Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tea in the time of Trump

A friend recently commented to me how she’s noticed that her American friends have fallen largely silent on Facebook since the November election. I confess I’m one of them. The cacophony of panicked and desperate postings, interspersed with divisive rhetoric and delusional beliefs, is just too much. That’s not to say there isn’t good reason to be concerned, or to do your part to be involved, but I think most would agree that the past six months have left many of us bewildered, befuddled and shaking our heads in disbelief.

If there is any bit of silver lining to the circus that is the Trump presidency it is the call to rise above, to find clarity – not to retreat but to act from. There is a great need to put things in perspective, to seek balance and some bit of sanity amidst all the insanity that plays out on a daily basis in the news and on social media. Maybe this is why we see some tea bloggers coming out of retirement and resurrecting their sites? For myself, this is very much the case.

When looked at in the context of the shit show circus that is our current political climate, tea is a quietly potent act of resistance. Think about it. Most obviously, tea promotes good conversation and community, both of which are sorely needed today. But there’s more. A dedicated habit (a focused practice?) of gong fu style tea, where each infusion is paid attention to – the taste, the aroma, the feel in the body – is essentially the practice of mindfulness. When attention is placed in the experience of the here and now it gives the monkey mind some much-needed rest. And when the mind comes to rest on a regular basis, wonderful things happen. At the very least, it builds an inner ground of calmness and balance which colors all aspects of your life. It’s the clear antidote to the chaos and alarm that is blasted daily from social media and news sources. The more one can sit and “steep” in this kind of clarity, the more one can act from a place of wisdom and balance when actions are called for.

Vive la résistance! Vive la difference! Vive le thé!

This morning's act of 'tea resistance' landed a couple of truly amazing cakes to my table. It doesn't usually happen like this. Normally I'll pull some cakes from the cabinet or dig through the sample bags and end up with mostly 'okay' stuff. It's an educational thing for me at this point in my journey -- learning more about the nuances of tea, or about how a particular tea is aging. But today was one of those win-the-lottery kind of days. It started with the 2014 Du Quan sheng puerh from Essence of Tea.

Honestly, I don't like to drink really young puerh. Most of it wreaks havoc on my stomach, especially if I drink it day after day. But I have quite a lot of it (sigh) and find it interesting to follow the changes over time. This one is different. Right from the start, this tea shines as something out of the ordinary. It's only 3 years old, but nowhere is there any hint of that typical green hay aroma or stomach-eating roughness. The smell of the wet leaves after the first couple of rinses is deep and complex, coming off as surprisingly mature, a mixture of sweet fruit over a base of something more savory and meaty, even with a tiny bit of floral peeking around the edges here and there. The soup is silky thick in the mouth and the taste is full and well-rounded, with a soft and delightful spiciness at the top of the palate. In my notes I keep wanting to describe it as mature, but it has more to do with it's depth and full-bodied-ness than with the kind of maturity that comes with the passage of time (and I can't wait to see how this one evolves through the years). It's terrifically clean, too. I've had a lot of teas that I describe as clean, but this one is deliciously clean. Juicy clean.

But it doesn't end there. It just kept giving, scoring a 10 on all points. A deep full-body energy and a wonderful sweetness growing at the back of the mouth as the session continued, a fantastic sheng all around. That I happened to pick up a tong of this back when it was first introduced is one of those lucky strikes of my tea-buying days.

(regarding storage, I should probably clarify my last "all my teas are sealed" post. When it comes to whole tongs I keep them in their bamboo wrap, tucked away in the pumidor. Also, as I pull sealed cakes from the cabinet for tasting, I'll put them back in the pumidor without the sealed wrap until I accumulate enough of them to warrant pulling out the impulse sealer and sealing them all up again. I figure they benefit from the exposure to the warm humid environment for a time before getting sealed back up again. So far this seems to be working out very nicely.)

I finished my session today with a longtime favorite, the 1999 Da Du Gan sheng puerh. This is the cake that started it all for me. Not the start of my love for puerh, but the start of that 'puerh addicts anonymous' kind of addiction that leads to owning a truly ridiculous amount of tea. I picked this up from Hou De and still kick myself for not grabbing both of the last two that were for sale at that time.

