Tea Humidor


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

Tea Humidor

Postby Ti » Jul 13th, '08, 19:40

I have some experience with cigars which are basically cured leaves, and I can see puerh tea being kin. With cigars, storing them in a humidor can make or break them. Some good quality cigars absolutely suck if they are allowed to dry out, but the same cigar can become something quite enjoyable when kept in a humidor. This transformation can take place in as little as a week or two.

I've been reading about puerh and the aging of it and much is said about humidity and the lack of substantial humidity, in say, North America, as being a potential aging or storage issue. Is there a such a thing as a puerh humidor? Has anyone tried this? Most pu I get is dry and brittle as crackers when I open it up. I'm wondering if storing it in a controlled environment (to some extent, like cigars) where it resides in an environment of higher humidity could effect it short term / long term for the better? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with this concept?
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Postby Salsero » Jul 13th, '08, 20:04

The short answer is, "yes." Many feel that a constant humidity between 70% and 80% is ideal for aging sheng. Hard science, however, is hard to come by.


Our own Wesli has posted a nice piece on the topic:
http://thegreenteareview.blogspot.com/2 ... ution.html I think he also has a followup item later in the blog.

There was also extensive discussion about aging in BearsBearsBears' LiveJournal community at http://community.livejournal.com/puerh_tea/130806.html as well as other threads in the LJ.

Finally, ABx wrote a nice monograph about puerh in general which includes some notes on aging. I'm sure if you PM him he will be happy to provide you with a copy.
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Postby Ti » Jul 13th, '08, 20:13

Thanks Salsero for the reply. Most informative. It's nice to see there is interest in this. I think it is an important topic.
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Postby Salsero » Jul 13th, '08, 20:18

Ti wrote:Thanks Salsero for the reply. Most informative. It's nice to see there is interest in this. I think it is an important topic.
A vital one for us pu-heads. We're all worried that our tea will taste the same in ten years as it does now -- or worse go down hill! Sheng puerh is like having children: you have to plan their education way in advance.
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Postby hop_goblin » Jul 13th, '08, 20:26

It's simple. Without the proper humidity and aeration, puerh will not age. This is why it is very difficult for people in the U.S. to store and age pu-erh. Although some areas in the U.S. are some what on the humid side, this isn't most cases. Luckily, I live in an area that seems to have decent humidity in the spring and in the summer. However, it doesn't matter much if the ambient RH is not the same as it is outside. I actually have devoted an entire closet with milk jugs of water which have stands of rope to soake up the water to help with evaporation. This gives me a range of 75-85% RH. When it is cloudy and rainy, it can reach the 90% even.
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Postby Ti » Jul 13th, '08, 20:38

hop_goblin wrote:It's simple. Without the proper humidity and aeration, puerh will not age. This is why it is very difficult for people in the U.S. to store and age pu-erh. Although some areas in the U.S. are some what on the humid side, this isn't most cases. Luckily, I live in an area that seems to have decent humidity in the spring and in the summer. However, it doesn't matter much if the ambient RH is not the same as it is outside. I actually have devoted an entire closet with milk jugs of water which have stands of rope to soake up the water to help with evaporation. This gives me a range of 75-85% RH. When it is cloudy and rainy, it can reach the 90% even.


Wow! That sounds real coo!.

So what is your experience here in relation to the actual taste of the pu that has been stored in humidor as opposed to the taste of previous dry air stored pu? In your opinion, does this approach to pu storage enhance the flavor enough (as it does in cigars) to justify the trouble of building humidor? (trouble being a subjective term in this instance.)
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Postby hop_goblin » Jul 13th, '08, 21:21

Ti wrote:
hop_goblin wrote:It's simple. Without the proper humidity and aeration, puerh will not age. This is why it is very difficult for people in the U.S. to store and age pu-erh. Although some areas in the U.S. are some what on the humid side, this isn't most cases. Luckily, I live in an area that seems to have decent humidity in the spring and in the summer. However, it doesn't matter much if the ambient RH is not the same as it is outside. I actually have devoted an entire closet with milk jugs of water which have stands of rope to soake up the water to help with evaporation. This gives me a range of 75-85% RH. When it is cloudy and rainy, it can reach the 90% even.


Wow! That sounds real coo!.

So what is your experience here in relation to the actual taste of the pu that has been stored in humidor as opposed to the taste of previous dry air stored pu? In your opinion, does this approach to pu storage enhance the flavor enough (as it does in cigars) to justify the trouble of building humidor? (trouble being a subjective term in this instance.)



Ti, I think the word "dry" stored pu-erh is confusing you. There are 2 types of sheng or raw pu-erhs - those that will under go dry conditions and wet stored pu-erh. Although the word dry implies that now humidity as been applied, the fact of the matter is that "dry stored" puerh has been aged in relatively dry conditions however this dry condition is still ranging between 70%-80% RH. On the flip side, wet stored pu-erh is pu-erh which has under gone a relatively expedited aging process thru the use of high humidty. We stored puerh storing conditions generally have a storage of 80-90% and in some cases much higher for a longer time than usual. For instance, dry storage conditions may at times reach 90% humidity. However, the trick to aging lies in that during the dry seasons such as in winter, the water will evaporate. A skillful tea merchant will alternate and move his or her stock within the warehouse so that each piece will receieve equal amounts of water while allowing the pieces that were just exposed to thoroughly dry. When you compare this to wet stored pu-erh, they purposely store pu-erh in a continuous high humid enviroment in order to expedite the process for sometime just right to the threshold where any more humidty would deteriote the leaves. Once the leaves are to the liking of the merchant they will subsequently store the pu-erh in a dry enviroment so that the musty and wet flavors can mellow. Its a difficult process and one in which I am not too familiar myself with.

