There's no shortage of discussion on storage of pu, and there's no shortage of diverging opinions. Pretty much everyone agrees, though, that what sort of storage will work depends on the climatic conditions where you live (duh).
I live in Norway. I have been living alone in the countryside for the better part of a year now, but will move back to Oslo as soon as my thesis is finished. Luckily I have a rather small collection right now, only a few cakes, and until I land myself a decent job I won't be able to spend much money on puer. So I have no huge collection that I need to hurry up an find a good storage environment for right now. Still, I'd very much like to get a better idea of what might suit the climatic conditions here before I one day do have more cakes to take care of.
I have realized that before I got into puer I never really thought much about the climate in my country, at least not in terms of specifics of relative humidity and such. I know Norway is known to be a cold place, I know I've suffered from dry skin in the winter. I studied one year in Hong Kong, and that year I showered every day and used little to no moisturizer, and still my skin was much, much better than it is in Norway, where I shower only every other day or so and apply moisturizer products liberally at winter.
So Norway must be rather dry, at least dryer than HK (which doesn't say a lot). So I head over to Wikipedia, and what do you know.. "the climate of Norway is much more temperate than expected for such high latitudes," and "the regions to the east of the mountains (including Oslo) have a more continental climate with less precipitation, and enjoy more sunshine and usually warmer summers." Here's a chart for Oslo, suggesting that the relative humidity is actually rather high compared to what I thought, and strangely enough lower in the summer months than the rest of the year...
(Digression: I don't really understand this at all. For another city I used to live in, Trondheim, the site gives a very stable average, close to 80% RH. But in the years I spent there I actually had a hygrometer in my room, and in winter the RH plummeted to as low as 25-30%, and I had to use a humidifier to get the figures to around 50%.)
Still, it should be lower than that inside, even though we don't use aircondition, dehumidifiers or anything like that. I'd say it averages at around 50-60%, sometimes a bit higher, and in winter times a bit lower.
And then there's temperatures. As MarshalN points out, the water contained by air is not only affected by the RH, but by the temperature as well (in other words: same RH at different temperatures means different amount of water in the air. Aka absolute humidity...).
Inside I usually try to keep it around 20 degrees (C), in summer it will be warmer (23-5ish, maybe 18-22 at night), in winter it will be colder in the night (say 16-18 degrees).
So let's say that the place my puer will be stored averages at 20 degrees (C) and 50% RH.
This is far from traditional storage conditions. From reading the other discussions I see many warnings against trying to tamper too much with the natural conditions of ones surroundings, mold-ruined tea and so on. Some people have elaborate pumidors, for now that's out of the question for me. I'm thinking more of getting a suitable box.
Some HK-people seem to like cardboards. Tim from the Mandarin's Tea Room suggested in one thread that people living in colder and drier places may want to use plastic boxes instead.
- For those using plastic boxes, do you make small holes in them to let some air in, or keep them tight (and open occasionally). Do you add any water (a small tupperware container with a few deciliters, for instance), or is that too risky?
- For those living in drier conditions in general, what RH do you usually aim for?
I am not trying to "speed up aging" or anything like that. I want to keep it as safe as possible, even if that means slow (and perhaps little) aging, but at the same time I want to avoid that the tea actually drops in quality over the years due to the climatic conditions here.
Lastly, I know people will store raw and ripe pu in different containers, but are they both equally susceptible to losing something (flavor, aroma, anything) in less than optimal storage conditions? I.e. should I be equally worried about my ripe teas, or do the ripening process make them less fragile?