A good Pu’erh tea for brewing and consumption requires a quality base tea, careful pre-processing and well-designed post-processing. Pre-processing refers to the preparatory steps to produce the “raw materials” (green mao cha) and post-processing refers to the storage condition under which Pu’erh teas are aged to enhance proper fermentation. In other words, it is not necessarily true that the older the Pu’erh tea, the better. A superior Pu’erh tea for brewing requires that one start with a good quality “raw tea,” that is carefully and properly pre-processed, and then aged under optimum storage conditions.
Tea Master Vesper Chan, a pioneer in Pu’erh dry storage, states that the ideal conditions for storage are an environment with between 50%-60% humidity and a temperature range between 60-70 degrees. As different parts of the world vary in their weather and humidity, Pu’erh teas stored in different environments yield different results. For example, Pu’erh teas stored in relatively dry places like Beijing or Los Angeles will age to become more aromatic, but they will take longer to achieve the smoothness that teas aged in more humid places like Hong Kong or GuangZhou will exhibit.
To prove his point, we brewed two pots of the Bana Tea Limited Edition, one from a cake brought back to Hong Kong from Los Angeles and one that Tea Master Chan kept in Hong Kong. As we tasted the two concoctions, it becomes clear that the brew from the cake aged in Los Angeles retained the original tea aroma and freshness while the brew from the cake aged in Hong Kong was darker in color, deeper in flavor, and less aromatic.
Pu’erh tea should not be exposed to excessive humidity for prolonged periods of time, or it will become flat and dull. Pu’erh tea should be stored well above the floor level and be given good ventilation. If you have a large amount, the tea should be rotated once every six months to even out their exposure to fresh air. Extreme variations in temperature should be avoided.
Regarding the use of a humidifier in dry places, Master Chan suggested that it would be fine to use one a few hours once a month to promote faster fermentation. He further stressed that the storage environment must be clean, free of odor and away from direct sunlight. If you are storing a large quantity, always store the raw Pu’erh and ripe Pu’erh separately.