Storing Pu-erh


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

Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby TIM » Aug 30th, '13, 00:21

Exempt wrote:
TIM wrote:
Exempt wrote:
Tead Off wrote:This is one of the reasons many people put their cakes into sealed plastic bags to preserve aroma and flavor. Exposure to air will deteriorate this just like with any other tea. It makes sense.

A lot of people (like Marshaln) believe that doing this stops or severely limits the aging process


Can you explain why would it stops or limits the aging process?

As far as I'm aware puerh requires certain amounts of oxygen and airborne microbes to ferment. After a certain amount of time in a totally closed environment the necessary elements will be used or changed which will limit or stop the fermentation process.

Of course I don't know nearly as much about puerh as you so this may not be correct, however, I know Marshaln does not believe in sealing puerh and I respect his opinion as well.


I am not sure how much air does it need to keep a cake from stop breathing (aging)? I am not sure either if Marshaln does not believe in sealing (with air) puerh cakes... I know he does not support vacuum seal in Hong Kong climate. We should let him clarify?
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby TIM » Aug 30th, '13, 00:24

Exempt wrote:
TIM wrote:
Exempt wrote:
Tead Off wrote:This is one of the reasons many people put their cakes into sealed plastic bags to preserve aroma and flavor. Exposure to air will deteriorate this just like with any other tea. It makes sense.

A lot of people (like Marshaln) believe that doing this stops or severely limits the aging process


Can you explain why would it stops or limits the aging process?

As far as I'm aware puerh requires certain amounts of oxygen and airborne microbes to ferment. After a certain amount of time in a totally closed environment the necessary elements will be used or changed which will limit or stop the fermentation process.


Where did you get this idea?
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Exempt » Aug 30th, '13, 00:35

MarshalN wrote:Hmm, I've been invoked...

I don't think constant airflow is the answer. In fact, my storage has very little airflow. I don't believe in sealing the tea, at least not when they're young (when we have 20 years old cakes it's a different problem) but I think airflow is bad.

I store my tea in a cupboard with doors. I only open it when I need something from it. It's not like a fridge door or anything - it will allow a minimal amount of air to circulate, but that's it. In a place like Hong Kong a tight seal runs a very high risk of mold.

Your mileage may vary, depending on your location and climate, but airflow, from what I've seen so far, is never a good idea.

This is what I was trying to get across. Minimal airflow, but no sealing individual teas.
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Exempt » Aug 30th, '13, 00:37

TIM wrote:
Exempt wrote:
TIM wrote:
Exempt wrote:
Tead Off wrote:This is one of the reasons many people put their cakes into sealed plastic bags to preserve aroma and flavor. Exposure to air will deteriorate this just like with any other tea. It makes sense.

A lot of people (like Marshaln) believe that doing this stops or severely limits the aging process


Can you explain why would it stops or limits the aging process?

As far as I'm aware puerh requires certain amounts of oxygen and airborne microbes to ferment. After a certain amount of time in a totally closed environment the necessary elements will be used or changed which will limit or stop the fermentation process.


Where did you get this idea?

Various blogs, forums, and discussions I've had with people. Do you have a different understanding of aging?
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Tead Off » Aug 30th, '13, 06:56

After listening to Teasim and his experience with aging puerh in sealed bags, not necessarily vacuum sealed, I think this is the safest way for SE Asians and our climate. He has said that he knows many tea collectors that have been doing this for decades with great success. Hojo also recommends this way and says there is already enough microbes in the cakes and enough oxygen to keep the aging process going even in vacuum sealed bags. Personally, I don't vacuum seal mine but all are kept in food grade zip locks.

With cakes that I've had stored 6 years without being in bags, I began to notice a tapering off of flavor and aroma in some of them. Some kind of protection is a must, I think. No one would expose other teas to the air for any length of time like greens, oolongs, and red/black teas. Tea fades with exposure. Why would puerh be an exception.
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Drax » Aug 30th, '13, 09:08

While the sealed bag idea makes sense (although I'm not so sure that vacuum sealing would really leave "enough oxygen," at least, not if it's truly vacuum sealed), how do we make sense of the older teas that went through warehouse storage that seem to be doing fine?