This tea has plenty going for it, but most notable for me is how it seems to pull salivation into the mouth and sweat to the skin. I experienced this the first time I tasted it and it still happens to this day. The soup is syrupy thick and the tea carries plenty of qi, as well. The aroma after the first rinse is a strong perfumed camphor with sweet fruit underneath, and the vapors from the empty tea cup make me swoon, with big hits of vanilla mixed with a bit of floral. Lovely. I've dipped into this cake plenty of times through the years. The original paper wrapper, which was thin to begin with, has all but disintegrated, so now I keep it double-wrapped with a sturdier paper wrap holding it all together.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Puerh addicts anonymous

Hello, my name is ltpr (okay, it's really bev) and I am a tea addict. It's been four years since my last purchase. ... Alright, so it's been one day. I fell off the wagon. I was getting tired of drinking all by my lonesome and started venturing out again for sessions with friends. Then I started reading the groups and blogs. You all know what that means. I'm as good as a recovering alcoholic sitting down at a bar. *sigh* It's certainly not as though I need any more tea! I could maintain a nice little teashop for many years on the purchases I've made.

a working tea room - taste-test cakes are piling up

But I've missed the camaraderie of the tea community. I admit it. There are plenty of great new groups and blogs, too. No way I could add to any of that (not that I even want to), but blogging is its own pleasure, and I welcome the connections and friendships made through them. So I figured I'd update this long-defunct little corner of the tea blogosphere and maybe even add some more tastings notes. But here's the deal -- I'm one of those intuitive types (Rules? We don't need no stinkin rules!). I don't measure out my leaves, though I used to. I don't check the temperature of the water. Used to do that, too, but no more. Kudos to those that do, but I'm done with that. I don't even count the seconds on my steepings anymore. I go by taste, smell, feel. I like it better this way. Besides, it's all in keeping with the whole "listening to the leaves" theme, which suits me just fine. So if you're looking for exact parameters on how I'm brewing my teas, you'll have to look elsewhere. I was reading the comments on a tea blog somewhere, and someone was making the case for the merit of a more narrative approach to tastings notes, and I like that a lot. Maybe it's a female thing, but it's definitely right up my alley.

No doubt the most asked-about part of my blog is the whole pumidor project thing, so I figured I'd update that here. I'm not one of those who will declare what's absolutely right and absolutely wrong. Each to his own, I say. You want to build a pumidor with X humidity and Y temperature? Go for it. The nice thing about people in puerh-drinking circles is that they tend to be pretty good at taking notes, which will serve you well as you search out the best storage strategy. I still use my pumidor but, as you know, I started experimenting with sealing up my tea cakes about four years ago. For a while I would keep multiples of the same cake in different storage environments. Some I would leave in a plain cabinet (no humidity/temp controls), some I would stash in the pumidor (with the humidity set at around 60 to 65, in a room where the temperature fluctuates between 70-80F), and some I would seal up in food-safe shrink-wrap plastic. After sampling and comparing over the course of a couple of years I found that (for me anyway) the sealed tea route was the way to go. I can even now report that the teas do still definitely age. But I still keep the sealed beengs stashed in the pumidor (with the humidifier and computer fans still running). The shrink wrap still has some small bit of permeability to it, so I figure it's better to keep them in that environment than to set them out in the dry air of my house. Besides, I have this beautiful pumidor tea cabinet and I might as well put it to use!

sweet little plate found on eBay recently

Onto the tasting notes. Over the years I've fallen into my own system of keeping track of my teas. Gone are the fancy little handmade paper notebooks, each page carefully labeled with the date, the name of the tea and exhaustively detailed notes about how many steepings, how long each was steeped for, what kind of kettle/water/temperature was used, on and on and on. It was a great learning tool but honestly really sucked for keeping my notes all together for one tea. Who wants to sit there flipping through page after page, trying to find the previous notes for a particular tea? Not me. Then, there was a short stint where I tried keeping my notes in digital form, adding them to the purchase files I keep for each tea in my collection. But something about having my computer open at the tea table to type out notes as I sipped just took away from the enjoyment for me.

Finally, I found a solution that works really well for me (for the time being, anyway) -- sticky notes. I jot down my tasting notes (in very abbreviated form, but enough to tell me what I need to know) and then just seal them right up with the tea when I'm done. I've been doing this since I began sealing the teas, about four years ago. Now when I head to the pumidor to pull out beengs to taste I can see immediately what my previous notes were by just flipping the cakes over and reading them through the plastic. I can also see at a glance how the tea has been progressing and aging. So far it's been great, but some of my cakes have multiple Post-Its of tasting notes, and I can see that I may someday have to figure out a better way. But for now it's perfect.

