When I first started drinking Pu erh tea, I was buying in bulk from a tea shop in Montreal. I didn’t really care for storing, other than keeping the tea in its little resealable bag it came in. The more I drank, the more I bought Pu Erh. Once, I came upon a cheap tea cake. A raw Pu Erh from Camellia Sinensis. It was such a steal ! It was the best impulse buy ever. Although, I was happy with my purchase, having a tea cake sparked a lot of questions regarding storage. I knew it was a thing, but I never imagined myself storing cakes of tea. In this article, I will go through the basic principles of storing Pu Erh Tea (Raw and/or Ripe) and my experiments with storage.
The two basic principles that guide storing Pu Erh in the long run are temperature and humidity. The optimal settings for home storing your own cakes are the following : a temperature between 20 and 30 degrees celsius (68 and 86 fahrenheit) and a relative humidity reading in between 50 % to 80%, in the most extreme cases. Good air circulation is a plus. But you can aerate them yourself, by opening the storage unit once in a while. Also, Pu Erh is like a sponge : it absorbs odors. It’s best to leave it in a relatively odorless place. And last but not least, your cakes need to be stored in a dark place, since Pu Erh can be damaged by light exposure over time. It’s important to meet most of the requirements I just listed. If Pu Erh is stored in a dry and cold environment, the microorganisms that helps it age will die, and the tea will turn bad. Both in terms of taste and aging potential.
Home Storage : What Can Be Done
There’s many way to approach home storage. In certain parts of the world, just stuffing your cakes in a cardboard box will do the trick. But where I live, in Québec, humidity is an issue. It’s dry all year round, even in hot summer days. It’s where added humidity, from a water source or simple Boveda humidity packs comes into play. If you’re fortunate enough to find a broken mini-fridge or wine cooler, it’s the perfect home storage facility. Just put your cakes in the unplugged fridge, a couple of Boveda packs or a glass of water and hygrometer, and you’re all set. Just make sure the fridge or cooler doesn’t smell, and clean it thoroughly before using it. A cheaper option would be to put all of your cakes in ziplock bags, throwing in a couple of Boveda packs and an hygrometer. This is the option I chose for my setup, and it serves me well.
My Experiments With Storage
I first started a bit naive with storage. I thought that throwing my cakes in a box with an hygrometer would be okay. But the numbers on my meter were off the charts… In a bad way. My humidity was way too low to store Pu Erh, and I freaked out. The next day, I bought Boveda humidity packs, left them for a couple of days only to find out it was still too dry. There was too much air circulation in the box, and the humidity wouldn’t stay. At this moment, I read online that ziplock bags were a good option. I bought some and to this day, my humidity and temperature are perfect. You only need to create a microclimate to store Pu Erh.
There’s no perfect way to store Pu Erh. As long as the tea is good for you, that’s what is important in the end !