How to Store Puerh Tea (Future Puerh Enthusiasts, Take Note)
When you store away different types of puerh tea with the purpose of ageing it, gradual fermentation can spur the development of the taste and the aroma of the tea.
However, ageing puerh at home all by yourself is easier said than done. There are countless factors you need to keep in mind, temperature and humidity being two of the most important ones.
You may not care about ageing it, but even just for consumption, if you don’t know how to store puerh tea properly, the tea may dry out quickly, or the tea quality may decline. Don’t worry, though! We’ve outlined several low-maintenance solutions and vital factors for puerh tea storage, for ageing or just for drinking it, so you can hold on to your puerh for a year, and beyond. Check them out!
Table of contents
Don’t keep it in direct sunlight
- Allow air circulation
- Keep it away from odours
- Store the puerh tea in moderate temperature
- Keep an eye on the humidity level
- Separate shu puerh from sheng puerh
If you want to store puerh tea just for drinking it, the easiest acceptable way is to retain original packaging, place the tea into a ziploc bag, and keep it in a dark place out of sunlight. That should be good if you intend to drink it within a few months. If, on the other hand, you intend to keep it longer, and even hope to see it age, then read on!
How to store puerh tea: Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t keep it in direct sunlight
Light isn’t good for puerh tea, as the flavour of the tea may change, leaving a bitter taste in your mouth after you brew the puerh tea and drink it up. So, make sure you don’t keep your puerh tea on counters or places that receive regular sunlight.
We’d recommend placing the tea (loose-leaf or puerh cakes) in darker locations the sunlight can’t reach.
Allow air circulation
For puerh to age properly, the tea leaves need a fair amount of airflow during their storage. That’s because storing puerh tea in airtight containers for days at a stretch will stop microbes from fermenting the tea.
The result? A drastic change in puerh tea flavour! Allowing enough air to get to the tea leaves is the way to go.
Keep it away from odours
We did recommend storing puerh tea in a dark place, but keeping it in enclosed spaces is a strict no-no - especially if that enclosed space is where you keep your onions. And don’t even think about storing puerh in your spice cabinet!
In fact, keep puerh away from your bathroom, kitchen, or any other place that’s got significant odours from, say, soaps and detergents.
The reason why we’re harping on this point is that the flavour of the brew will change if the puerh tea leaves absorb any kind of strong aromas or odours. The taste of puerh tea being entirely unique, you wouldn’t want it to give off a somewhat spicy tang, or have a hint of basil or rosemary-like flavour (or even an oniony one!).
Store the puerh tea in moderate temperature
The ideal temperature for puerh tea storage ranges between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius (68 to 86 Fahrenheit). Anything too high or too low will produce unwanted flavours in your puerh tea. More specifically, too high a temperature will speed up the fermentation process and make the tender puerh tea go sour.
On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, there won’t be any fermentation at all, so the ageing process of the tea will be impeded. Plus, fluctuating storage temperatures can also affect the puerh tea flavour, as some people who’ve aged puerh at home may attest.
Either way, it’s best to let the puerh tea keep ageing by moderating the temperatures in the storage area.
For example, if you’re living in a place with a cold climate for most of the year, you can store your puerh in a room that comes with some sort of a heating system, like a space heater. Storing the tea too close to the heater wouldn’t be a good idea, though, and don’t let the puerh get overheated!
Keep an eye on the humidity level
Generally, the suitable humidity level for storing puerh tea is around 60-70%.
As a rule of thumb, though, you ought to aim for a humidity level after taking the temperature into account. Where there’s colder temperature, the humidity level should be at the higher end of the appropriate range, preferably 70%. In places with higher temperatures, you’d want the humidity level to be around 60%.
There are a number of options for regulating humidity such as homemade salt packs, humidity beads, and even clay pouch buttons (soak the button in water for 30 minutes or so, wipe the clay off once it’s absorbed, and add it inside your puerh storage area).
A few people may even suggest using Boveda packs to add humidity. It’s one of the easiest methods, we agree, but you might flinch from using these due to their cost. Instead, one of the cheapest ways of getting the humidity level you want for your puerh is to break any terra cotta pots you may have, and use the broken clay shards after boiling and soaking them in water.
In places with lower humidity levels, you can use a humidifier as well, but be sure to carefully limit its use to avoid over-fermentation.
Separate shu puerh from sheng puerh
It’s remarkable how teas can pick up on fragrances easily, so you should store your puerh teas together as much as possible. That’s because the smell of one puerh package will intensify the aroma of another.
