual cakes I should buy, that would be appreciated too.

Thanks!

39 Replies
mrmopar said

Any way you store i would make sure to keep a monitor of the temp and humidity in the storage area. I am not real sure of the difference of dry stored or humid shengs. I am working on a process with this now. I have some beengs in a temp and humidity controlled environment, the teas aroma when i open this cabinet is amazing. You could also ask Garret from Mandala tea. He is very knowledgeable on this. You may want to ask Nicholas ( I think that’s his name) from Misty Peaks he looks to be in china from the videos he posted. good luck!

Thanks for the advice. Right now I also have my pu’erh in a cabinet (with a small bowl of water to keep it from being terribly dry)…But my collection is quickly outgrowing the tiny space.

I have yet to acquire a hygrometer to test to see what the humidity is in there or whether it’s constant or not. I was thinking of moving some of it into a dry closet and some of it into my basement to see what the two different environments do to the flavor…I was maybe even seeing what would happen if I stored some in the barrel room where we age our wines (I live on a winery).

Whatever happens, I guess it will be a learning experience!

I just wrote a discussion about this topic exactly. Basement may be a bit musty or two humid and unstable. The barrel room may also be unsuitable for your teas as the aromas of your wines will surely affect the taste/fragrance/aroma or your tea.

Please check out the discussion
http://steepster.com/discuss/4626-how-should-raw-puer-tea-be-stored

Im happy to help if I can answer any questions. Or Id love to hear how your aging goes in whatever fashion you choose.

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I’ve been aging puerh for a couple months, pm me if you have any questions. Here’s the link to some discussion on my pumicer. http://steepster.com/discuss/3828-aging-puerh
Another source I found really helpful for aging information is teachat. Search aging puerh, puerh storage, pumidor, puerh humidor and stuff like that

That is awesome! I never thought of turning a fridge into a humidor. Very cool…

And I will check out teachat. Thanks!

mrmopar said

Yeah I copied his plan on the fridge, shou in the bottom sheng in the freezer part.

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Will said

I would just say that it takes a long time for teas to show signs of “aging” unless stored in an extremely humid environment (which can be tricky and potentially problematic). The shops / warehouses which do this kind of intentional humid storage have a lot of experience, and still sometimes have certain problems.

One thing I would suggest is a) read everything you can find about storage (Art of Tea, issue 10, I believe, has some really interesting stuff on that if you can find a copy), and b) try to try as much older (> 15 year old) sheng pu’er from varying storage environments as you can (small samples are fine). This will give you a little sense of what kind of tastes can result (though do keep in mind that sometimes, the midrange stuff does not taste the way fully mature aged raw pu’er should taste).

I do use a humidifier in my home storage, but it is a lot of work to take care of everything. In a lot of ways, especially if you live in a dry environment, the safer thing is to buy less quantity of tea which is closer to being ready to drink, maybe with a little bit of wetter storage.

Thanks, Will. I think your idea about buying samples is probably good advice, and I will try to track down a copy of that issue of Art of Tea you mentioned.

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Garret said

Ahhh… the question of pu’er tea storage…. I love this one! Long-term storage of pu’er is, indeed, a tricky pursuit that many don’t wish to tackle and prefer to buy tea that has already been aged enough to enjoy now.

One my top tenets: Any odors that are even minutely perceptible in the storage environment will take their toll on the teas over the long haul. If storing in the home, you want to make sure not to use perfumes, incense on a regular basis. Any cooking odors, too, will be soaked into the pu’er over time. There will come a day when you bring a cake of tea to a friends house for a nice tea sesh (or away from your dwelling) and you will be able to taste cooking smells, incense and other odors present in your home.

Basements can seem like a fine place for short term, but again, most basements (especially at proper strorage humidity) will have odors that you do not want your teas to soak up. I have tasted what I call “basement” tea and it is not good. A couple of weeks, ok, but 10 years? I guarantee you will taste your basement.

