Aging puerh: what is your setup?

John_B
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:42 am
Location: Bangkok
Contact:

Fri Jul 31, 2020 10:18 pm

The part that isn't being fleshed out is how moisture content level, the relative humidity, is a big factor in when mold will grow. If the teas were being held at 80% RH they probably would mold; conventional wisdom is that 70% makes for an upper limit, but they typically won't at that level.

Shifts in temperature are especially dangerous, because RH is so closely tied to temperature. If you cool tea quickly at a broad RH range the amount of humidity that air can hold drops fast, the RH spikes (it is "relative," to what the air can hold), and condensation will occur, and mold will grow very fast.

Of course for more static circumstances air contact and humidity are both factors. It helps a lot drawing on input from people with a lot of direct experience, as is occurring here through discussion, since minor shifts in conditions really could change the outcome. I wrote an article for a vendor site doing just that as well, citing what a number of better known bloggers had said about their experiences (the Tea Addicts Journal author, TeaDB and such), and it doesn't really distill down to a narrow set of ideas, but it's worth looking at:

https://moychay.com/articles/puer_stora ... ent_part_2

When people are saying that too much air contact is a bad thing, that these authors claim that, or others do, it helps to be very clear on what that standard hearsay input is about. Keeping sheng out on a shelf over your bookcase would be regarded as too much air contact, per my understanding. Marshal N / Lawrence Zhang claimed that a very well ventilated warehouse could be too well ventilated, per his experience and understanding, and cakes exposed to moving air could lose flavor. He's not saying that they need to be placed in ziplock bags inside of plastic storage boxes, as far as I can tell. A cool quote (he's good about passing those on) about storing tea in a somewhat enclosed space encapsulates this (from memory, so not verbatim): you want to store tea so that your closet smells like tea, not so that your tea smells like a closet.

A next interesting theme that comes up is if a cardboard box is going to make sheng (or shu, I guess) taste like cardboard. People have different opinions about that, and I'm definitely not going to weigh in related to adding to the background. Again the context might matter; how many cakes in a box, how wet is the storage, etc.

If you store books in a humid place you can definitely smell them molding, or at least fermenting, and there isn't that much there to be consumed by those micro-organisms. In a library in Hawaii (I did grad school at UH Manoa) they would use fans to keep the mold in check, in one non-air-conditioned library. We store old books here in a storage closet, where I live in Bangkok, and it definitely ruins the books over time. Others stored in a case, further removed from the daily shifts in humidity, seem to fare better.

I suppose balancing the condition inputs well could be tricky, especially with people shooting for different results related to humidity level and speed of aging. Temperature must play a role too, and it's hard to get great input related to what that role is, related to pushing the envelop for conditions related to mold growth.
vuanguyen
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2020 6:06 pm
Location: San Jose, California

Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:02 am

John_B wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 10:18 pm
The part that isn't being fleshed out is how moisture content level, the relative humidity, is a big factor in when mold will grow. If the teas were being held at 80% RH they probably would mold; conventional wisdom is that 70% makes for an upper limit, but they typically won't at that level.

Shifts in temperature are especially dangerous, because RH is so closely tied to temperature. If you cool tea quickly at a broad RH range the amount of humidity that air can hold drops fast, the RH spikes (it is "relative," to what the air can hold), and condensation will occur, and mold will grow very fast.

Of course for more static circumstances air contact and humidity are both factors. It helps a lot drawing on input from people with a lot of direct experience, as is occurring here through discussion, since minor shifts in conditions really could change the outcome. I wrote an article for a vendor site doing just that as well, citing what a number of better known bloggers had said about their experiences (the Tea Addicts Journal author, TeaDB and such), and it doesn't really distill down to a narrow set of ideas, but it's worth looking at:

https://moychay.com/articles/puer_stora ... ent_part_2

When people are saying that too much air contact is a bad thing, that these authors claim that, or others do, it helps to be very clear on what that standard hearsay input is about. Keeping sheng out on a shelf over your bookcase would be regarded as too much air contact, per my understanding. Marshal N / Lawrence Zhang claimed that a very well ventilated warehouse could be too well ventilated, per his experience and understanding, and cakes exposed to moving air could lose flavor. He's not saying that they need to be placed in ziplock bags inside of plastic storage boxes, as far as I can tell. A cool quote (he's good about passing those on) about storing tea in a somewhat enclosed space encapsulates this (from memory, so not verbatim): you want to store tea so that your closet smells like tea, not so that your tea smells like a closet.

A next interesting theme that comes up is if a cardboard box is going to make sheng (or shu, I guess) taste like cardboard. People have different opinions about that, and I'm definitely not going to weigh in related to adding to the background. Again the context might matter; how many cakes in a box, how wet is the storage, etc.

