Topic: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

I live in a fairly humid climate probably similar to southern US; could be described as subtropical, but nothing like HK or Guangzhou. Lots of the furniture in my home is made of synthetic material, and there are few closets. I currently keep most of my tea cakes in a cardboard box away from direct sunlight, but I think it might be getting too much air.

However, labour is cheap here and I have been considering the optimum material and finish for a pu'er cabinet.
What sort of wood would make the best sort of pu'er cabinet?
Is there anything I should steer clear of? I thought something like cedar with a strong smell might influence the taste and aroma of the tea, even though it might help in keeping the tea insect free.
Is there any sort of wood which might influence the flavour of the tea for the better?
What sort of finish would be optimum?
Would unfinished wood be best?
How about wood finished with beeswax?

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

You might want to check out some of the "pumidors" folks on teachat have made.

I think that cedar and any strong smelling wood is definitely out... it will definitely get into the flavor of the tea in a way that I think most people would call bad. Also, anything you make that's new is probably going to end up with smells from any glue and varnish used. So I think you'd like something that will look nice with very minimal finishing - maybe wengé (not sure if that needs to be oiled, or if the oil would cause problems with the tea cakes).

I know antiques are hard to find over there sometimes, but if you can find one of those Chinese kitchen cabinets, I think that would be perfect (one with the ventilated cabinets on top, and solid doors on the bottom). With something that's already made, you can usually get a good sense if it has a strong smell or not, and older cabinets (at least if they haven't been refinished recently) shouldn't have as strong a smell from varnish or glue, though they might have some weird smells of their own. I have heard (though I have no personal experience) that putting the cabinet outside in direct sunlight for a little while can help get the odors out, and leaving it closed up for a week or two with some bamboo charcoal and some cheap shu might be a good idea also.

What I do is store the pu'er in a big closet in the back of my appartment (along with some other stuff). It's mostly sheng, but I have a separate shelf for the one or two shu cakes I have. I stack similar years (+- 4-5 years) together; if I have enough of a particular region within that time period, I'll stack similar regions together. I keep the door closed most of the time; I crack the door every once in a while to let some air (and humidity) in, especially when it's nice and humid out, then I shut it and put a towel across the floor. The nice thing is that the closet tends to even out fluctuations in temperature and humidity somewhat. Because the closet is so big, putting a pan of water inside doesn't seem to help humidify it much; I'm guessing in your case, that's not too much of a concern.

I have a Japanese tea tansu made from Zelkova wood. Don't currently store any pu in there, but the bottom stores most of my sealed canisters of other teas, and the top holds my teapots. When I bought it, it didn't seem to have that strong of a smell, but the smell actually is pretty strong, and I am a little worried about the smell being absorbed by my teapots. I have bamboo charcoal stuck all around (btw, I've heard you need to refresh bamboo charcoal by putting it in direct sunlight every once in a while), but so far it hasn't made that much difference. The bottom part is starting to pick up a little tea smell, though, at least.

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

I've always wondered if there's a material that would allow air to flow freely but trap humidity inside. It would be great to put something together that would breathe fresh air but that you could humidify. Gortex maybe? I think that allows water vapor to escape, though. There has to be a way...

While you might not want to use cedar to build the thing, you could probably use it as a veneer strategically places on the outside.

A couple things about odor that I'm surprised never get brought up are carbon padding and baking soda. If you have the thing vented then you could use the carbon padding that's sold as air filter pre-filters. It's a fiber padding that's coated in charcoal and is very good at removing odors from the air. I put a piece in front of my air conditioner intake in the summer to filter out smoke and it does a pretty good job (carbon is also all that's used in things like smokeless ashtrays).

And of course there's always baking soda - just like we use in the refrigerator to keep our food from all tasting the same due to the odors from all the foods. The stuff lasts forever and does a good job of absorbing a lot of odors. Strangely enough I've actually found that it doesn't actually absorb all of the good smells from the puerh.

When it comes to charcoal, I don't think there's anything particularly different about bamboo charcoal other than tradition. They burn it all to the point that it's all just carbon, the only difference is the structure of the material. So called "activated carbon" is generally coal carbon that had air injected during the burning to create tons and tons of small little bubbles that greatly increase surface area so that the carbon can adsorb a lot more and more efficiently. As such I don't see a lot of reason to favor bamboo charcoal over the cheaper "activated carbon." If you're going to use it for anything like water you just want to make sure to rinse all of the dust out first.