If you are going to dedicate a room in your home to pu’er storage, you want to assure that any paint/flooring/glues in the room have outgassed completely (sometimes takes a year of more).

If you share a forced air heating/cooling system with other units, rest assured that over time, their scent habits will also find their way into your home and tea. Got a neighbor (or yourself) who cooks with many pungent spices? Yep, you will taste that in your tea and it won’t take very long. Pu’er cakes are like aroma sponges.

Also, make sure that any paper boxes or cardboard you use for storage is completely free of odors.

If you decide to use a humidifier, make sure you keep it clean. They can become breeding grounds for molds, mildew which can not only affect your teas on the aroma and taste side, but can actually spew spores of mold out onto your tea, making it susceptible to mold itself.

Here at Mandala, we keep our pu’er vault at 50-55%… it is vital that during long-term storage that you have enough humidity to keep the tea aging, but not so much that one is encouraging mold growth. I know for a fact that when basements are over 55-60% humidity that mold will grow.

One also wants to keep the humidity as close to constant as possible. It is not beneficial (nor good) for the tea to experience constant fluctuations in humidity. So be vigilant with your humidifier and make sure it is kept full and kept clean, have 2 hygrometers, do not just rely on the one that is built-in to some humidifiers.

Air flow is important. You want enough air moving so as to prevent stagnancy in the room, which can also create a condition where things smell “old” or stale. Stagnancy can also cause mildew. You want to be able to walk into your storage room and smell what I call “a living freshness.”

On the flip side, too much air movement can hurt tea. You do not want air blowing directly on your teas. No air conditioning or heating vents should be blowing on your teas. Aim them away from your teas.

These are some of the things that immediately pop into my head when it comes to the storage of pu’er. If I think of other things today, I’ll post them!

Good luck! If you have any questions, just be in touch! [email protected] or post it here.

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Garret said

Also – as you can tell from above, I am a stickler for how odors affect tea. So please, please, please… no air fresheners, no cat-litter box smells, no pet-odors…

And check in on your teas regularly. Peek in at them from time to time and make sure you see no signs of mold. Smell them.

Most of all… enjoy them!

Life is short. If you love a tea where it is at now, drink it! You may not be alive when that prized tea turns 30 years old so share your finest stuff with your friends now. Drink up! Good tea and good friends = a great life well spent :)

Thanks, Garret! You’ve given me a lot to think about! I will have to smell the different areas of the basement I am thinking of storing my pu’erh in again (there are three separate rooms that constitute the basement of this house) to be sure that there are no strong or unpleasant odors, but I think I am leaning in that direction now.

I had been thinking of building/buying a large storage cabinet to put in the office closet, but you are making me think twice, because of what you said about household smells- my house is very small, so it’s difficult to store anything too far away from the kitchen.

Thanks again for your help!

mrmopar said

Thanks for the info Garret! I am still learning these things. Would storing in an airtight area with a couple of small fans and humidity beads benefit the tea that I have? You are the best that’s why I had to mention you in this discussion.

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Hello there, I just started a discussion called “HOW SHOULD RAW PU’ER TEA BE STORED

I should have looked here before I started it, but maybe what I wrote there could help you a bit.

http://steepster.com/discuss/4626-how-should-raw-puer-tea-be-stored

Thanks!

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Ill post it here, may be easier to keep it all together:

How should raw Pu’er tea be stored?

There are so many factors can affect the aging of Pu’er tea. The climate/location: temperature, humidity, variations in the season, the place where the tea is kept, the amount of tea, how tightly the tea was pressed, how frequently the tea is contacted, the shape of the compressed Pu’er, will all affect the aging process. Without being too difficult, allow a list of some more vague generalizations that may be helpful:

1) The tea should ideally be stored in a reasonably high humidity, around 60-80%, but more importantly it should be a constant humidity. A high humidity is also risky to your tea, especially where there is not sufficient airflow. In the nicer tea shops of China and with many collectors of high-valued teas it is not uncommon to see humidifiers much like collectors of cigars.