If you store books in a humid place you can definitely smell them molding, or at least fermenting, and there isn't that much there to be consumed by those micro-organisms. In a library in Hawaii (I did grad school at UH Manoa) they would use fans to keep the mold in check, in one non-air-conditioned library. We store old books here in a storage closet, where I live in Bangkok, and it definitely ruins the books over time. Others stored in a case, further removed from the daily shifts in humidity, seem to fare better.

I suppose balancing the condition inputs well could be tricky, especially with people shooting for different results related to humidity level and speed of aging. Temperature must play a role too, and it's hard to get great input related to what that role is, related to pushing the envelop for conditions related to mold growth.

Thanks for the link John! Your posts have always been informative to read...albeit a little long :)

I really like that you try to put science into this subjective world of tea drinking.
John_B
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:42 am
Location: Bangkok
Contact:

Sat Aug 01, 2020 6:02 am

I was just talking to one of the larger vendors about how tea blogging goes now, how it's essentially over, because people would rather check out a set of Instagram photos with a 50 word description than read 500-1000 words. I essentially never write a post that short, so who knows who could make it through all that.

My blog posts are more an exercise in working out review content and doing some writing than for a reader. If readers can somehow slog through 1500 words, and are also interested in the ideas, then I guess it's for them too.
OhThatNinja
Posts: 37
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:25 pm
Location: Ohio

Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:45 pm

John_B wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 6:02 am
I was just talking to one of the larger vendors about how tea blogging goes now, how it's essentially over, because people would rather check out a set of Instagram photos with a 50 word description than read 500-1000 words. I essentially never write a post that short, so who knows who could make it through all that.

My blog posts are more an exercise in working out review content and doing some writing than for a reader. If readers can somehow slog through 1500 words, and are also interested in the ideas, then I guess it's for them too.
John,
I didn't realized that I was already familiar with your blog and your writing. I only now connected your name here to your blog. Thank you!

I read the article you linked above (https://moychay.com/articles/puer_stora ... ent_part_2) - that is indeed a great summary of various opinions on the subject of storing puerh at home. It left me rather confused because various sources offer quite different take on what's considered proper and what is not. This paragraph in particular is quite concerning because this is what I was considering doing myself:
"…The other mold situation is storage of puerh tea in plastic containers, such as plastic tubs. Plastic has no ability to breathe. There is no air flow, no cracks or anything porous. "
Justin
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat May 25, 2019 9:13 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Sat Aug 01, 2020 4:47 pm

OhThatNinja wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:45 pm
"…The other mold situation is storage of puerh tea in plastic containers, such as plastic tubs. Plastic has no ability to breathe. There is no air flow, no cracks or anything porous. "
My thoughts are that the plastic container does not buffer well against sudden temperature changes since those plastic tubs are thin. Like @John_B mentioned, if the temperature changes too quickly, mold can form. As to the rate at which the temperatures change, I am not too sure. If you notice, cwyn ends up using a crock which insulates quite well. An unused fridge or wine cooler could also work.

This should give you a good rundown of what storage solutions to use
OhThatNinja
Posts: 37
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:25 pm
Location: Ohio

Sat Aug 01, 2020 5:57 pm

Justin wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 4:47 pm
OhThatNinja wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:45 pm
"…The other mold situation is storage of puerh tea in plastic containers, such as plastic tubs. Plastic has no ability to breathe. There is no air flow, no cracks or anything porous. "
My thoughts are that the plastic container does not buffer well against sudden temperature changes since those plastic tubs are thin. Like John_B mentioned, if the temperature changes too quickly, mold can form. As to the rate at which the temperatures change, I am not too sure. If you notice, cwyn ends up using a crock which insulates quite well. An unused fridge or wine cooler could also work.

This should give you a good rundown of what storage solutions to use
Thank you. That makes sense.
My house may experience up to 5 degrees F swings throughout the day so I don't think that is too much, is it? Maybe I am ok with trying the plastic container route afterall. One can always double down on the containers (container inside of a container) but that can be too complicated and more expensive, obviously.
John_B
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:42 am
Location: Bangkok
Contact:

Sat Aug 01, 2020 9:47 pm

That quote about plastic not being porous sounds like it probably is from Cwyn. Per my understanding not many other people have arrived at the understanding that crocks work well, even among those who have experimented with it. The "porous" part wouldn't really help, for how slow those would transfer moisture, unless the idea was for the crock to support the salt mixture function, which is covered by a Boveda pack or alternative. In that case wetting the crock would be problematic, it would seem. The temperature shift idea is only relevant in cases where temperature actually does shift quickly.