For the same reason, we’d advise you to store sheng (raw) and shu (ripe) puerh separately, since these types of puerh tea don’t have the same aroma characteristics.
What you can do is keep all the sheng puerh at one place, and all the shu puerh teas at another.
If you’re thinking of storing puerh tea at home, ask yourself: “Why do I want to store puerh?” Do you want to stock the tea for drinking it, or do you want to age the puerh tea on your own?
No matter what your purpose may be, we mention both, how to store puerh tea in case you just wish to drink it, or in case you’re in it for the long haul (ageing the tea).
Ideal ways of storing puerh tea for ageing it
When it comes to storing puerh tea to age it at home, you’ve got to be extra careful about the humidity, temperature, and the other factors related to puerh tea storage. Here are some methods you can use to store away your puerh for more than a year.
Crock storage for puerh
This method is a step higher for casual puerh drinkers, but it’s worth mentioning, so we’re going to list this here. More importantly, using crocks is ideal for airing out your loose-leaf puerh teas and aged puerh cakes.
If the pot doesn’t have a lid, you can still place a clean paper towel over it and secure the towel with a rubber band, so that dust doesn’t get on the tea. In case it’s a thick and heavy covered crock, it will maintain a moderate temperature.
You’ll also find that the glaze of the pots prevents the puerh from drying out too quickly.
Again, some puerh enthusiasts prefer storing their tea in bright red clay pottery to keeping it in stoneware pottery. They say that puerh tea stored in clay pots seems to retain moisture well, and is fragrant, too - want to try this out with some Jing Mai Puerh?
We think preserving the original packaging of the puerh tea may prove to be useful, as paper wrappers, carton boxes, and bamboo leaf wrappers or sheets are designed to regulate external influences for protecting the tea.
However, if you don’t have the original puerh tea wrappers or other packaging material anymore, look for puerh storage envelopes like Kraft paper bags or handmade paper. Of course, the quality of the paper, in this case, should be a priority.
And, while we’re on the topic, please, please don’t store puerh tea in a cardboard box, and certainly not for days on end - if you don’t want the tea to get a cardboard smell and get too dried out, that is.
Wondering what a “pumidor” is? Well, you must’ve heard of a humidor, right? (In case you haven’t, a humidor is an airtight box used to store cigars by controlling humidity). To make it crystal clear to you - “puerh” + “humidor” = “pumidor”.
Getting a pumidor for aging your puerh tea means you’ve got to add the right amount of water to regulate the humidity - all the while keeping in mind the type of water you use, whether it’s distilled water or tap water.
It’s just as important to keep tabs on the humidification devices and hygrometers (this might sound like gibberish to beginners, but since using pumidors to age puerh tea is the most advanced method in this post, we’re not going into the specifics of pumidors right now).
How to store puerh tea just for drinking
To maintain the standard of your puerh so that you can reap the puerh tea benefits, a good mid-term storage method would be to use Mylar bags.
It’s not like you can store only one puerh cake per mylar bag, by the way, multiple puerh cakes can fit together into one mylar.
Just seal it tightly by putting the mouth of the bag on a smooth board and running an ordinary clothes iron over the length of the mouth (even a flat iron hair straightener would do). Before sealing the bag, though, make sure to throw in an oxygen absorber.
The best thing about storing puerh cakes in these bags is that you can reuse and re-seal them as many times as you like.
Well-sealed ziploc bags
If you can’t get hold of a mylar bag or a crock, using a Ziploc bag is an alternative option for storing your puerh tea, but only when you want to store the tea for drinking it, and not for aging it. Keep your puerh cakes wrapped in their original packaging before inserting them into a Ziploc bag.
Remember, it’s super important to keep your puerh storage bags sealed for protecting the tea. With Ziploc bags, however, you can’t always be too sure about the bags sealing as well as you’d like them to be.
Even so, you can use well-sealed Ziplocs to store at least some puerh cakes for a few months. Take care not to keep your puerh in a Ziploc for more than a year, though.
Also, when you’re storing puerh tea just for drinking it, you don’t need to wrap your head around all those extra factors, like temperature, and humidity. Simply make sure that the tea is kept in Ziplocs or mylar bags, and place the bags in a dark area - that’s all!
Wrapping it up
In our opinion, your best option would be to keep the puerh tea wrapped in its original packaging, and store it away in mylar bags or crocks.
All of this may sound too confusing for you at first, but trust us, once you actually start storing puerh tea on your own at home, you’ll begin to understand what you should and shouldn’t do. So many people learn from their mistakes!You can pick out any of the above solutions for storing puerh cakes or your loose-leaf puerh tea, and then let us all know how it went. Cheers!