2) It should be stored at a reasonably high temperature – 70-80 degrees F is suitable and stability is important here as well. With both temperature and humidity, be conscious of anything you may have in your house that will affect the stability of either(i.e. Air conditioning or dehumidifiers).

3) It should be stored where there is a circulation of air, so of course a sealed box/container is not suitable nor is a place that is in direct sunlight. If you do keep it in a container of some kind, make sure it has good air circulation or is not sealed shut.

4) It should be kept away from strong smells – INCLUDING SHOU CHAA AGED/COOKED PU’ER. The kitchen is not a suitable place to age/store ANY tea, as the aromas of other spices and your own cooking will greatly affect the taste and aroma of your delicate teas.

5) Before going too much further in your aging of tea, consider also how much tea you will be aging and how often you plan to taste/use the teas. The more tea there is together, the better it will age. Just like with brewing a cup of tea, the smaller the container/box/pot the better. If you are only aging one Bing, best not to leave it in an open room on its’ own. For smaller amounts of tea, perhaps consider an earthenware jar, or perhaps a wooden box or cupboard. Consider the aromas of the woods/containers you store your teas in as well.

If you intend to drink a cake of tea in the near future, it may be useful to break it into smaller pieces that can fit into pots a bit easier that way more is exposed to the elements as it will age a bit more rapidly. Complete tongs in their bamboo wrappers(7 at a time), should not be opened until you wish to start consuming the tea. After its opened, it is still smart to reseal the tong as best you can.

6) If the amount of tea you are storing is really considerable, be sure to rotate the tea every few months or so. Bring the teas on the “bottom” to the top, and the ones that are closer to the wood or air, move them to a different area in the container, ect. Rotate, repeat.

Many people have their own methods of aging their teas, but there are certainly things they avoid in that process. If you have a few pieces of the same tea, perhaps try a few slight variations and see what you like. Access your teas often to see how they are doing, and be patient. Remember, before you start any of this, to have a good raw product(Sheng Chaa) that is going to be enjoyable today, or decades to come. Look to the Six Ancient Tea Mountains to find quality Sheng Chaa. Many prefer Yiwu, which is where our Sheng Chaa is from.

There is much more to be said about this; including WHEN to start enjoying your teas as well as HOW to pick a quality tea to begin with. We wrote about these two topics on our site :) Hope you enjoy and this answers some of your questions.

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mrmopar said

finally got the pumidor finished

Let me know if you post pictures.

mrmopar said

check it out on Incense&Teas post i uploaded the link messy for now but a lot in there. but lets try this.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/93298157@N02/8483713990/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Maria said

holy molly! That’s a lot of pu erh! So jealous! It looks fabulous.

PamDZ said

Should all of those Pu-ehrs be mixed liked that? Won’t they permeate each other? It may be a waste to have so many different kinds when they will all “catch” each others essences? I Wonder if you got some Lock n lock containers to separate them if that would affect humidity and all that-

mrmopar said

all the shelves are by factory or similar producer and all sheng and shu are completely separated. shu in the fridge and sheng in the freezer.

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mrmopar said

its a mess but i want to protect my tea!

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WOW!

mrmopar said

lots of wires everywhere but i want to keep airflow up to avoid mold. these cakes will be rotated one shelf a week top cake to the bottom and bottom to the top. hope the idea works.

How long are you expecting to age your teas before you drink them?

mrmopar said
Hi Charlotte i hope to age the shengs at least 5 years, the shu it is a daily thing, i have a tea randomizer at the house. I pick one tea from the collection(via a post it note), have it today. It goes into a separate container. And when all the drawings are through it goes back into the original container to be drawn again. I make notes i.e. factory , size, year, and size to see what is on today’s menu. when I have emptied the bin everything goes back in the original container to be drawn again.

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