That's not even close to a real answer, but at least it's something to think about. Someday I want to figure some of these things out so that I can design or modify my ideal cabinet. Until then I just use a cupboard and will be keeping an eye out for some odd second-hand furniture.


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4 (edited by william 2008-11-07 19:52:32)

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

ABx wrote:

And of course there's always baking soda - just like we use in the refrigerator to keep our food from all tasting the same due to the odors from all the foods. The stuff lasts forever and does a good job of absorbing a lot of odors. Strangely enough I've actually found that it doesn't actually absorb all of the good smells from the puerh.

When it comes to charcoal, I don't think there's anything particularly different about bamboo charcoal other than tradition. They burn it all to the point that it's all just carbon, the only difference is the structure of the material. So called "activated carbon" is generally coal carbon that had air injected during the burning to create tons and tons of small little bubbles that greatly increase surface area so that the carbon can adsorb a lot more and more efficiently. As such I don't see a lot of reason to favor bamboo charcoal over the cheaper "activated carbon." If you're going to use it for anything like water you just want to make sure to rinse all of the dust out first.

I had heard that baking soda absorbing odors was a myth, but apparently not:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/rea … ator-odors

You're probably right about bamboo charcoal... I usually just buy it at the Japanese 99 cent store here, so it's not particularly expensive.

BTW, Will (the other one) -- check out Chan Kam Pong's book or articles in Art of Tea if you can.

Also, I posted some other thoughts about this a while back on Teachat at:
http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?p=68183#68183

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Now I,m no die hard Pu-head or anything so I don't know for sure but isn't the cardboard box pretty much ideal for storing Puerh? I thought that plenty of fresh air was what you wanted for storing / aging Puerh. I definitely not use anything that would influence the flavor or aroma of the tea even for the presumed benefit of the tea. I would want my tea to remain the way it was intended. Laminated woods are full of glue so I would rule that out, I would think any non resinous wood would be O.K. But I would make really sure that it had no odor good or bad.


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Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Tea Goober wrote:

Now I,m no die hard Pu-head or anything so I don't know for sure but isn't the cardboard box pretty much ideal for storing Puerh? I thought that plenty of fresh air was what you wanted for storing / aging Puerh.

I don't know that the tea would get much fresh air in a closed cardboard box, unless it's one of those boxes with ventilation holes cut in it (extra points if it's one of the boxes with the 'cha' character cut into the side). A cardboard box that's somewhere relatively far away from light, sun, and open windows would probably be pretty good, provided the cardboard is a good quality type that doesn't have a strong smell (I've always figured the ones intended for comic books should be good). I have seen cardboard boxes recommended for keeping different types of tea separate, or for providing an extra layer of safety to the tea, but I think the boxes should be in a dark room, cabinet, or closet.

But I think continuous fresh air is not what you want, at least not according to most of the stuff I've read. I think you want *occasional* fresh air, like airing out whatever the tea is living in once every day or two, or maybe once a week.

Since I'm in such a dry climate, I don't bother using a cardboard box around any of my teas currently, though in the past, I've kept some in brown paper bags.

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

I thought I had actually heard that you do want good fresh air, like what you normally get in a house, just not to the point that it's drafty. The only hard part is the humidity if you're in a dry climate - but maybe that's just it. It could well be that you want lots of fresh air in a humid climate but you want more limited air movement if you're in a dry climate. That would actually make a lot of sense.


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Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

william wrote:

You're probably right about bamboo charcoal... I usually just buy it at the Japanese 99 cent store here, so it's not particularly expensive.

Damn, I need a Japanese 99 cent store here <jealous> :)  (Actually there probably is one somewhere that I don't know about.)

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Why not store them in those porcelain and or clay vessels big enough for at least 10 cakes or more.  I used to see them being used to ship salted duck eggs or 1000 year old eggs from china. These things must cost pennies in wenzhou i would imagine. I have seen on other sites that they store and age their puerh cakes in zisha porous clay containers which fit 7 cakes. Use the ones where they age soya sauce in they have a special lid that seals with water, you probably know what i mean? You said humidity is average 50 % good enough imo. I don't think that only the best aged puerh comes from H.K or Taiwan it's just that these places is where puerh is drunk more that's all, probably has to do with the 24 hours eating culture especially Guangzhou, a chinese proverb says for delicate foods go to G'zhou. No problems with smells or insect infestation if you use clayware and it breathes.  This pumidor is not proven to be effective anyways, 2 guys came up with the concept at T.C, I see no point in it why change something that has been used for ages in China to age/store puerh. That's my 2 cents worth

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

just enjoy tea.  don't work up a sweat about it.


