There are many different kinds of teas available in the market. Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and different cultures have put their own spin on it.
Pu erh tea, also known as Pu’er tea, is a unique kind of fermented tea that was traditionally produced in the province of Yunnan in China.
The Chinese would begin with microbial fermentation once the tea leaves had been properly dried out and had been properly rolled. Because the tea goes through the process of microbial fermentation, you should know that it continues to oxidize.
The tea growers pay great attention to stop the oxidation process when the desired levels of flavor have been reached.
However, before we talk about how to store the Pu erh tea properly, it’s important to understand and appreciate the history behind this unique blend of tea.
Travelers moving through the olden trade routes across China would often darken the tea leaves so that they could trade with the ethnic groups that were found around the border regions.
Many of these were generally crude teas that had been sourced at a very inexpensive price, and they were also taken from different sources.
The travelers would trade these teas on their own behalf and they would sell them or barter with other things. Usually this practice would take place around the southwestern borders of China, and it was still popular until the 1990s.
But, you should know that back then, no standardized procedure existed for darkening the tea leaves.
Pu erh tea processing, though straightforward and relatively simple, was a bit complicated because the tea itself is categorized in two distinct ways: there’s the Sheng Cha, which is the raw version, and then there’s the Shu Cha, which is the ripe variant.
The tea is made from a common Chinese tea leaf that is found in many mountains and the regions lining different parts of the southern and the western Yunnan Province.
The Maocha, which is the leaf that is used for making the tea, could be sold directly into the markets as loose leaf tea, though many would often darken the leaves by fermenting it, which allowed them to charge a much higher price in the market.
Now, you should know that this type of fermented dark tea is one of the six unique types of teas found in China. It’s actually in a separate class of its own when it comes to teas in this country.
Needless to say, when you consider the unique manner in which this type of tea is produced, it’s important for you to understand that the procedure for storing the tea is also quite different.
You should know that this tea is renowned for its aging potential, and it’s imperative for you to understand that keeping it in the cabinet is a bad idea.
There are multiple important factors that you need to take into account, such as the levels of humidity and the temperature in the cabinet or storage area where the tea is being kept.
For instance, you also have to make sure that the tea is kept away from things that emanate strong odors.
What About Humidity?
Understanding the suitable levels of humidity for this type of tea is important, especially if you are going to store it in your house. Ideally, you should know that the ideal humidity levels for storing the Pu erh tea should be around the 50% to 75% mark.
However, it’s important that you never consider the humidity levels alone; you should always take them into account with respect to the temperature.
For example, when the temperature is around the 30 degrees Celsius mark, the humidity levels should be around the 50% mark. This would be suitable for the tea. However, when the temperature falls to around the 20 degrees Celsius mark, the humidity levels should be around the 75% mark.
Remember, humidity outdoors is likely to be volatile and is going to vary dramatically across various regions. For instance, during the monsoon or the rainy season in the eastern parts of China, the humidity levels are likely to go beyond the 75% mark, mainly due to the climate created by the warm ocean air.
Then, in regions of South China, the humidity levels can reach upwards of 95%. When the weather turns incredibly humid, it might be a wise idea to keep your windows closed for longer periods of time. Avoid opening the windows for too long, as the humidity is likely to increase when the windows are open.
Remember, indoor humidity is generally lower than outdoor humidity, so it might be a wise idea to keep the windows closed. There are a few important things that you can do to regulate the humidity levels in your storage area.
When the humidity levels rise, the Pu erh storage space should be properly enclosed with some kind of desiccant or moisture absorbent material placed inside. You can use charcoal or quicklime for this because both are incredibly effective.
If there is quite a bit of dampness, you might want to consider making use of a dehumidifier. Also, it’s important that you avoid storing the Pu erh tea on the floor.
Many people make the classic mistake of putting their carton of Pu erh tea on the floor. Remember, floors are generally more humid than the temperature in the room.
When the temperature in the room decreases, the humidity within the air is going to turn into condensation and fall to the floor. Therefore, keeping it on the floor is a terrible idea.
Now, even if you don’t keep the tea in a closet, it’s important that you choose a suitable location with proper insulation.
When the weather turns dry, there are a number of other things that you will have to do to regulate the humidity levels. Below are some simple things to know.
Using a humidifier in the storage space is a wise idea. Remember, it would be a wise idea to never keep the Pu erh tea close to the humidifier, as it’s only going to get overly humid and may ruin the tea.
To increase humidity within a localized area, it might be a wise idea to keep a glass or two of water nearby. The slowly evaporating water is simply going to increase the humidity ever so slightly. Then, you can also try putting a tray full of pebbles and water inside.
The pebbles are going to get hot, and this is going to increase the temperature, which will cause the water to evaporate, and that is also going to increase the humidity within the region.
Finally, you should consider keeping the Pu erh tea in sealed plastic bags, primarily before the weather gets incredibly dry. If the amount of tea that you want to store is relatively small, this might be a wise thing to do.
Apart from humidity, one important thing that you need to consider is the temperature at which you store the Pu erh tea.
Temperature has a major impact on the overall fermentation speed because when the temperature is higher, the fermentation speed is only going to increase, and when the temperature is lower, the fermentation speed is going to increase.
Therefore, if the speed of fermentation increases, the tea is going to turn sour. However, the good thing to know here is that Pu erh tea actually likes suitable temperatures when compared with humans so you don’t have to make any special arrangements for storing the tea.
Ideally, you should make sure that the area in which you store the Pu erh tea is kept between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. This is easily achievable without any kind of man-made interference, which makes it pretty easy for the average person to store the tea in their house.
You just need to find a cabinet where the temperature is going to remain decent and between these two parameters, and you are good to go. If that isn’t the case and you live in a country that gets excessively hot or excessively cold, it might be a wise idea to use an air conditioner or a heater.
If you live in a country where the temperatures get incredibly hot, you might want to consider keeping the jar of Pu erh tea in a room where the air conditioner is usually kept on.
On the other hand, if you live in a country where the temperature remains cold throughout the year, you might want to keep the jar in a place where the heater remains on.
Remember, you have to avoid keeping the tea close to the air conditioner or the radiator because keeping it close to the source of cold of warmth is simply going to make matters worse and the tea might begin to ferment, or the process may slow down.
You have to maintain a balance when storing this tea, so keep it away in a corner.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.