That second idea got me thinking that maybe that's what the airflow was all about in that library (Sinclair, at UH Manoa, a great place to study, out on the balcony, with a great view of the Waikiki skyline). Maybe at night temperatures cooling let the books experience a spike in relative humidity, and fans helped them release that back out. Hawaii was incredibly consistent in temperature, but it still did cool some at night. I wouldn't expect most people to experience the same for tea storage, due to controlling temperature, but in a more "natural" environment it might be relevant.
John_B
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:42 am
Location: Bangkok
Contact:

Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:14 pm

OhThatNinja wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:45 pm

John,
I didn't realized that I was already familiar with your blog and your writing. I only now connected your name here to your blog. Thank you!
Thanks, very kind of you to mention it!

Just a few times a year someone will mention appreciating my blog, and that's plenty for feedback. I could just assume the stats meant some people out there are interested but that extra input is nice.
Noonie
Posts: 297
Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:30 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada

Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:09 pm

John_B wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 6:02 am
I was just talking to one of the larger vendors about how tea blogging goes now, how it's essentially over, because people would rather check out a set of Instagram photos with a 50 word description than read 500-1000 words. I essentially never write a post that short, so who knows who could make it through all that.

My blog posts are more an exercise in working out review content and doing some writing than for a reader. If readers can somehow slog through 1500 words, and are also interested in the ideas, then I guess it's for them too.
@John_B I like your approach to writing blog posts; the way you described it above resonates with me. Thanks!

A few times over the last 10+ years of drinking tea I've wanted to start a tea blog. I mentioned to my wife one time and she suggested I try a vlog instead, as these are what everyone is doing. I haven't done either. I've found 1-2 vlogs I like. In fact, when I write about a tea in a log I keep I don't like how I pen the words so to speak, but they make sense to me later when reading and comparing. Just don't see the point in sharing them with a broader audience. Layering on some of my thinking on this topic to your eloquent way of stating your point above, I'm starting to form an approach to blogging (writing) about my tea experience.

I'm beginning to not actually care if anyone would read what I would write about, as I'm not looking to generate a following or anything; however, having the back-and-forth comments about the topic would be nice. That said, I just don't think others would want to read my thoughts about tea and the experience (i.e., what goes on in my head when I drink and think about tea). No offence to anyone here, but when I post or read someones remarks about things I would want to blog about I notice very little insightful responses (or anything at all), and as such I'm assuming anything I write in a blog style would probably not resonate with most. Lots of great topics and posts though, but I'm leaning towards something different. Yixing clay doesn't interest me much at all, and so I would rather not join that active discussion in a way to contribute/blog/write. I don't think one does their best work when they truly have an interest/passion in the topic. Years ago I wanted to write some insightful posts on a cycling forum I was active on. Thing was, 99% of the posts were about things that didn't interest me. I think I wrote a piece here and there, and with very little follow-up discussion I gave it up. Actually gave up the forum in general as i didn't want to read the 1000's of daily posts about equipment or racing. I like this forum much better as I'm continually learning. And there are no yahoos! You wouldn't believe how many are on cycling forums :lol:

If I do every get around to writing something I'll be sure to link here...thanks for reading through my rant.
John_B
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:42 am
Location: Bangkok
Contact:

Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:05 pm

I always expected that blogging would eventually tie in with discussion, that it would form a continuum of exchange of ideas with others, along with social media participation. That never happened. I think a good number of people have appreciated ideas that I've shared, some even consistently reading content. But it absolutely never triggers discussion. I also run a Facebook tea group (International Tea Talk), and if I run across someone who seems interesting for some reason I send them a message, and discussion proceeds from that.

If that was a main end goal, exchanging versus one-way sharing of ideas, then tea group or forum posts are the way to go. Obviously enough if communication is picture based Instagram is the place.

Video blogging is a funny thing, how you would expect that to naturally make sense, to be taken up, produced and consumed, but really not so much. Years back I would watch some of the Walker Tea Review posts (which are still on Youtube, it's just not active), but no others stepped in to take up the same format. Geoffrey Norman of Steep Stories started a tea themed podcast with another host (more the lead) but that didn't draw much interest. Don Mei of Mei Leaf produces content that draws an audience, but that's used for marketing purposes, a mix of openly providing information and selling.

I would encourage you to create content in a way that is interesting to you, along with considering if you have any clear goals. Even if the number of like-minded people you reach is limited that way the production process itself will be your interest. Dabbling in text blogging, video, picture sharing, exploring communication channels, and whatever else is also fine; why not?
User avatar
Balthazar
Posts: 179
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:04 am
Location: Oslo, Norway

Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:15 am

@John_B, for what it's worth I too have enjoyed many of your blog posts :).

