Pu-erh teas can be real investments. You buy them and then store them so they continue aging. After awhile you take them out and have some. Hopefully, you stored them right for the best aging experience and therefore the best taste. How long you store them can depend on several factors, one being how old they are when you buy them. A pu-erh pressed into a cake in 2007 and purchased in 2013 is already six years old and, if it’s been properly stored, could already be up for a try. Or you can choose to store it for a few years more.
|2010 Menghai Tea Factory 8592 Recipe Ripe Pu-erh|
Pu-erh teas are stored and left to mature for decades like classic wines and then can fetch astronomical prices at auctions, being worth their weight in gold.
Different Storage for Different Pu-erhs
Pu-erhs are made according to many recipes using a range of tea leaves from various locations. Each is unique on how it ages and can take 10, 20, or even 30 years to reach their peak of flavor. The longer the aging, generally speaking, the more complex and rich the flavor and overall appeal. A storage “caretaker” can monitor the teas periodically, checking for problems with humidity, insect infestation, mold, and the status of aging for each tea, knowing when a tea has reached its peak before it goes into decline. Many of the tea’s treasured characteristics will quickly fade away if the tea is not handled properly.
Young pu-erh tea is quite astringent and mellows with aging — the longer the better. Store in a dry environment for several years. The pu-erh undergoes a fermentation process due to microbes present in the tea leaves.
Green pu-erh tea aging can be hastened artificially by storing it in a humid environment, a process called “aspergillus post-fermentation” that is used on cheaper grades of pu-erh tea. This type of pu-erh, if not processed correctly, can contain harmful bacteria.
White pu-erh, characterized by a light and sophisticated taste and a liquid that is light with a gentle flavor, can be stored for ten years.
What to Do
Mold and fungi infection are common problems stemming from bad storage conditions.
- Breathable (not airtight) packaging is crucial. It’s easiest to just keep the tea in the original factory packaging. Avoid plastic and other materials that block the flow of air.
- Do not store with items that emit strong odors or be sure those items are stored in airtight containers.
- Keep humidity at no more than 70%. Most basements, therefore, would be unsuitable.
- Avoid fluctuation in temperature and sunlight beyond a minimal range.
Protect Your Investment
You can shove your pu-erhs into a corner and forget about them, but don’t be too shocked at the flavor disaster you may encounter when next steeping some. Better yet, take care when storing your pu-erhs, and you’ll have a wonderful tea experience for years to come.