Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Store Puerh

More than two years ago we started the Virtual Teahouse on Facebook as a place where tea lovers could find one another and share their passion for Camellia sinensis sinensis. Today we're excited to see over 400 members chatting, asking questions, uploading photos, taking our What Tea Are You? quiz, and more!

Yesterday in the Virtual Teahouse, a member asked for advice on storing puerh cakes. In case you're wondering the same thing, here's what we recommend:

Puerh is easy to store. Leave the paper wrappings on but remove any cellophane, plastic, etc., that might impede air flow. An unsealed cardboard box or paper bag is a good container. It's okay to store all your cakes together. Put them somewhere with good air flow, no dirt or dust, out of direct sunlight, not in the bathroom (too humid) or kitchen (could absorb odors from cooking). A drawer or closet shelf is ideal - the same sort of place you might age a nice bottle of wine. Of course, make sure there aren't mothballs, cedar, or other aromatic substances in the vicinity. Dry tea leaves readily absorb outside aromas.

Roy strongly cautions against storing puerh in a damp, moldy cave-like environment. This type of atmosphere fosters the growth of aggressive mold and mildew that consume the tea's nutrients, leaving primarily harsh-tasting ligneous material. After a relatively short period of storage under such conditions, your tea could irrevocably lose the sweetness and clarity that are hallmarks of well aged puerh.

If you do spot a bit of powdery white mold on your cake, brush it off immediately. Remove the cake from the paper wrapper and place it in direct sunlight for a few days until it dries out and there are no more signs of fungal growth.

It's fun to taste your cakes every few months to see how the aging process is coming along and understand the ways the tea evolves over time. Slowly the flavors will concentrate and mellow out. Labels are a good idea if you don't read Chinese because it's easy to forget which cake is which over the years! Be patient: the most successful aging process happens slowly over a decade or more. As with many other aspects of tea culture, trying to rush will only compromise the outcome.

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