Sheng PuErh can be kept for more than hundred years whereas Shu PuErh is deemed to be at it best between ten and twenty years old depending on quality. These can be kept longer but experts feel that most teas doesn't continue to improve after this time. As a rule of thumb the higher the quality of either type, the longer it can be kept. The easiest PuErh teas to source are usually those that are between one and five years old.
PuErh tea is stored very differently from green tea such as Long Jing and light QingXiang Oolong which should be kept in air tight containers and ideally in low temperatures. PuEr tea should be stored in a stable environment that is not subject to sudden changes. Ideally dark, warm/frost free and in an environment where there is a natural, seasonal changes in humidity that encourages the enzymes that produce the secondary fermentation, and so the ageing of the tea. It said that places located round the Tropic of Capricorn, such as Singapore, Hong Kong & other Southern Chinese provinces are the best.
Although it is beneficial for PuErh tea to be exposed to humidity, this should not be for extended periods of time i.e. years. This will cause the tea to spoil and potential become mouldy. By providing an environment where there four natural seasons the tea has a chance to age during the moister summer seasons, then rest and dry during the winter. On the other hand, too drier conditions will mean the tea dries too slowly and will take considerably longer to mature.
Storing and Keeping your Puerh cake
How to store your Puerh cake
The beauty and magic of Puerhs is that they are 'living teas' that continue to develop and 'mature' with age. Depending on the storage conditions and the type of Puerh (for example, Raw or Ripe), they possess life spans up to, and exceeding, twenty years. Once pressed into their finished compact form, be it disc, golden ingot, or brick, the flattened leaves are exposed to vapours in the surrounding atmosphere, and an unceasing series of chemical exchanges occurs, a process often understood as fermentation or ripening.
You will find that different producers will offer tea cakes pressed with varying densities. Some prefer looser pressings, whilst others tend toward almost granite like pressings. Lighter pressings are often seen to age more quickly, whereas tight pressings age more slowly and some say that these also preserve more of the aromatic oils that give puer teas their special aromas.
Serious Puerh collectors in China design purpose-built cellars or storage spaces for their own collection, although, unless you are planing on assembling your own, it's not always convenient to do so. For this reason, how to store and maintain the quality of your Puerhs after purchase is an important part of understanding Puerh teas.
Below are several aspects of storage that will help you find a suitable place to store your Puerh:
HUMIDITY Dampness is damaging, so any spaces with excessive humidity, such as bath, or wash rooms shouldn't be in close proximity to your Puerhs.Ideal levels of humidity for storing Puerh tea is between 70-80%.
TEMPERATURE High temperatures will accelerate the ageing process and potentially impair the tasting quality of stored Puerhs. Temperatures shouldn't fluctuate too much, with a range of 20-30 degrees Celsius considered ideal.
LIGHT Stored Puerhs should avoid direct contact with sunlight, as well they shouldn't be placed in gloomy, damp-promoting parts of the house.
SMOKE Puerhs should be stored away from kitchens, dining rooms, or any area where smoke from oil or smoke from other materials may enter the atmosphere.
AROMAS They should also be stored away from bedrooms where the presence of cosmetics or perfumes will also release aromatic vapours harmful to the health of the your Puerh.
CUPBOARDS Avoid enclosing Puerhs in wardrobes, cupboards or drawers, where the presence of wood or glue may, overtime, penetrate the ageing leaves.
SPACIOUSNESS Large, spacious areas encourage the diffusion of vapours present in Puerhs thereby reducing the complexity of aromatic compounds; weaker, thinner teas result.
BREATHABLE.The quality of the storing environment determines effect of ongoing fermentation or ripening, so it is important to select an appropriate materials or containers to store your Puerhs.
Unlike other teas, they should not be sealed
in vacuum-packed bags. Puerhs need to
breathe; that is have a steady supply of fresh air, albeit, a limited one. As such it is important that
they are packaged in breathable or semi-permeable materials. A popular solution wrapping in clean, acid-free paper and packed into
good-quality, odour-free cardboard boxes. Some people may also use a plastic seally bag to reduce moisture loss. You can experiment with this either over the paper wrap or alternatively over the out cardboard box.
Conversation with Wang Man Yuan, President of World Puer Tea Association
Hong Jiu Neng Weishenme Puer bu neng (Red Wine can, so why not Puerh?), Xu Yi Xian, Wen Wu Chu Ban She, 2013
First step to Chinese Puerh Tea, Chan Kam Pong, WU-SHING BOOKS, 2006