I thought it might be interesting (to some of you anyway) to get a peek at the progression of tasting notes for a certain tea. Like I mentioned already, I keep things brief these days. When I sit down with a tea I'm looking at things like aroma (one of my most favorite aspects of puerh, or any tea for that matter), mouthfeel, energy and qi. Taste is part of it, too, but that is perhaps the most changeable of all the characteristics I take note of. Aroma changes with time too, but somehow I find that aroma tells me more about where a tea is at, and where it's going, than taste does. I also fell into this habit of distinguishing between what I call 'energy' and 'qi'. Some might argue it's the same thing, but I find that the energy of tea is felt more solidly in the flesh and bone of the body, while a tea's qi is more... hmmm... affective? No, that's not quite the right word, but while the qi may also be felt some in the flesh and bone, it leans more heavily into something 'other'. I'll just leave it at that. Looking over years of tasting notes now, it's clear to me that these aspects of energy, qi and mouthfeel are the most enduring over time, with things like aroma and taste providing what seems to me the frosting on the cake.

This morning I sat with three teas from my collection. I'll add the previous tasting notes, as well, because I think it paints a much bigger picture. I'll also make note of the age of the tea next to the tasting date.

teas on today's docket

First up was a 2003 Dayi Organic Banzhang (sheng). Curious how the aroma seemed to indicate more maturity in 2015 than in 2017. Might be due to the sealing, but taste/feel-wise the further aging was more apparent in 2017:

4-25-13 (10 yrs): Aroma is still quite green with granny powder overtones. Good body with something funky. Light energy. 
3-20-15 (12 yrs): Aroma shows bright aged fruit on top of woodiness, indicative of some aging. Very nice aroma. Taste is fruity with some age showing, definitely turning the corner from young to displaying a bit more maturity. Energy is strong and apparent, spreads through the chest. Mouthfeel is thin, but this tea shows strongly and favorably in other areas. 
4-30-17 (14 yrs): Aroma shows plenty of bright green hay. Astringent in the nose, turning to just-ripening tree fruit upon cooling. 2nd rinse is much more plummy with some minerality supporting. Taste presents a good tea base, hinting at a future of nice woodiness. Clearly past its early youth but plenty of maturity yet to develop. Nice energy fills the chest. 3rd infusion shows that dry sweet powder in the aroma. Warm and spreading in the chest. Thin in the mouth but plenty else to enjoy. Qi is gentle but apparent, comes on slow but builds fast. 

Next up was a 1998 Gan Xiang Jiu Yun sheng. Seeing the previous tasting note I was a little nervous for this one. Still not sure what to make of it but it's definitely an interesting tea.

7-19-13 (15 yrs): Low grade disintegrating leaves, funky sweet plastic smell with 1st rinse. 2nd rinse adds a powdery note. Waxy cheap unscented lipstick aroma on 3rd rinse. I'm afraid to sip this. Tastes weird.  
4-30-17 (19 yrs): Aroma is super sweet ripe stone fruit, unusually strong. 2nd rinse, still ridiculously sweet with some of that waxy lipstick scent at the base. Taste is initially sweetish with a sour edge. A little oily and slightly thick in the mouth, with waxy aftertaste. Later steepings reveal more powder in aroma. Energy descends to upper chest and then stops. 4th infusion, taste becoming less sweet, taking on a powdery note, sour is gone. Still not sure what to make of this one. Certainly unusual.

Last in today's line-up was a 2006 FengQing QiZi Gold Award sheng. A real pleasure to drink. I should note that in the years of my tasting puerh teas I've come to use word "perfumed" to denote only those teas that reach what, for me, is the pinnacle of aroma -- complex, layered and nuanced, often with floral hints here and there. Usually when I find that 'perfume' in a tea's aroma, the rest of the package is not far behind.