To return to the issue of storage… With mold, the question is fairly easy. Does my current storage setup and temperature/RH parameters cause mold? Observe for a year or so and you have a pretty good idea of the answer.

But as for how the setup and parameters actually affect the aging of the cakes, this is something that it’s much more difficult to come to a confident answer to that soon. Your cakes may seem to be coming along quite nicely after a couple of years, before some of them suddenly develop a sour taste. Or become thin, with muted flavors. Is the storage the cause? Would the experience have been different if the cakes had been stored in sealed plastic bins instead of crocks, with the same tempemerature/RH values? Or has the cake(s) entered into a temporary “awkward phase”? It's not easy to answer these questions without detailed knowledge of, and actual experience with, this person's specific storage environment.

To take one example, Emmett recently mentioned in the FB puer group the he has stopped using crocks. He noticed a sour taste developing in some teas after several years. Then again, from what I understand, his humidification method is basically that he waits until the RH has dropped (to what level I don't know) and then places some source of humidity in the storage container (if memory serves, he currently uses a cup of warm water in his plastic containers). How much of the issue is due to the actual storage method, and how much (if any!) is due to fluctuations in humidity? @Emmett is a member here, so maybe he can expand on his method :)

Anyways, unless you do side-by-side comparison of say stoneware crock storage and plastic bin storage, where all other variables and parameters are are similar as they can be, it's not easy to know for sure how much of the teas’ change, for good or bad, is due to the type of storage. Of course you can get a pretty good idea of the answer if there is a large enough number of observations from other people that live in similar environments as you (e.g. you have 500 people with crock storage and 500 with plastic containers, all living in fairly similar climates, and the results of their storage shows differences that are statistically significant), but ideally you’d have comparisons where both methods were attempted at the same location.

When I move to a larger apartment I hope to be able to buy a few larger plastic bins (without being murdered by my significant other once they’re discovered) and do a comparison (with newly acquired cakes from the same source), but it's probably gonna take years to come to a conclusion.
Noonie
Posts: 297
Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:30 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada

Mon Aug 03, 2020 10:50 am

Haha sorry to derail the discussion!

So I moved my pumidor from the cold and dry basement to a closet upstairs...two days after and although the temp went up about 4C the humidity humidity went down a couple % points. Thoughts?
faj
Posts: 337
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:29 am

Noonie wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 10:50 am
So I moved my pumidor from the cold and dry basement to a closet upstairs...two days after and although the temp went up about 4C the humidity humidity went down a couple % points. Thoughts?
Is that surprising to you? I would expect a basement to have higher relative humidity than the anything above, unless the basement is air conditioned and the rest of the building is not.
Noonie
Posts: 297
Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:30 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada

Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:36 pm

faj wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:29 am
Noonie wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 10:50 am
So I moved my pumidor from the cold and dry basement to a closet upstairs...two days after and although the temp went up about 4C the humidity humidity went down a couple % points. Thoughts?
Is that surprising to you? I would expect a basement to have higher relative humidity than the anything above, unless the basement is air conditioned and the rest of the building is not.
The whole house is air conditioned. When the a/c is on the basement is very cold (my work from home office is down here, I wear a sweater even though boiling outside ;) ). It's a 3-year old home with a fully insulated basement. The closet's vent is closed, and it's usually stuffy in there. I really don't understanding humidity and temp other than what I experience naturally. Thanks.
faj
Posts: 337
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:07 pm

Noonie wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:36 pm
The whole house is air conditioned. When the a/c is on the basement is very cold (my work from home office is down here, I wear a sweater even though boiling outside ;) ). It's a 3-year old home with a fully insulated basement. The closet's vent is closed, and it's usually stuffy in there. I really don't understanding humidity and temp other than what I experience naturally. Thanks.
Relative humidity is... well relative. 50% relative humidity means air currently contains half the maximum of water vapor it can hold without it condensing. But the amount of vapor air can accommodate varies with air temperature. Hot air can contain more vapor. 50% relative humidity at 20C and 50% relative humidity at 25C does not mean the absolute amount of water in the air is the same.

When some warmer air from the upper stories mixes with air from the basement, its relative humidity will increase as it cools. I have always though this is the main driver for basements being at higher humidity levels, but someone with actual knowledge might correct me on that. It might be the case that water infiltrating from the foundation might significantly contribute to humidity. I would assume enough ventilation (mixing air from the whole house) and a uniform temperature would negate most of the difference in relative humidity.
Post Reply