Pu-erh is one of the most interesting and sought after teas these days because of its medicinal properties as well as its general collectibility. With pu-erh cakes from decades past going for thousands of dollars these days, collecting pu-erh for long-term storage can be quite an investment.
Before deciding where and how to store pu-erh, you have to figure out which type of pu-erh you are actually in possession of. Jump over to Wikipedia to decide whether you have a raw pu-erh or ripened pu-erh. Ripened pu-erh has already gone through a secondary fermentation process to “fake” the aging process, so further aging this tea may produce a questionable result. Raw pu-erh is what most speak of when discussing the storage of pu-erh cakes.
Tea natually takes on the odors wherein it is stored; this is wonderful for adding a hint of vanilla or bergamot to your tea, but in the case of storing pu-erh — finding a neutral smelling place to store it is of utmost importance. Stéphane Erler from http://teamasters.blogspot.com suggests you “flake [off] some pu-erh and put it in the open for a couple of months in the basement and in your other alternative place(s). Then smell and taste the different samples to see which aged best over this period.”
Pu-erh masters reccomend storing the tea at 60-80% relative humidity, while carefully monitoring the tea to ensure that no mold or any other unsightly organisms are making home in the tea. Wesley Crosswhite took this information and came up with quite the creative solution seen here: http://thegreenteareview.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html
It has also been said that pu-erh ages better when stored with many other cakes at the same time. This kind of makes me want to grab a shovel and dig my own pu-erh cave below my floorboards and fill it with puerh cakes. Pu-erh ages best when kept in the bamboo wrappers groups of cakes come in, unfortunately these packs of pu-erh are hard to come by in western countries.
The main take-away points are:
- Keep the tea in an odor-free environment.
- Keep the relative humidity between 60 and 70%.
- Keep a constant flow of fresh air going through your storage place.
- Keep the storage area dark.
- Keep the tea covered with a breathable material (fabric, or the original paper wrappers work fine) free from dust.
- Always test the are you plan to store your tea in with a small amount of tea to save yourself from ruining a large amount of pu-erh.
- Check the progress of your tea often.
If anyone has any solutions to pu-erh storage or any corrections, feel free to let us know!
We recently began selling airtight tea tins at Chicago Tea Garden: Airtight Tea Tins @ Chicago Tea Garden