On Proper Storage of Pu-erh Tea

by Tony Gebely 2,674 views5

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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 enthusiasts recommend 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:

  1. Keep the tea in an odor-free environment.
  2. Keep the relative humidity between 60 and 70%.
  3. Keep a constant flow of fresh air going through your storage place.
  4. Keep the storage area dark.
  5. Keep the tea covered with a breathable material (fabric, or the original paper wrappers work fine) free from dust.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Comments (5)

  1. Bamboo rice steamers work PERFECTLY for storage. They’re relatively cheap & easy to come by. They’re also stackable and have slotted bottoms which are excellent for airflow on wire racks. Plus, you can reuse them. No need for bamboo wrappers when you have stackable, slotted bamboo that just works better.

    Another tip I learned on that foul, funky, fishy “ruined” pu-erh is to store them for a few months in an old Spanish Cedar cigar box. It removes the “fishiness” like magic. Of course you flavor won’t be as ideal as if it were kept in perfect conditions… but it saves it from the trash and may actually come out better than you thought.

  2. It’s “nei piao” in pinyin… 内票

  3. I can sort of agree with Yeozer, but It’s important that we all remember that ‘proper’ storage and brewing is subjective, and we must decide what we think is the best. I’m not trying to dismiss tradition, but we should all find our preferred tastes in tea only after using some general guidelines.

  4. Hello,
    a) Besides the humidity, as I was told that the ideal temperature for storing and aging Puer is about 25C or 77F.
    b) Aging ripe Puer will mellow it down and reduce/diminish that funky fermentation taste; usually make the ripe Puer taste sweet, creamy, smooth and enhance the “huigan” (bitter-sweet taste).
    c) It is best NOT to store ripe and raw Puer together as the ripe Puer taste/smell will dominate the raw Puer hence contaminating the floral/fruity aroma of properly aged raw Puer.
    d) Bamboo-leaves wrapper are really hard to come by (next to impossible to get), especially in western Canada where I live. Alternatively, I make my own brown-paper bags and store each raw Puer cake in one paper bag. Also due to the semi-dessert dry weather in western Canada, I pray water on my Puer collection with water twice a day (as if I am spraying plants) to bump up the humidity. These brown paper bags also function like the bamboo-leaves to act as a ‘buffer’ to capture moisture (the water I sprayed) and and feed moisture to the tea cakes inside the bag throughout the day.
    e) I rotate my tea cakes every 3-4 months and at the same time, will choose 2-3 different types of raw Puer for inspection against mold and also to taste the aging progress. Usually, I use 5 grams for 100 ml water with rather short infusion time:
    1. 10s (seconds) flush + awakening
    2. 2s (first brew for tasting)
    3. 2s
    4. 2s
    5. 5s
    6. and slowly increasing by 1-2 seconds per subsequent brews.

  5. great article. I’m loving it.
    The best way of brewing Pu’erh tea is Yixing tea pot. so smooth.

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