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11 (edited by LaoChaGui 2008-11-07 12:43:41)

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

I forgot about those handy clay jars. I think that's the answer. I'll keep my eye out for a huge one that I can fit a 400g bing into.

shuangjiang wrote:

just enjoy tea.  don't work up a sweat about it.

I would work up a sweat trying to carry the clay jars if I ever tried to move house.

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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12 (edited by ABx 2008-11-07 17:35:14)

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

I've been wondering about 50% humidity. I know that Guang's area is around 60% on average, but I've been wondering what it is inside his house. I've been meaning to ask. Here in Oregon it's always raining so the outside humidity is quite high, but inside it's usually around 50%-60%, with dips to 40% only on occasional (and individual) days.

It also kind of brings up a bigger question about what the humidity should really be. I know that places like HK have very high humidity levels, but are the cakes themselves actually being kept in humidity levels equal to the outdoor RH? Even with all the doors and windows open here the inside RH doesn't get that high. But then I don't really know much about how these things are really stored in those areas.

I wonder how the clay jars do for humidity? Those would definitely seem like the answer for places like HK and Taipei where the humidity is very high. I'm not really doubting you, just wondering what effect it would have on humidity.


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13

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

I had heard that baking soda absorbing odors was a myth, but apparently not:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/rea … ator-odors

This link is broken, btw :)

Haven't you used baking soda in a refrigerator? I've actually had bad experiences when the baking soda got used up and I ended up eating some leftovers that tasted like everything else. Putting new baking soda in killed the odors overnight. The Arm & Hammer line of products are also great for all they do :)

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

charcoal is a good absorber.

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Jeez, I don't know. I have maybe 15 or 20 raw cakes just kept in a cardboard box in a closet. Granted the closet is clean and free of odors, there is a ceiling fan running continuously in the room. Most of these cakes Ive had for about 4-5 years and they seem to be doing just fine. I check on them maybe twice a year and notice the gradual color change. No "off" odors going on there, the leafs texture is crispy. Ive been told ( I don't remember who ) that crispy is what you want to hear, not dried out, but crispy. I,m content with my box although if I lived in a really humid area I could see putting effort into finding an alternative storage method. My Puerh collection is kinda an experiment, Just out of curiosity watching to see what happens. My attraction to Puerh is very part-time. I,m not a Puerh fanatic. I cant see investing tons of money into something that may or may not age well, there are no guarantees even if you buy premium tea kept in the most ideal environment to some extent it,s out of your hands. So, I agree with one of the other poster,s here in that just drink and enjoy your tea. Tea should be relaxing and enjoyable, not stressful.


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16

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Tea should be relaxing and enjoyable, not stressful.

But then some of us enjoy such things ;)

I actually haven't gone as far as building anything for storing puerh yet, but mainly because I really don't know what I want to do yet. I'm also not sure that I actually need to do anything in my climate. But just the process of designing and building things for my hobbies is actually very enjoyable and relaxing for me.

I can tell you that what I'd love to do is get one of those hutches that has a counter with cabinets above and below. I'd keep my puerh in one cabinet, my other teas in the other, and have my zoji, tray, and accessories on the counter. Either that or I'd keep the teaware in one of the cabinets :)

Another thing I would like to do is make large clay jars with a space that fits some carbon padding around the rim, so that any air that goes into the jar gets any odors filtered out. I've got the clay, so I might try to make one at some point.

charcoal is a good absorber.

My only problem is that it's actually an adsorber, so it needs current to catch the undesirable stuff. I haven't had much luck with it when it's just sitting in a closed environment, but I guess I haven't used it that much.

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Glazed clayware is non porous, i think getting unglazed porcelain or any earthenware but heated in a kiln long enough to get rid of earth/clay smell should allow your puerhs to breathe. In some of cloud's picture he has a dehumidifier in a storage room for stacks of pu tongs, I think he stores them in H.K, I'm am speculating with moisture removal he probably obtains around 50 to 60 R.H.  Many of the amateur pumidor users think that H.K or Taiwan is like the Amazon 365 days a year, they should go there in December or January stay in an apartment overnight where insulation doesn't exist and no central heating(unheard of), cold and dry. I think any organic matter that is stored in maximum humidity will cause deterioration.


