Regarding long term storage


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Regarding long term storage

Postby Bryan_drinks_te... » Oct 3rd, '11, 16:24

I've been taking my pu-erh storage rather seriously over the past 2 and a half years. I have my own special cabinet just for sheng, and I have kept the humidity around 70-75% in it 24 hours a day by re-heating water every 6 hours.

Yesterday evening (sunday evening here in the SE US) I noticed a sudden sharp smell coming from the cabinet, something similar to...well, the beginnings of rot. I immediately removed the humidity source and checked all of my tea - I saw no mold and couldn't detect any odors from the tea - though most of them have darkened somewhat, which is what I have expected. Should I slow down on the humid storage?
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby TokyoB » Oct 3rd, '11, 16:27

What does your setup look like? What type of material is the cabinet and how do you heat the water?
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby Bryan_drinks_te... » Oct 3rd, '11, 16:31

the setup is a 3-tier cabinet, made of white vinyl on the outside (it's not scented/no odor) and fiberboard on the inside.

The bottom tier holds all of my sheng, and it measures about 5 feet wide by 1 foot tall. all three tiers are the same dimensions. I heat up the water by placing it in a kettle and warming it for a few minutes until it is gently steaming. this brings the humidity up to the right level.
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby Drax » Oct 3rd, '11, 16:44

Well, the aging of pu'erh IS technically a slow rot of the tea.... but....

Did you smell the interior surfaces of the cabinet? Something could be growing there....?

You might also re-amass your pu'erh and give it a whiff and see if it's a little bit coming from everything (yes, I'm grasping at straws here).

Possibly focus on the pu'erh that you had on the lowest shelf (if that's where you placed the kettle)... as you would have probably created a humidity gradient with a >>75% at the bottom? (unless if your measuring device was down there).
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby Bryan_drinks_te... » Oct 3rd, '11, 16:56

as i said before, the bottom shelf holds all the sheng and I also keep the 'humidifier' there along with a hygrometer on the other end. I've checked the inside surfaces, even swabbed them and found nothing out of the ordinary. no mold, no unusual bacteria, just plain old plain old.

I took out the water last night and let the humidity drop down to 60-65 percent. I plan on watching the cakes closely - I checked every piece of tea - from bings to tuos to bricks - and all looks clean. I was hoping some people out here had experienced more (actually i know that there are plenty) aging with their teas under closely observed conditions and could verifty whether or not that this is a natural part of the aging process. and I do understand that aging is a slow rot - it just was not a familiar smell and it was also very sudden. as of now - about 5 pm - the odors are gone and it just smells like sheng pu that's been sitting for 2.5 years. :D
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby Drax » Oct 3rd, '11, 17:25

Ah, I see. Well, in that case I suppose there's not much to do but keep an eye/nose on it, unless if somebody else has any ideas.

I've noticed that the aroma of my cabinet tends to have a mustiness to it that I usually can't pinpoint to one tea/area. I suppose it could arise from a combination of stuff that isn't present when everything is separate.

Hrm, final passing thought here... any/many items in cardboard...?
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby apache » Oct 3rd, '11, 18:03

Using electric apparatus to increase humidity in a confined space is always tricky. Steam can condense on some surfaces and greatly increases the "micro-area" humidity without you knowing. May be better just put bowls of water or soaked towels inside the cabinet and increase the humidity gently. Just my 2 cents of thought.
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby Bryan_drinks_te... » Oct 4th, '11, 09:49

Apache,

I am using bowls of water to increase my humidity. i'm currently bowl-less due to the odors from the other day - the humidity is staying in the low to mid 60's. I may re-introduce the bowls of water late this week. Thank you for the insight. :D

Drax - there are no items in cardboard. most of my sheng are in their wrappers, and my mao cha (stored on top shelf with no added humidity) is stored either in a small metal tin, a white paper bag, or a sweetgrass basket with a cloth on the bottom and a sweetgrass lid covering it.
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby krillgrillbritt » Oct 4th, '11, 09:57

I agree with apache, steaming your tea seems very dangerous: vapor is really not the same as humidity. It might be an interesting experiment, I think, though it could turn out costly.

It also seems like a lot of unnecessary work, are you sure you want to be doing all this for the next 20-50 years? Can you even keep a job?

I store my cakes (close to a hundred) with a container of sponges and distilled water, and also a extra large box of humidity beads from Heartfelts set at 70%rh to soak up excess humidity and release it again if it ever drops under 70%.

