Daniel Lui is writing a new article for the LIBRARY about storing Pu-erh and it should be posted soon. Here's a sneak preview for FORUM members:
Excerpt from "HOW TO MAKE YOUR PU-ERH TEA TASTE BETTER" by Daniel Lui - c2010
MEET YOUR NEW BEST FRIENDS - THE MICRO-ORGANISMS The famous aged taste of Pu-erh tea is the result of the activities of micro-organisms in the tea leaves. Micro-organisms play a key role in many food products like beer, cheese and wine to name a few. Their activity changes the chemical structure of existing aromatic compounds and creates new ones that did not exist in the original leaves. The processing method for most teas including Pu-erh tea utilizes a step early in the process that dries the leaves in the sun (“Kill-Green”), destroying many of the micro-organisms, but not all of them. Therefore, under the appropriate conditions, the process of micro-organic growth continues over time.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT TASTE There are 3 main factors which affect the health of micro-organisms in tea leaves and thus the aging process and the taste of your tea: 1. Air Circulation 2. Stable Temperature 3. Appropriate Humidity
Air Circulation Good air circulation ensures the continuing reproduction of micro-organisms in the tea leaves which in turn, ensures the on-going processes that create the distinctive aromatic compounds one wants in an aged Pu-erh tea. If air circulation is reduced, these processes will be diminished and the tea’s taste will be flat and the aroma very mild. It is important not to store Pu-erh tea in small, narrow spaces such as in a small or sealed cabinet or under a bed, where air circulation could be poor.
Stable Temperature Micro-organisms prefer a stable temperature environment to encourage reproduction. According to past experience, a temperature range between 20° to 30° Celsius (68° – 86° Fahrenheit) is ideal to maintain long term transformation of the leaves. Of equal importance is that temperature fluctuations occur slowly if one lives in a climate where the temperature shifts dramatically or often. It is important not to store Pu-erh tea near a heater, open window or in a refrigerator where the temperature may be too hot or too cold or may shift too rapidly.
Appropriate Humidity Tea leaves are very good at absorbing moisture from the air. An appropriate level of humidity can assist the reproduction of micro-organisms and low humidity hinders reproduction. Additionally, excessively high humidity and lack of air circulation can lead to the development of mould which can ruin a tea. Tea leaves are also very good at absorbing odours so it is important not to store Pu-erh tea in kitchens, washrooms or anywhere near heavy water usage.
An additional factor is light. Bright light slows micro-organic growth, so low light or even full dark conditions are the most suitable for storing Pu-erh tea.
BUYING & STORING The method of storing you choose is dependant on your short and long term plans for that tea. As might be expected, aged Pu-erh tea is more expensive than younger tea because it is rarer and more highly in demand. Conversely, younger teas are less expensive and easier to find. It is of course much more economical to buy a young tea at today’s prices than an aged tea at tomorrow’s prices. If you drink Pu-erh tea regularly, you want the best teas you can find to drink now and those that you can purchase inexpensively today that will age well. Again, the advice of an expert is invaluable in helping you plan.
• Drink the tea right away o Break the tea into small pieces, place in a cloth bag and store in a cardboard box or clay jar
• Let the tea age for a while and then drink o Break the tea into small pieces, place in a paper bag and store in a cardboard box or clay jar o Or, break half of the tea cake into small pieces, place the pieces in a cloth or paper bag and store in a cardboard box or clay jar
• Keep the tea for long term storage o Keep the tea in its original shape and store in a clay, glass or metal jar or cardboard box. Sealing in plastic will allow some air in and will slow the process the most significantly but still allow the micro-organisms to do their work, albeit more slowly.