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Saturday, March 21, 2015

When Crock Puerh Storage works TOO well

Jar on the left is the culprit.
Today I discovered one of my storage jars seemed to be developing a touch of mold on top of the tea and I decided to pour out the loose tea into a larger vessel. To my shock as I poured out the tea, it had not only gone to shou but gone past that into compost!

Ack.

This tea is a 2004 Jian Shen 100g tuo from white2tea, a very inexpensive tuo at $9.90 fortunately. These tuos, when purchased new, exhibit dry storage and are fairly green. Originally I bought a pack of 5, so 500g (half a kilo!) of tea total for around $50.

Two months ago I decided to break up one of the green tuos and put the loose tea into the jar shown above. We are still in winter and at the time my household RH was around 24%. I added no additional moisture to the tea. Now, two months later I have compost.

Rather shocking considering how DRY the house is. But the good news is that the original crock where I'm storing these tuos is working far better than I thought!

Frankoma Crock where the rest of the tuos are.
I haven't added any additional moisture to the crock of tuos all winter. No clay shards, no pouch buttons. The lid on the crock is a bit loose, it moves around. Back in January, I thought perhaps the tuos must be getting dry, even though I can smell the tea. Now I've learned the Frankoma crock is working just fine. Last fall when I started posting on crock storage, I felt that a 2013 Bada Shan sample stored in Frankoma had the best progress of any of the crock types. Frankoma is a red ware clay.

Obviously too I had overstuffed the small storage jar with the Jian Shen tea. But with no additional moisture added, and an RH around 24% in the house, the ONLY way the Jian Shen tea obtained enough moisture in it to rot like this is because of the PREVIOUS moisture the tuo back from 6 months or more in the Frankoma crock. Here is another Jian Shen tuo from the Frankoma, as of today.

A current Jian Shen tuo, unwrapped for the photo from the Frankoma crock.
You can see it is browning nicely, but is dry enough and not moldy anywhere. So I got some good data from this accident.

1. Don't overstuff the crocks.

2. I can leave the wrappers on.

3. I may not need to add additional moisture to wrapped and crocked tea even when the house is exceptionally dry.

4. Frankoma red clay pottery is still my #1.


12 comments:

  1. I think being tightly corked it made an environment of evaporation and condensation. That's why I think some airflow is important. The Frankoma has room for some air to arrive and keep the sealed crocks rain cycle at bay. Glad it wasn't an expensive one. I lost a few a while back trying to cool to below 60f and keep the humidity 70% I lost that experiment. Now no temp control just humidity control.

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    1. The cork isn't tight, in fact it doesn't fit at all, it just sits and moves around. The cork is 25 years old and dried out too. The real problem was I had tea all the way to about 2 inches from the top. I've had loose tea in this before, dried loose tea with no problems. But the Jian Shen was obviously plenty moist on its own to turn to compost in 2 months time.

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    2. I suggest that it might have to do with temperature drop. Keeping (roughly) the same amount of absolute humidity, RH rises when temperature drops.

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  2. Do you think the shape of the pot has something to do with it? It has a narrowish neck, which if plugged by the broken up tea would seal in any moisture in the bottom of the pot. I ask in hope as my W2T Laochatou is in a pot with a cork lid (but straight sided)!

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    1. I think it was just overstuffed, period. And then had more moisture than I expected given the dry house.

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    2. And then I wonder about bamboo stuffed tea.

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  3. I have wondered if teas stored in presenting boxes, like the boxes for the Dragon Pole Dayi shu, ages faster? 100g tea cakes in airtight tins don't seem to have any aggressive aging, but boxes seems to do something else. Perhaps it's that the crock IS allowing airflow, and the tea is trapping moisture.

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    1. I've seen those boxes with and without a clear plastic over the cutouts in the cover.

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  4. First of all, thanks for all your posts, I've really enjoyed reading them over the past few weeks. Secondly, I have a bad habit of reading really old posts and responding, so I'll understand if you don't see/respond to this, but I recently acquired a mini fridge and have turned it into my pumidor. It's not even close to filled yet, but I've been able to maintain pretty close to 70% RH just by putting in a bowl of water for a few hours a day and then taking it out. I've got all my cakes in there (in ziploc bags at the moment) but I've also broken off about 50 grams from a few different cakes and put them in french onion soup crocks to make my daily drinkers more quickly and easily accessible. Anyway, after reading this I'm kinda worried the crocks in the 70% RH might mold. Being that it's just sample portions from a few of my cakes, I guess the experiment isn't too risky. But it got me thinking, maybe I should just keep the crocks on top of the fridge if they can kinda maintain their own humidity. The crocks are small with loose fitting lids, each about half full of semi broken up tea.

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    1. My crocks have not needed much additional humidity this year as we have had higher than average rainfall. Flooding really. I think 70% RH is high if that is inside the crock. If you have air ar 70% outside the crock, you don't need crocks, just plenty of air flow.

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    2. I'm not sure what the RH is inside the crocks, but yeah inside the fridge it ranges from 65% to 75% RH. Really I only have the crocks so I can have a little bit of loose leaf from the cakes I drink most often. Perhaps I should take them out of the fridge if they're able to keep the tea humid enough by themselves.

      And when you say I need plenty of air flow, do you mean like fans in the fridge? I open it at least once a day to get tea out, would that be sufficient. This whole subject is so hotly debated I've found it very difficult to come to any kind of conclusion as far as sealed/open, RH, temp, air flow, etc. But I certainly appreciate your help!

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    3. Either air flow or some space for air. The issue with the container I posted on here is that I crammed it too full and left no room for air to circulate. When the tea got too wet, it had no way to lose water to air and dry itself.

      I find the the most opinionated people on the issue of storage are those with naturally humid climates who do nothing, or need do nothing, to help their tea maintain correct conditions, These are the ones who seem to criticize the most those of us actually working with tea, yet in doing nothing they are unable to explain or propose anything to us aside from moving to a new climate.

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