Quick Summary of Tips:
Some thoughts and ideas on storing Puerh, whether it be something that is raw (sheng), new and vegetal in power or something utterly dark and ripe (shou).
Puerh is in so many ways slightly different in its needs, chemistry and ageing qualities. Unlike greens of China and Japan and beyond, and beyond too the layered brilliance of Wulongs and delicate whites, Puerhs need above all other things oxygen. Some of the simplest and most sage words I’ve heard on the subject of storage of teas was from a tea shop owner in Taipei when he said: “All great teas have a limited window of life in their present form. Wulongs, Greens, Whites and Red (Black) teas have a window of time of under 2 years in which they are superb. They need air-tight containers to achieve that and anything slightly beyond. Puerhs are on the other side of that relationship needing non-disturbed oxygen-fed oasis”.
Because quality Puerhs can age and evolve with time and years, they need aeration to assist with this march through time. Some vitals when storing Puerh: a space that isn’t affected by any scents or odors of kitchen, spice, mildew, or staleness.
Puerhs can be stored within their original wrappers (should be a paper of some kind), and can be stacked on top of one another even if the neighboring Puerhs aren’t the identical tea. Humidity and kitchen odors are the great enemies of Puerhs and can virtually flavor a tea post acquisition. Ideally the teas rest in a box or porous clay container (ensure it isn’t one that has a mildew smell as many do). A container that is open ended can also work. Tea owners have their tea shops which are like repositories of all things tea – perfect storage facilities, but for those of us who have multiple storage zones, a bedroom can suffice in a nook away from it all, or a shelf that is devoid of any spices, flavoring agents (including flavored teas) or paint/fume smells.
When traveling with tea as I do on every journey, I keep the original paper around the cake and then use a zip-lock sandwich bag. No shame in this as there are odors that dance around the inside of a rucksack, suitcase or satchel.
A last little bit of neurotic thought on handling any teas but in this case particularly Puerh; ensure that if you touch the tea with your hands that your hands are as ‘neutral’ as possible in grease, smell, stain…as possible. This includes soaps, hand creams and other chemistries. All of these elements can and will affect the leaves and oils within. May sound a little overboard but good teas need simple rituals and practices to ensure what you take in is the tea in its simplest and most unadulterated form.
- Jeff Fuchs