I went tea shopping today. The shopping itself wasn’t the most fascinating, although I did buy some stuff for Action Jackson, who wanted some of the tuos we had last time we went to this store.
What was interesting was the conversation I had with the owner of the store today. It wasn’t the first time I heard this theory, and it won’t be the last. It probably also isn’t the last time either that I’ll hear this.
Basically, the theory is that pure dry storage is a sham, cooked up by self-interested merchants who basically got lucky.
It goes something like this — prior to the concept of “dry storage”, everything was wet stored. There were the accidental dry stored puerhs, but those are rare. For the most part, a proper puerh would’ve gone through the traditional HK storage. How much is appropriate was always up for debate, but it always went through SOME such storage.
However, in the late 80s/early 90s, there were people who wanted to get in, but who didn’t have years of old tea to supply themselves — all they had were newish cakes.
What do you do?
You claim that everybody can store it in their house and that it is, in fact, better to home store them. Dry storage, as a concept, was born. And from there… we got to where we are now. New teas are expensive, sometimes way more expensive than old teas, and many of them are still not drinkable years from now. In places like mainland China, even 5 years old tea can sometimes be considered “old”, whereas traditionally that would’ve merely been a “young” cake.
She does have a point, and I’ve often wondered the same thing. Teas that have gone through some HK storage, I think, can often taste better, change faster, and ultimately achieve better results. Pure dry storage has its merit, but is it enough?
To put it in perspective — the same person who was telling me this stuff also sells a bunch of newish cakes, many of which haven’t gone through HK storage, so it is not really the concept of dry storage that she has a problem with — it’s the results. I think what she really had issue with was 1) the idea that the drier the better, when in fact, you need certain humidity to achieve optimal aging conditions. 2) The idea that a cake that is under some number (say, 10) can be considered properly “puerh”.
I think I can agree with those points, for the most part. I don’t think cakes will age well in any climate. There’s a reaosn I am sticking all my teas, save a few things, in Hong Kong. I think I have seen enough cakes that are “drier” stored in places like Hong Kong or Taiwan that are quite good though, so I think it is not impossible to home store good tea. It is merely that it should not be taken to the extreme.
So perhaps the term “dry storage” (or gancang in Chinese) should really be tempered — it should just be “drier storage” instead, or better yet, “non traditional storage” or some such.
There’s definitely some financial interests involved here as well — “dry storage” has made a lot of people a good bit of money. But as tea drinkers, it is perhaps important to remember that ultimately — we are going to drink our teas.