Enemies of a tea are air, light, moisture and odours.
Couple of rules:
1) Never leave tea unwrapped as air will rob tea of its vibrant flavour as well as the residual moisture content of the leaf (all tea has about 5% residual natural moisture content remaining in the leaves)
2) Never store tea in glass or transparent container as it will fade in flavours. Never buy tea from someone who stores it this way. Optimal storage would be a tin.
3) Never store tea in fridge or wet place. Store your tea in cool, well ventilated place.
4) Never store tea along with spices, coffee or other foods with strong odours. Always keep the tea tin airtight.
How long to store a tea?
Generally: green, yellow and white teas are not made with longevity in mind, so consume within a year from date of manufacture. Highly oxidised Wulong and Sheng Pu Erh teas will, under the right set of conditions, keep well and age into something magnificent as they mellow with the time. Some rock Wulongs will keep for 1 to 3 years.
How to store and develop Pu Erh teas into something AWESOME:
Sheng Pu Erh – They keep well in natural temperature of 18-25C but they like humidity (70%) more than dryness as it keeps the process of natural fermentation alive within the Sheng Pu Erh tea cakes. Do not refrigerate or freeze! Do not store Beeng Cha in plastic bag, rather keep it in paper bag which it was originally packed in. Sheng Pu Erh will age gracefully and can be kept for 20 years or more under the right storage conditions.
Shou Pu Erh undergoes accelerated ageing and does not improve with the passage of time, but it will keep well for about 10 years.
Longevity according to Tea classes:
White tea: bud-style white tea such as Yin Zhen can be drunk new or can benefit from being rested. It is your choice as to how you prefer your white tea – fresh, new and bright or smooth, mouth-filling and softly mature. Leaf-style white tea, such as Bai Mu Dan, because of its highly exposed surface area, should generally be drunk within a year of manufacture.
Green tea (spring harvest): spring green teas are considered premium green teas and are made just once each year. These teas are prized for their fresh, youthful vigour and sweetness and pleasant, vegetal astringency. Green teas are at their sweetest, most tender and tastiest when drunk within the year that they are manufactured. These teas are ready to drink when released and there is no good reason to hesitate!
Yellow tea: best drunk new, but a bud-only yellow tea such as Meng Ding Huang Ya may show well after being rested. Careful storage is critical.
Wulong tea: Wulong teas can be drunk young, rested or aged. Ageing is a tool that allows the tea to mature, mellow, and develop complexity in taste (similarly to ageing fine wine or whisky). To be successfully aged the tea must be stored dry and sealed, away from humidity.
Depending on the style of wulong tea:
Partly oxidised 10% - 40% wulong teas are usually drunk right away or can be rested for 1-2 years. These are the light, green and fresh bouquet or citrusy wulongs.
Partly oxidised 60% - 80% wulong teas are often rested for 2+ years before drinking, as the flavour of the roast can overwhelm the flavour of the leaf in newly made tea. These wulongs can age for 40 and more years under good storage. These are the dark, heavy, woody and mossy wulongs.
Aged wulong teas may lose some of their floral and fruity aromas as they age, but the reward is an increase in flavour depth and complexity and a smoother finish.
Some tea connoisseurs believe the ‘older the better’ with wulong and Pu Erh teas and we AGREE with them muchly :)
Black tea: Black teas can be drunk young or aged. Black tea is able to retain its flavour and aroma for many years, when kept in airtight storage containers in cool environments. Some black teas, made from full, long leaves, can age and transform into a more flavourful and rich cup after being kept in good storage conditions.
Sheng (Raw): the ageing and internal changes of sheng Pu-erh teas are very different from that of wulong tea. As Pu Erh teas are going through post-fermentation with natural bacteria instead of oxidation as wulong tea does. Individual Pu-erh cakes or Tuo-chas are purchased loosely wrapped in thin paper, which allows the tea cakes to ‘breathe.’ Successful ageing of sheng Pu-erh is the result of continued microbial activity in the presence of humidity in ambient temperature environments (store on top shelf in a room temperature of around 18-25C). The time frame for maturing sheng Pu-erh is longer because it is a slow and steady process that requires years before the tea is ‘ready’ to drink. Sheng Pu-erh is generally considered ‘young’ up to 15 years of age and ‘aged’ after 15 years, although the longer the tea is aged the more delicious it will be. They can be drunk either young or aged, but when aged, sheng Pu-erh becomes rich, musty, earthy and substantial, and then, and only then, does it truly express the wonderful and delicious nature of this naturally post-fermentated tea.
Shou (Ripe): shou Pu-erh comes to the marketplace ready to drink and needs no further ageing. But it can be successfully kept and aged – over time (up to 10 years). They will also mature and mellow, but they will not undergo the tremendous internal changes that sheng Pu-erh will.