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Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

govnur wrote:

Glazed clayware is non porous, i think getting unglazed porcelain or any earthenware but heated in a kiln long enough to get rid of earth/clay smell should allow your puerhs to breathe. In some of cloud's picture he has a dehumidifier in a storage room for stacks of pu
tongs, I think he stores them in H.K, I'm am speculating with moisture removal he probably obtains around 50 to 60 R.H.

Do you mean 50-60% on average over the year? It's higher (significantly higher than 50-60%) in the summer and lower than that at times in the winter - he has some pictures of the actual RH readings in the AoT articles and in his book, and maybe even a graph. I think it gets to 90-95%, and I don't think he dehumidifies until it gets pretty high up there.

Many of the amateur pumidor users think that H.K or Taiwan is like the Amazon 365 days a year, they should go there in December or January stay in an apartment overnight where insulation doesn't exist and no central heating(unheard of), cold and dry.

And in Mr. Chan's book, he theorizes that there should be seasonal fluctuations... just not dramatic fluctuations within a short period of time. HK / Taiwan are hot and humid in the summer, and cooler and drier in the winter. The drier periods give the tea time to dry out from the more humid periods. I think it'll be a while before we know for sure how storage in other types of environments will affect tea.


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Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

A quick picture of my random collection of cakes, since I finally got around to taking a picture for teachat's unfortunately named "show your pu" thread.

http://veggiechinese.net/tea_closet1.jpg


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20 (edited by ABx 2008-11-09 20:44:47)

Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Do you mean 50-60% on average over the year? It's higher (significantly higher than 50-60%) in the summer and lower than that at times in the winter - he has some pictures of the actual RH readings in the AoT articles and in his book, and maybe even a graph. I think it gets to 90-95%, and I don't think he dehumidifies until it gets pretty high up there.

That's the question, though... just because it's 90% outside doesn't mean that it's 90% inside. Right now, where I am, it's 82% outside and 60% inside.

he has some pictures of the actual RH readings in the AoT articles

You can see it here: http://www.dyingsun.net/Tea/forumpics/puerhrh.png - I could and probably should have corrected the pic, but my scanner is in such an inconvenient location at the moment that it's a pain to scan anything that hangs off the side (like a magazine). I love that they covered up some of the text with the pics ;D

The last one with the text cut off says: "This photo was taken in April. The outdoor relative humidity reached 90% and the temperature was 24 (cents sign) J." (emphasis mine)

And in Mr. Chan's book, he theorizes that there should be seasonal fluctuations... just not dramatic fluctuations within a short period of time. HK / Taiwan are hot and humid in the summer, and cooler and drier in the winter. The drier periods give the tea time to dry out from the more humid periods. I think it'll be a while before we know for sure how storage in other types of environments will affect tea.

I'd say he even goes beyond that in this same article: "...In the past people have argued that one could use air-conditioning and other machinery to create fine vintage tea, but this idea has lost validity in recent years. Once these collectors began to experience how slow the aging process was, and how inefficient, the theory was tossed out. Furthermore, it is doubtful that such teas, even given adequate time, would be nearly as good as those stored naturally."

He also does go on to talk about the importance of slow and natural fluctuations, rather than the abrupt ones in artificial environments. This is what the graph you were thinking of is about.

He goes on later to say
"...However, tea cakes being stored in a closet still faces the problem of inadequate ventilation as it will be hard to have the convection air current. If high humidity is trapped inside your closet, it will become a "disaster area."

So maybe the idea of a "pumidor" is really not a good one at all (not that he is the final authority on the mater). I'm beginning to think that if I do anything at all then it should really only be to have a nice, decorative cabinet that filters out bad odors and stops direct drafts. Maybe jars, if I can find some that are affordable (local shop has nice yixing jars, but they're well over $100/ea). The cupboard that it's in now does do a nice job of keeping the temperature pretty even. It will be really interesting to see how it turns out with the higher humidity in the cold months and drier in the warm months. It also only seems to fluctuate between 40% and 65% here, rather than going down to 35% and below at any time.


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Re: Ideal pu'er storage cabinet

Mr Chan elaborates a bit further on his thoughts on storage, with some specific answers about his opinions w/r/t ventilation, humidity, and cardboard boxes.

(English)
http://www.cloudsteacollection.com/html … 017_e.html
(中文)
http://www.cloudsteacollection.com/html … g0017.html