There’s been quite a few responses on my last post, some focusing on the problem of “too dry storage” and how to fix it. I think it is important to keep in mind that although I said you can’t quite make “traditional storage” at home, you can easily grow mold at home, if you have the right conditions and aren’t paying attention. For example, look at this experiment that went horribly wrong.
There are lots of variable that go into aging and proper levels of moisture, etc, that makes it difficult to pinpoint what is a good condition and what is not. In that post, Tuochatea mentioned that the Jingyehao teas were not molded. That’s interesting, but may also be explained by the fact that the cakes were more compressed than the other ones. He also put some Xizihao in there, which tend to be loosely compressed, hairy teas, which are much more likely to attract and retain moisture than your run of the mill cakes. Put some Xiaguan iron cakes in there, and it’s quite likely that the mold damage would have been very light, or none at all.
If you go about changing your storage condition, especially if you try to accelerate aging by adding moisture artificially, or putting the tea in a place with naturally high moisture, it is quite important to be able to check on the tea every so often to make sure it’s going ok. If it’s an environment where human beings normally move about comfortably, then there probably won’t be much of a problem. On the other hand, if it’s in a shed or some such, or, as I’ve read once on a Chinese blog somewhere, moved outdoors onto someone’s balcony, then you’re playing with fire and can very easily ruin a whole bunch of tea in very little time, especially if you don’t catch the mold growing on a few leaves. Also, the natural rhythm of the seasons is said to be beneficial for tea aging – that the tea will “breath” moisture in and out as the climate changes. A constantly high humidity environment doesn’t allow the tea to do that.
So just because I told you to learn to stop worrying and love the moisture, I am most definitely not telling anyone to just buy two humidifiers and start pumping water into your room 24 hours a day. If you do that in, say, Phoenix Arizona, that’s probably fine, since it’s so dry there. If you try that in coastal Maine, it might not be such a bright idea and may very well end in tears.