Pu Er conservation and maturation conditions
A chest in natural fibers offering air circulation can be a good choice for Pu Er conservation.
Pu Er collectors, be they amateur or specialist will at some point come accross the challenge of creating ideal storage conditions for ageing their collection. Most mature Pu Er teas have been aged in the tropically hot and humid conditions of Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan or Malaysia. Unfortunately N.America does not naturally have the ideal conditions for the job. Artificial conditions are necessary for storing these teas if they are to age well. Below are the general parameters needed to store either Sheng or Shou Pu Er :
Constant temperature between 20 and 30 degrees celcius (68-86F) ;
Relative humidity between 50% and 80% ;
Good air circulation ;
Odor free environment ;
So that the naturally occuring yeasts and bacterias of the Pu Er leaves will activate and gradually transform the teas over the years, a warm and humid environment is preferable. Though heat is rarely a problem in this continent humidity is a little more challenging.The dry warm air of our heated houses over the colder months will cause dormancy in the micro-organisms of our teas. The maturing process will thus be reduced to a standstill. To increase the relative humidity it is therefore necessary : to use a humidifier, a container of water close to the tea or some other source of water. Adequate ventilation is absolutely essential to provide enough oxygen for the oxidation to occur, plastic bags or air-tight containers are not recommended. Beware of sealed humidors where the water source is too close to the tea the risk of mould is a problem which will introduce foreign tastes and smells that do not belong to the tea. Ideal materials, that will both breathe and absorb unwanted odors from the air include : unglazed terra cotta, bamboo products or cardboard. We carry a few ceramic Pu Er jars in our stores specifically for this purpose. Darkness is the final important factor as the appearance and flavour will both be effected by extended exposure to light. Also note that we always make an effort to separate our Sheng Pu Ers from our Shou Pu Ers to avoid the exchange of aromas.
A hygrometer is a useful instrument to evaluate the optimal conditions for Pu Er aging.
Without getting too obsessive it is important to understand the necessary conditions for the ageing of our Pu er teas. It must be considered as an artificial micro-system that will be sustained for the next 10 years or more. It is better to find a simple effective solution that ages the teas slowly than risk your collection of teas. My recommendation is to simply use a half-open cardboard box in the wardrobe or cupboard with controlled humidity of 50%-60% relative humidity (the recommended level for a healthy living space).
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