As for you question, all quality aged pu-erh has been stored in a humid enviroment, the classification and where taste will differ will be in the rates of humidity both in time and application. As for the cigar and pu comparison, all pu-erh for the most part is meant to be enjoyed later. The flavors will mellow and transform in given the proper aging enviroments and time. If you are planning to age your own pu-erh then you should indeed think of applying humidity in some form or another. If you don't do this, like sal mentioned, you will have 10 year old sheng that taste as if were just pressed a year of two ago.
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Postby augie » Jul 13th, '08, 22:04

hop_goblin wrote:I actually have devoted an entire closet with milk jugs of water which have stands of rope to soake up the water to help with evaporation.


Hop, I sure hope you have good locks on your doors and an alarm system! :wink:
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Postby hop_goblin » Jul 13th, '08, 22:45

augie wrote:
hop_goblin wrote:I actually have devoted an entire closet with milk jugs of water which have stands of rope to soake up the water to help with evaporation.


Hop, I sure hope you have good locks on your doors and an alarm system! :wink:


HAHAH No alarms.. I am sure thieves around this area woudlnt even know what the heck it is! :lol:
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Postby shogun89 » Jul 13th, '08, 23:07

"HAHAH No alarms.. I am sure thieves around this area woudlnt even know what the heck it is! :lol:"

I dont know, The first couple of cakes I got my parents thought it was pot!

For the humidor I just built one today. I bought like a Tupperware container big enough for my puerh collection, then put a sandwich size Tupperware container with holes in the lid and a wet sponge inside. I then put that inside the main box with my cakes. I have a humidity gauge to check it so i will post what I get tomorrow for a reading.
If you are interested I will write up a more descriptive procedure with pictures. The entire thing cost me about $8 at WalMart.
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Postby hop_goblin » Jul 13th, '08, 23:38

shogun89 wrote:"HAHAH No alarms.. I am sure thieves around this area woudlnt even know what the heck it is! :lol:"

I dont know, The first couple of cakes I got my parents thought it was pot!

For the humidor I just built one today. I bought like a Tupperware container big enough for my puerh collection, then put a sandwich size Tupperware container with holes in the lid and a wet sponge inside. I then put that inside the main box with my cakes. I have a humidity gauge to check it so i will post what I get tomorrow for a reading.
If you are interested I will write up a more descriptive procedure with pictures. The entire thing cost me about $8 at WalMart.


Sounds like you put a lot of thought into it. However, just remember that pu-erh likes to breath so open the container every once and a while.
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Postby Salsero » Jul 14th, '08, 00:01

shogun89 wrote:"HAHAH No alarms.. I am sure thieves around this area woudlnt even know what the heck it is! :lol:"

I dont know, The first couple of cakes I got my parents thought it was pot!

For the humidor I just built one today. I bought like a Tupperware container big enough for my puerh collection, then put a sandwich size Tupperware container with holes in the lid and a wet sponge inside. I then put that inside the main box with my cakes. I have a humidity gauge to check it so i will post what I get tomorrow for a reading.
If you are interested I will write up a more descriptive procedure with pictures. The entire thing cost me about $8 at WalMart.
Sounds like a great experiment. It seems to me Andy tried doing something similar a year or so ago with an airtight container and he had problems with excess humidity and mold, so keep an eye on it.

I personally use a wooden 2-drawer nightstand like you put next to the bed. It is not airtight, but does allow me to use containers of water to keep the humidity at close to 70%, though I haven't been able to get much above that. I also use a plastic stackable drawer that I bought at WalMart (in their Puerh storage supplies section). I have just the one drawer, but I could buy another to put on top. In that one I can get a slightly higher RH but it is also far from airtight. I think the idea of having exchange with ambient air is probably important. Wesli and Hop's systems both have that feature.

Also, be aware that the RH may not increase, may in fact actually be quite low, in the first few days or week of your humidor's life, because the dry teacakes suck moisture from the air until they reach some maintenance level of hydration.

I don't know how long cigars age, but be aware that it might take a year or two to assess changes in your puerh attributable to the humidor.

I am drinking a 2007 Yiwu Early Spring Tea Cake from PuerhShop even as I type.
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Postby insanitylater » Jul 14th, '08, 01:11

how much water do you put in with your puerh sal? and how regularly is it changed ?
i moved mine into a desk drawer in my room but i haven't added any water yet
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Postby Salsero » Jul 14th, '08, 02:09

I think what is important is not the volume of water but the surface area of water exposed to air. I have one or two quart-sized plastic Chinese take out containers with about an inch or two of water at the bottom in each drawer. Each of those puts about a 6 inch circle of water in contact with the air.

For a while, I was using the moisture absorbing crystals described in the long LJ thread but they seemed to start growing mold or whatever in 2 to 3 weeks. Recently I switched to just water, in those high containers to minimize the risk of spillage. The water seems not to get funky even after 3 or 4 weeks. Once a month or so, maybe three times every two months, I take the containers out, run them through the dishwasher to kill most microbes, refill, and replace them.

The paper on the cakes feels different, wetter, after being in the humidor, even at the rather low level of humidity (~70% RH) that I maintain, so I figure the cakes themselves are also nicely humid. Unfortunately, I have a way less than average sense of smell, so I can't sense the aroma very well, but I suspect it is really wonderful to someone with a fully functioning sniffer.

In the shu drawer (the plastic one) I had a bout of something Hop identified as White Frost. That episode is detailed in another thread viewtopic.php?t=4501&highlight=white+frost
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Postby shogun89 » Jul 14th, '08, 09:52

So Salsero you seem to describe your humidor as being made out of wood with trays of water inside, is this correct? I may need to come up with something different beacuase i have not achieved any difference in humidity overnight.
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