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Fermented Tea: Pu-Erh and How to Store It

Fermented Tea: Pu-Erh and How to Store It

Pu-Erh is a variety of tea traditionally from the province of Yunnan, China. Like wine, Pu-erh can be stored for years if kept well, in fact antique Pu-erh leaves can go as far 1920s are highly priced and auctioned for their rarity! This attribute differentiates Pu-erh from other teas which loses its flavour if kept for too long.

Oxidation in teas is often confused with fermentation. Tea fermentation involves microbial activity while oxidation which does not involve microbial processing. Most teas such as black and oolong teas undergo full to partial oxidation, while green and white teas do not go through any oxidation at all.

Harvested Pu-erh leaves, on the other hand, undergo a series of oxidation and fermentation processes before the leaves become what we enjoy as pu-erh tea. There are two types of Pu-erh – raw tea “sheng cha” and ripe tea “shou cha”.  Both undergo the same processes after harvest, with ripe pu-erh having one more step of cooking that accelerates the fermentation process in a humid environment, while raw pu-erh sees a slower process of traditional fermentation.

As a result, pu-erh can be kept for many years if stored properly. In fact, the flavour of pu-erh develops in complexity, depth and smoothness as it matures, much like wine. All pu-erh can be stored for further mellowing. If the tea is not intended for immediate consumption, it can be stored in its original paper packaging.

The best way to store such tea is in a cool, dry place with a constant temperature and away from strong smells as leaves tend to absorb aromas around them which in turn affect the tea. The leaves can be stored in a sealed cardboard box or even the original paper packaging bag.