It is dry storage with low maintenance, although I've noticed some positive change to the cakes that's been there from the start (2yrs); no guarantees of course. As my collection grows I might need to get something electric soon, but this setup has worked fine so far.

Good luck anyway!
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby TIM » Oct 4th, '11, 22:39

bryan_drinks_tea wrote:as i said before, the bottom shelf holds all the sheng and I also keep the 'humidifier' there along with a hygrometer on the other end. I've checked the inside surfaces, even swabbed them and found nothing out of the ordinary. no mold, no unusual bacteria, just plain old plain old.

I took out the water last night and let the humidity drop down to 60-65 percent. I plan on watching the cakes closely - I checked every piece of tea - from bings to tuos to bricks - and all looks clean. I was hoping some people out here had experienced more (actually i know that there are plenty) aging with their teas under closely observed conditions and could verifty whether or not that this is a natural part of the aging process. and I do understand that aging is a slow rot - it just was not a familiar smell and it was also very sudden. as of now - about 5 pm - the odors are gone and it just smells like sheng pu that's been sitting for 2.5 years. :D


Smelt funny? If I may suggest opening the cheapest bing, crack it in half at the middle and see hows the center of the cake doing. Think about a dish sponge.... Moist all the time on the outside, and the inside start to rot. Good luck :shock:
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby TokyoB » Oct 5th, '11, 09:13

krillgrillbritt - I can't quite imagine what your setup looks like. What do you mean by a container of sponges? Is this also in an enclosed cabinet?
Thanks.


krillgrillbritt wrote:I agree with apache, steaming your tea seems very dangerous: vapor is really not the same as humidity. It might be an interesting experiment, I think, though it could turn out costly.

It also seems like a lot of unnecessary work, are you sure you want to be doing all this for the next 20-50 years? Can you even keep a job?

I store my cakes (close to a hundred) with a container of sponges and distilled water, and also a extra large box of humidity beads from Heartfelts set at 70%rh to soak up excess humidity and release it again if it ever drops under 70%.

It is dry storage with low maintenance, although I've noticed some positive change to the cakes that's been there from the start (2yrs); no guarantees of course. As my collection grows I might need to get something electric soon, but this setup has worked fine so far.

Good luck anyway!
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby gingkoseto » Oct 5th, '11, 09:27

I don't get it how you could control humidity precisely in such a DIY set up. I wouldn't be sure of it at all. 75% relative humidity is already close to the level to cause mold. If it's 75-78% in a room and your tea is on a shelf away from wall, that's usually safe enough. But if it's 75% in a small container and your tea is close to the steam source, that sounds quite dangerous to me. Water steam is not like regular air. Water steam is not always evenly distributed in a space. Besides, it tends to be adhesive to smooth surfaces such as walls of a closet.
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby Bryan_drinks_te... » Oct 5th, '11, 11:27

all,

I see your point. I'm going to rethink my method of keeping the humidity up in my sheng cabinet.

maybe i could just keep room temp water in a bowl in my cabinet? or would that just open up spaces for the same problems?
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby TIM » Oct 5th, '11, 11:34

bryan_drinks_tea wrote:all,

I see your point. I'm going to rethink my method of keeping the humidity up in my sheng cabinet.

maybe i could just keep room temp water in a bowl in my cabinet? or would that just open up spaces for the same problems?


Think wine cellar or cigar humidor, perhaps? Good Luck
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Re: regarding long term storage.

Postby krillgrillbritt » Oct 5th, '11, 12:06

krillgrillbritt - I can't quite imagine what your setup looks like. What do you mean by a container of sponges? Is this also in an enclosed cabinet?
Thanks.


Yes, sorry if I was not all clear. The cakes are placed in a large wooden chest where I also have a smaller container (about 15x20x10cm) with household sponges soaked in distilled water (to avoid mineral build up and some bacteria). The sponges seem to be better at releasing moisture than just a bowl of water. I smell the sponges regularly and so far no mold, though I boil them or change them preemptively about every 4 months. I started out with a much smaller chest and used sponges because I was afraid that a bowl of water would flip over and spill on the cakes; if you have a cabinet then you don't need to worry about that. Alternatively you can use only beads but then you need to refill them quite often depending on your regular humidity. Air circulation is not ideal in this kind of setup, I suspect, and that's also one reason I'm considering getting an electric humidifier with fans. But this solution is at least simple, cheap and doesn't feel like too much of a chore.
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