; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Questions I get asked about Puerh Storage ;

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Questions I get asked about Puerh Storage

Big old crock.

Over the past few years I have received quite a few emails about tea storage, usually a few every month. Most of the questions boil down to one of two possibilities, “is this storage solution okay?” or “help!” I can hardly say enough how important my storage fails from 2009-2014 were for me to begin to learn what to do with my tea, and how to deal with my climate and the types of puerh I am storing. My storage failure consisted of copying the cardboard box method advocated by Cloud and a few other very early online posters. This method, even with a bowl of water in the box, left my tea too dry, flat and flavorless. While I managed to recover some flavor by moving the teas to crock storage, luckily I have consumed most of them now.

My climate in the house is far too dry to leave tea in the open, unless the tea arrives with years of wetter storage under its belt. Fortunately, I have a 3 season porch which is enclosed with glass windows. In the summertime, this porch gets very hot and humid, and I have a large ceiling fan to circulate the air. My tea enjoys the summer months fully awake, and the porch smells of tea when I walk in. But during the winter, I experience very dry, desert-like conditions and this is when I need some sort of storage solution to preserve the progress made during summer. I settled on traditional farm crock storage used in this part of my country. I have so many teas now that some are stored in almost every other type of container you can think of. Most of these extras are samples or small amounts of tea, and many are experiments of various kinds. Others are bits of Liu Bao or small packages of oolong teas.

Here are some of the common issues I get emailed about.

My tea has mold, what should I do?

This means your storage is too wet. If the mold is white or grey looking, this is okay, brush it off and adjust the humidity or add air flow. Keep your tea in the open for awhile or cover with a cloth or use a cloth bag for a time. If you have green mold, you must throw this tea out, or at least take off the affected chunks.

People who report mold to me are mainly doing one of two things. One, they are trying to replicate Hong Kong storage parameters, with 70% RH and warmer than room temperatures. This is very risky to do in a small storage situation, because you do not have much space and air flow to keep mold from forming. I prefer a more conservative set of parameters, such as 60-65% RH at room temperature or slightly cooler.

I do not feel that high parameters in small storage areas will age tea much faster. A tea that needs 20-30 years will still need 20-30 years whether at 70% RH or 60% RH. Honestly, if I want wetter tea, why not order it already stored wet? Wet teas are far less expensive to buy than dry stored, and then all I need to do is provide dry storage for a few years.

People who want to try 70% RH or higher will need to babysit their tea. This type of storage is a daily hobby, not a “store it and leave it” situation.

The other mold situation is storage of puerh tea in plastic containers, such as plastic tubs. Plastic has no ability to breathe. There is no air flow, no cracks or anything porous. Plastic is a temporary solution for students or people moving to a new residence. Because I write a blog I must be as conservative as possible. You might see online that people are storing in plastic and report their teas are doing well. That is well for them, but I cannot recommend it, especially for people who do not watch their tea carefully.

Recently I stuck a couple of 20 year wetter samples
in small food jars to air before consuming.
My tea is too dry.

Then it does not have access to sufficient humidity. This is easy to solve. However, it takes several years for tea to really die off, 3-4 years at least. A few months of dry is nothing to panic over, but people email me panicked after a month of dry. Keep observing the tea.

Adding a new tea.

Getting a new beeng or tong in the mail is exciting but anything new added to your storage will affect the humidity balance. If too dry, the tea will suck up all the moisture in the storage unless you have a large room for storage. If a tea is new and fresh, it might add too much moisture and you will need to remove any Boveda packs or back off on adding moisture for awhile. That new cake is a water-filled sponge.

Can I store shou and sheng together?

I would not.

Can I store old tea with new tea?

There are two schools of thought. One is that old tea adds microbes, and these microbes may be beneficial. The other school of thought pertains to perhaps poorly stored tea that might add unwanted odors.

20 yr Yiwu stored by itself in a crockery bowl
with a lid. The wrapper was too worn.
I currently store old tea with new tea, in part because I am out of space. I also am interested especially in how well-stored teas, such as from Malaysia, might positively impact my younger teas. I am currently storing Malaysian-stored Liu Bao with young Liu Bao to pursue this idea because this type of tea will show me some results sooner than sheng.

How do I get started with storage?

The best way is to experiment using pungent factory teas, such as Dayi and Xiaguan. Xiaguan tuos are in the $10 range. Even non-descript brick teas are ok. Factory teas like these are very forgiving if they mold, you can brush off the mold and the tea will recover nicely. When too dry, you can recover the tea quickly. They also are compressed firmly so the interior is not likely to be affected by experiments.

Buying inexpensive teas, not too many, but maybe a handful, is the best way to get started with puerh tea. People use the words “tuition tea” as a pejorative or cautionary tale, but in reality these teas are the least painful on the wallet and the best teas to learn storage. No one wants to lose pricey tea to an experiment gone south. My bad storage years were done on teas like 7542 sheng and 7572 shou. I learned what went wrong on teas that cost under $30 apiece. Nothing prevents these teas from turning out nicely when treated well too.


Are we puerh people? Yes we are. Will dusty/dirty put any of us off? Not really. Do we brush off the mold and keep right on drinking? Of course. Do we love our tea more than our children? Probably. We can always have more children, but we cannot get back that old Dayi. So watch your tea like a hawk.


  1. Cwyn,

    "Are we puerh people? Yes we are."

    Hahaha... I like this.


  2. Cwyn,

    Where do you get your "farm crocks"? I need some large crocks for tong storage. I noticed that you just cannot seem to find any decent-sized Yixing-clay storage containers for sale in the West, but I constantly see pictures of them in Chinese tea shops and in some Chinese homes. The largest Yixing caddie I have ever been able to purchase would only hold approx 900 ml of tea. Not big enough.