Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Advice on long term puerh storage

(This post is an answer to a reader in the USA, who is wondering where to store his young puerh).

Ceramic pots are not necessary for long term storage, only for shorter storage, after flaking part of a cake/brick for instance.
Your basement may be a good way to keep the humidity high, but I would be concerned with bad odors (I don't know your basement and it may be clean and smelling like daisies...) In that case, I would move the puerh up during the warm summer days (I guess the temperature stay cool and even during the whole year in the basement). This would also help to let it breath a little from time to time.

Too bad your puer cakes are not wrapped by 7 in their original large bamboo leaves. That would take care of the dust. So wrap them in a clean cloth, like a T-Shirt instead (the air goes through and the dust stays on).

Another thing you can do is to flake some puer and put it in the open for a couple of months in the basement and in your other alternative place(s). Then smell and taste the different samples to see which aged best over this period.

You are probably aware that puerh postfermentation takes place thanks to several microbes. Some of them only appear after a certain time. One way to speed up the whole process is then to have some older puerh around to interact with the new (as for homemade yoguhrt). A few manufacturers even will put a few older leaves in the cakes for that purpose. So, while, in theory, you don't want to mix all you puerhs together (they would absorb each others' smells and loose their purity), you may want to have some older puer around the young one to give them a boost.

For this purpose, I recommend my 1990 raw Menghai region Fang Cha Zuan. It's still affordable. You can drink it right away and see towards what your puers will evolve, and you can keep some close to your young puers.

Your basement could be a good place for long term storing for one reason: you will more easily forget about it and rediscover it by the time you are moving out or refurnishing the whole place. But that's also a drawback, because it could also provide some visual and smelling pleasure during the aging time if you stored it in a place you spend time. Just don't be tempted to try a piece all too often.

Also remember that the value of storing young puerh is similar to a financial investment. There are 2 important variables to consider: what you invest and for how long. Selecting an average puerh is like investing in fixed deposit. It will grow, but little by little by little. Best is to select top performers, high quality puer made from good leaves, well processed and from a reputed source. These are the ones that appretiate like stock funds. Then there is the question of your time span. The secret is compounding interest. The older and longer you store your puerh, the more it will appretiate every year. For this, best is to start early and young! An alternative for older tea lovers is to store now 10 to 15 years old puerhs that should still carry reasonable price levels.

3 comments:

Alain thé said...

I was thinking that my wine cellar which is at 12°C all the year was too cold for puerh. I thought that we should keep them at an average of 20°C to allow the development of the microbes.

David said...

Stephane,
When you speak of separating young/aged/cooked cakes, how much separation are you speaking of? I currently have all of my tea for aging in a large metal cabinet with shelves and ventilation. The teas are separated by variety on the shelves, i.e. young sheng on the bottom, and older sheng in the middle. the top is reserved for samples, etc. Is this enough separation for long-term storage, or do you recommend further separation, such as different cabinets or even rooms?

By the way, the odor from the cabinet is a hint of what heaven must smell like.

Stephane said...

Hi David,

Your installation seems to sufficiently separate. I also wrote that the younger puers benefit from some closeness to the older ones for the bacteria to spread and do their job. The fact that it smells good is a sign of positive activity.

My only thought would be to do it the way I do it and make a switch:
I put the young ones on the top shelve and the old ones below. Old puer has 'heavier' smells, and young has 'lighter' smells. I think it also applies in a physical sense, which means that gravity will keep the heavier smells low and the light smells high. So a switch would help make a better separation.