Or at least, I'm assuming those early-mid '90s 7542 teas that pop up weren't all stored in bags. (Of course, they're not all wonderful...)

I've seen one or two examples of the same tea that went through storage in different areas (to compare traditional and dry). But do we have any examples of a 10-20 year tea that we can compare for bag versus warehouse (or something like that)?

Again, I'm just trying to make sense of all the mass-stored tea that seems to be aging fine without being sealed. Maybe it would actually be better if it had been sealed? Maybe the mass-storage is a type of sealing? (If you had rows and rows of piles of tea cakes, the ones in the middle would sort of be isolated).
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby MarshalN » Aug 30th, '13, 10:03

Just think about it this way - you're a big time tea dealer. You have literally tonnes of tea. You've been in the business for 30 years.

Do you put them all in bags? No. You don't even air condition the warehouse. You just let it sit. You will probably rotate the tea. You will probably keep the warehouse ventilated enough so it's not going to grow mold. But the idea that you need to seal (or vacuum seal) your tea is rather silly.
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Tead Off » Aug 30th, '13, 10:14

MarshalN wrote:Just think about it this way - you're a big time tea dealer. You have literally tonnes of tea. You've been in the business for 30 years.

Do you put them all in bags? No. You don't even air condition the warehouse. You just let it sit. You will probably rotate the tea. You will probably keep the warehouse ventilated enough so it's not going to grow mold. But the idea that you need to seal (or vacuum seal) your tea is rather silly.

I'm not saying you're wrong but how do you explain Teaism's experience and those that he knows who have been doing this for decades in Sing and KL? I'm nothing close to a knowledgeable puerh drinker, but I've drunk more bad puerh than good, both aged and newer, and the vast majority have been exposed to the ambient conditions in different locales. I have to think that the odds are in your favor, if you find a tea that you like, to put them in a zip locked bag to protect them from the elements. Why leave it to only luck?
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby MarshalN » Aug 30th, '13, 10:24

Because puerh is not oolong, it's not green. Those teas are not designed for aging - they are meant for immediate consumption. The point of storing puerh is so that it will change. If your object is to maintain the tea as it is now, then yes, by all means, seal them up, vacuum them, put them in black boxes. But that's not what puerh is - puerh is an aged tea. Those wonderful 50 years old red labels out there? They were, for the most part, not put in plastic bags and sealed up all these years, and they're still wonderful now because the base tea was good and they were stored well.

I have been drinking a series of tea made and stored by the vendor themselves from 2006 to the present. None of them were of course stored in any of those silly vacuum seals or bags or anything - just regular tongs, which afford some air exchange. The tea is aging just fine. The idea that you need to put them in bags or seal them up is ludicrous. I'm not at all suggesting you should put tea on an open shelf and under the sun - I am saying they don't need to live in plastic bags.

Throwing your question back at you, thousands of drinkers in HK and Taiwan don't seal their tea up when they buy them. They leave them out naturally and let them age. They have fine results from that too. How do you explain that?
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby chrl42 » Aug 30th, '13, 10:53

I am a super newbie of Puerh...

I was just thinking..giving a few air flow might not be a bad idea..plastic or vinyl are completely air-off, if you store Kimchi in a plastic container the smell will haunt it and not be gone for a few days.

Ceramic is rather better..maybe they are fired or else. I was thinking ceramic or clayware (like Yixing or Onggi) to be good place to store tea. For their odor-removing function and keeping the temperature at certain range. But my experience is limited...maybe I should try...see ya in 10 years :)
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Teaism » Aug 30th, '13, 10:56

MArshalN and Teaoff,

We should meet up and have a good talk over a good session of tea :D

I shared my experience for storing tea in Singapore and Malaysia where the temperature is constantly high at 30-35C and humidity of constantly 70%-80%. It may not work in Taiwan, China or other climatic conditions. So far in this climatic condition, sealing the tea in shrink wrap food safe plastic works the best. For older tea, I vaccum pack them and sealed them in mylar bag. They do age well whilst preserving its flavour.

How do I explain that? By drinking the tea of course. My collection of Puer span from 1950s to present and I explored tea like crazy more than 2 decades and learned from many teamasters in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Many have different perception and argument over this issue and I am sure this topic will lead to a wide range of opinions...and until today many still doggedly cling to their own belief.

