Saveur Blog Awards Ceremony
Just an update on the award nomination this blog received from Saveur Magazine. I had hoped to attend the awards event in NYC September 26-28, but at this time I don’t think I will be able to get the money together in time. While I can pull together a few hundred in a month’s notice, the funds for a NYC trip are just beyond what I can scrounge up in a few short weeks. While this is disappointing, I’m mostly resigned to the idea that I probably won’t be able to attend. A friend encouraged me to try GoFundMe, so I did set up a fund. The link is above at the top right hand of the blog, and here. If I can meet the fund goal remaining of $1350, I will be able to go. If not, I will return all donations.
|Stack of once-moldy teas and a soft, but stiff craft brush.|
Airing and Storing Musty Old Puerh Tea
Over the past year I’ve worked on airing some particularly wet stored puerh teas. I received these teas from friends who had declared them a loss, and planned to toss them out. When I suggested trying to air them myself, my friends graciously mailed them to me with a “good riddance” or some such. So, exactly when should we air out our puerh teas?
*When the package arrives off the boat from China, or elsewhere.
I’ve noticed that nearly all my puerh teas arrive in need of airing, some more than others. Shou puerh definitely needs a good airing and settling time. Most teas are stored in warehouse storage by vendors, often in huge stacks. Some warehouses have a climate control system, but others might not. The best stored teas are usually from collectors who take premium care of their tea, but most of us are buying tea from vendors who use some type of warehouse storage. Regardless if the tea is dry or wet stored, most teas benefit from airing upon arrival.
*When the tea undergoes a wet storage process.
Many puerh vendors offer teas with a “wet” storage process. Many people enjoy the flavor of a wet-stored puerh tea. I like the excellent start to aging a puerh tong that a few years of more humid storage yields. In my drier climate, I can air and finish off the aging myself, and this results in the tea moving through those awkward “teenage” years of fermentation more quickly. As an older person, I can’t expect to live long enough to age out many of my teas. I’m okay with that, but I do want some drinkable teas and a bit of wet storage is just the ticket.
|Musty Taobao cake sample, acquired from a friend|
|"Start photo," September 2015.|
|"Start photo," September 2015|
|Washing the wrapper--a fail.|
Over the winter, I aired the tea in the bread bowl, alternating a day or two exposed and then covered the bowl on dry days. My house is exceptionally dry in the winter with around 10-30% RH, which is desert climate. This is enough to send most molds to the grave. Occasionally I wiped the wood lid with water to keep at least some moisture in the tea. This is a balance of humidity and dryness to keep the tea alive but not enough to allow the mold to proliferate.
|Montage of "start" photos, Sept. 2015.|
My goal was to encourage the correct fermentation and discourage mold without killing off the tea. In other words, I want to get the tea back on the right path of fermentation. The teas are still a bit green, and this green needs to live in the meantime and ferment more, but without the nasty white mold taking over. The tea lost most discernible odors over the dry winter months. In the late spring of this year with the start of the hot summer season, I moved the bowl to my three season porch along with my other teas to take advantage of the humid time of year.
|In bright sun for a photo, summer 2016|
Today I removed the teas and gave them a good brushing outside to remove any dusts or particles from the exterior. I don’t notice any particular smell now to these cakes. It’s time to re-wrap the tea.
Wrapping Puerh Beengcha
I’m not an expert wrapper. Despite what Old Cwyn thinks of herself, she won’t be hired by the puerh industry any time soon. But I can re-wrap a cake well enough for storage. I like the mulberry papers sold by Wymm Tea. Unfortunately the price has increased from the 50 cents per sheet I paid to now $1 per sheet. But the papers arrive nicely rolled up in a slim box which is great for storing them until needed.
|Start by placing the cake upside down.|
The trick to wrapping is to pull the wrapper toward the beenghole and work with the creases that form, adjusting to the size needed. I'm doing a right-handed fold. A left handed fold faces the opposite direction.
|Pull the wrapper toward the beenghole.|
Firmly crease the fold with your thumb once you get it where you want it. You might notice that the first few folds will take in the corners and form a a sort of straight line across the cake. Someone folding more perfectly might have better geometric lines.
|Folds spaced about one inch or 2 cm|
The musty flavor needs a couple more years to integrate into the tea, but I’m certain the white mold won’t return under ordinary dry storage conditions. By that I mean a proper room temperature with a moderate relative humidity.
|Wrapping a partial beeng holds best with a twist of the ends.|
Storing the stack of cakes in a crock is sufficient. Any excess of humidity in the surrounding air will absorb into the paper wrapper before it gets to the tea. I don’t have a problem storing this with other sheng cakes because the wrapper is rather thick, but not everyone stores wet and dry teas together.
|Loose tea from the bottom of the crock. This stuff is a bit white still.|
Have a great Labor Day weekend!