Always avoid the extremes. Extreme humidity and temperature, on either end of the spectrum, will result in disaster for your teas. If you keep your teas in an overly humid environment, your teas may mold. (Pro tip: buy a cheap hygrometer and keep the relative humidity at 60% or lower to reduce risk) If your store your teas in an overly dry, they may dry out and become sour or lifeless. By taking the middle path you may not create the mythical “perfectly aged” tea storage, but you will dodge catastrophe. The only exception to this rule is if you are very experienced with tea storage and have specific goals in mind, but for everyone else, take the middle path and avoid unnecessary danger.
Remember how your grandmother kept teas in the spice cabinet? Never do that. Don’t keep them near cleaning chemicals, heavy perfumes or any other strong odor either. Tea is like a sponge for odors, soaking up the smells of the surrounding environment. While we certainly wouldn’t blame you for adding a few cinnamon sticks to a bag with black tea cakes and waiting a couple of years as an intentional experiment, it’s the exception to the rule. Avoid the headache of ruining teas and keep them in an odor neutral environment. The best way to store teas is with other teas of a like kind, for example, all of your ripe or shou Puer stored together in a single box.
Your tea leaves got plenty of sunlight when they were on the plant. Now it’s time to give them respite from the harsh rays. Sunlight will both heat and dry your tea, which as we explained in the golden rule, is bad for your tea. The only time you will ever want to use the sun is to dry out a tea cake or tea that accidentally got moisture on it, and even then only for a short period of time. Extended interactions with the sun will ruin your teas.
It is difficult to give blanket advice for storing teas because the necessary advice for a reader in Southern China humidity will be very different from a person living in the desert sands of Texas. That is why you need to analyze your own storage environment and shift towards the middle. Again, a cheap hygrometer is an invaluable tool to analyzing your living space, but you can also find a wealth of temperature and humidity data online. For example, if you live in a hot and dry environment, you may want to add Boveda humidity packs (or a similar humidity increasing device) in order to raise the RH in your storage area. Try to dull the extremes of your natural storage and pull back towards the center. Remember, the more extreme your environment, the more risk you are taking on.
This is more of a philosophical piece of advice for you tea fanatics. You will have a lot more fun drinking tea if you are less results oriented and more open to the unique tea aging that occurs in your personal storage space. Too often I see people who live in Northern Europe trying to mimic storage from Hong Kong, or some other monumental task. While this may work out for the brave tea storage scientists out there, it’s usually a folly that results in moldy tea or unmet expectations. Every aged tea will be unique, and that is OK! Don’t get caught up in having your tea be a specific way. Nobody has a crystal ball and no storage is perfect. If you’re drinking and aging tea brings you nothing but stress, you’re doing it wrong. Keep an open mind and enjoy the ride.