Why? because, those who exposed their tea don't know what was lost in that aging and storing method. When they drink the tea they thought old tea is supposed to be like that until they taste an old tea full of flavour. I have tasted the same tea by the same source of 70s kept by 2 different masters and the seal one was great and the expose one was mediocre. Again this works for the climatic region I am in.

I know a lot of merchant and what they can do to manipulate tea. I also know some specialist who can do wonders. One "master" I know can create a 70 years old Song Ping Hao and pass the expert scrutiny. They are really good in that. But generally many merchant air their new tea to speed up the aging so that they can sell them easier. I know a group in Perak, Malaysia doing that. They buy by container and store them on the floor of a landed property and the ground moisture aged the tea faster. In 3 years, the tea aging accelerated while still some residue flavour intact and they shipped back to China to sell them. What happen after that in the long term is at the expense of the buyer.

Maybe eventually, the climatic condition is the main determinant of the correct storage method, no one is wrong or right and we are all free to decide.

Anyway, I have resign myself from dwelling over this topic and prefer the quiet moment to enjoy tea instead. :D
Last edited by Teaism on Aug 30th, '13, 11:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby MarshalN » Aug 30th, '13, 11:03

Once a tea is 10 or 15 years or so old by all means shrink wrap them, but not when they're totally new.
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby theredbaron » Aug 30th, '13, 12:09

MarshalN wrote:Because puerh is not oolong, it's not green. Those teas are not designed for aging - they are meant for immediate consumption. The point of storing puerh is so that it will change. If your object is to maintain the tea as it is now, then yes, by all means, seal them up, vacuum them, put them in black boxes. But that's not what puerh is - puerh is an aged tea. Those wonderful 50 years old red labels out there? They were, for the most part, not put in plastic bags and sealed up all these years, and they're still wonderful now because the base tea was good and they were stored well.

I have been drinking a series of tea made and stored by the vendor themselves from 2006 to the present. None of them were of course stored in any of those silly vacuum seals or bags or anything - just regular tongs, which afford some air exchange. The tea is aging just fine. The idea that you need to put them in bags or seal them up is ludicrous. I'm not at all suggesting you should put tea on an open shelf and under the sun - I am saying they don't need to live in plastic bags.

Throwing your question back at you, thousands of drinkers in HK and Taiwan don't seal their tea up when they buy them. They leave them out naturally and let them age. They have fine results from that too. How do you explain that?



Some semi fermented teas have been made to store at least for a limited period of time before drinking, but can be stored for much longer, and will age very nicely - Yancha comes to mind.

As to aging of Pu - i guess it really depends on the climate. Singapore and KL have brutal levels of humidity, and there the challenge seems to me to keep the humidity away from the tea, than keeping humidity levels up. I have drunk quite a few Pu Erh's stored there which were quite stuffy, not very clean tasting.
From this aspect, keeping the cakes sealed may make sense - there.
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby theredbaron » Aug 30th, '13, 12:16

Tead Off wrote:With cakes that I've had stored 6 years without being in bags, I began to notice a tapering off of flavor and aroma in some of them. Some kind of protection is a must, I think. No one would expose other teas to the air for any length of time like greens, oolongs, and red/black teas. Tea fades with exposure. Why would puerh be an exception.



I can only say that i have not have made that experience. I just store them on a shelve here, in their wrappers, or in some acid free paper when they came without wrappers.
After breaking up one of my 10 + year old cakes, and putting the leaves in a container - the smell of aged tea is simply overpowering, both in the container, and later in the pot while drinking.

Anyhow, right now sipping a late 90's Xiaguan Tuo, which i have kept for years just wrapped in the paper, lying in the shelve, and once a while nibbling on it. Sweet clean taste, not hugely complex, but very pleasant :)
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Re: Storing Pu-erh

Postby Evan Draper » Aug 30th, '13, 14:47

After 20 years, whose gushu will taste the best? The Hong Kong warehouser? The Westerner with the vacuum sealer? The Singaporean with the airing cupboard? Or will a mainlander fabricate a counterfeit that trumps them all? Cigar beads and computer fans will be deployed! Lu Yu and Daoism will be gratuitously invoked! All this and more, on the next season of STORAGE WARS!!!
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