Monday, December 28, 2015
How to Store Tea
Although I drink almost exclusively loose leaf tea, these same concepts can all be applied to tea bags.
Should I freeze or refrigerate my tea?
I wouldn't recommend freezing or refrigerating your tea unless can have a dedicated unit just for tea. Tea is very susceptible to absorbing the smells around it (hence why it can be scented with jasmine and other florals). No one wants their green tea to taste like Chinese food leftovers! The one exception to that might be matcha. The shelf life is relatively short so refrigeration can help extend that if it is kept in an airtight container. There is some concern about condensation forming on the tea so you'll need be watchful to avoid spoilage.
What about puerh?
Puerh and other dark teas are some of the few exceptions to these rules. Air is essential to the aging process. Letting a musty or fishy cooked puerh breath can make an unpleasant tea much more drinkable. That being said, light and strong aromas should still be avoided. Sheng and Shu should be stored separately since their tastes and smells are very different. There are many schools of thought on how to best store puerh at home. In many ways we are still learning because the climate here in North America can be so different from that of Asia.
Some pu-heads opt to store their tea in earthenware crocks. These can be hard to come by where I live so I haven't experimented with that yet. Still others build pumidors in order carefully control the humidity level. There is some risk of mold so cakes need be rotated and frequently monitored.
For most people, plain brown paper bags (odor-free of course) will usually get the job done. Cloth bags are also available from a number of retailers. I don't usually purchase large quantities of puerh myself (in part due to the number of samples I receive for review). Otherwise I might have to come up with a more long term solution.
Should I break up puerh cakes or leave them whole?
The answer really depends on your goal. For long term aging, I believe it is best to leave the cake whole. For tea that I'm drinking now, I'll usually leave in the cake and just break off pieces as I go. The one exception would be a tea that needs airing out. Musty shu can very much benefit from being broken up.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Let me know how you store your tea in the comments!