6-26-13 (7 yrs): Strong green pasture aroma. Long-lasting. Taste and character are elusive, subtle. Needs time to open. Little of note for now.  
4-30-17 (11 yrs): Aroma shows nice creamy meadow, with some malt mixed in. Definite perfume potential. Taste is clean and clear, nuanced. 2nd rinse aroma, also very nice, hints of what's to come with more age. Almost-floral top notes with soft leather throughout the base. Well-rounded energy, full-body, with center of qi concentrated in the deep middle of the head. Taste is layered and complex. Excellent all around. Silky mouthfeel. 

glad to have this one on the shelves

Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 A few Single Trees, maocha, from The Essence of Tea

A beauty of a tea session today, drinking this lovely maocha. It treated me to all sorts of interesting complexity the moment I started to warm the leaves. A wonderful perfume that continually evolves. But what I like best are the still moments between sips, when it really shows its essence. A profound deep calm, and occasional gifts of sweetness on the tongue, plus the many nuances of perfume filling the head. I feel blessed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New storage experiment

So... my pumidor experiment has lost its luster. Earlier this year I started to notice the teas were losing strength in aroma and complexity. It was as if they were falling asleep and fading away. I have a couple of theories as to why that might have happened. Despite my cabinet being stuffed so full of tea cakes it's sometimes dangerous to even open the door, I think there was still too much air circulating. The added fans, while they were very helpful in bringing all corners of the cabinet to consistent temperature and RH, may have been part of the problem. But after talking with some folks I started to wonder if the other issue might be the fact that most of my cakes are "un-tonged." They're simply stacked, one on top of the other, with only the thin paper wrapper between the tea and the air. So starting around May or June, I began a new experiment.

I plopped down a bit of money (not much) for an impulse sealer and started sealing up some of my cakes, just like you see in tea shops in many parts of China. The results have been encouraging. The aroma becomes concentrated again and it seems that all the wonderful nuance and complexity I love so much about these teas becomes redirected back into the tea again, instead of dissipating into the air. Over the months as I would taste-compare sealed teas to unsealed ones, I eventually became a convert and now nearly all of my teas are sealed up. The only exceptions are those which I purchased originally in tongs (which I think is the most ideal way to store teas), and those few cakes I'm still leaving unsealed to continue with the comparisons.

Another good option (even better) would be to store one's tea cakes in those large yixing jars. Like the tong wrappers, the clay does a good job of keeping the tea protected, limiting the amount of air that can circulate, while still allowing penetration of humidity. Admittedly, the plastic wrap does not do that. But I don't have the funds to purchase a bunch of large yixing jars, and even if I did I have so many tea cakes it would probably require an addition to the house to store them all. So for now, until I come up with a better option, it's the shrink-wrap route for me.

But the pumidor is still useful. It's great for "conditioning" a tea cake, either right after purchasing or after removing it from the shrink wrap. When a tea cake that has been dried out somewhat is placed into that warm humid environment for a short time, it does incredible things to the taste and aroma of the tea.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tasting my way through the pumidor

I continue to bang through the tea cakes in the pumidor, often several a day, making note of what I find and endlessly fascinated by the whole process. When I started this endeavor a couple months ago the first thing I noticed was that the teas seemed to be weak and subdued pretty much across the board. I also noticed that the terrific aromas that used to emanate from the pumidor were now also subdued and quiet. The only difference I could find (aside from the passage of time) was a change in RH. When I first started down the path of controlled humidity I'd set the RH around 70%, but for reasons I've already covered here I dropped it to 55% many months ago. So, curious to know if the subdued character of the teas now might be related, I recently (slowly) bumped the RH back up to around 63%. Within a week (even with just a few degrees of change) the cabinet was smelling heavenly again. Still, the teas have yet to respond when brewed. I think this is due to the length of time it takes for the humidity in the cabinet to penetrate the cakes in the cabinet. I've noticed that it takes a couple of months for the humidity to stabilize inside the cabinets, so my guess is that the initial bump in aroma is due to just the surface of the tea cakes responding, but the interiors of the cakes will take some time to catch up. As always, time will tell.

You've probably noticed that I'm no longer dedicating whole posts to waxing poetic about specific teas. Lots of different reasons for this, but I'm going to break from that norm here. Might as well mention some of the teas that have impressed me as I taste my way through the cabinet. This is not meant to be a roaring endorsement or guarantee that you or anyone else will also find merit, it's just a mention of what I've been drinking (pretty much randomly removed from the shelves) and what I've been enjoying.

2005 Seven Sons on top, 2006 Douji on the bottom
A few years ago, a wise tea drinker with decades of experience with puer showed me some tea cakes that had staining around the edges of the wrapper. He told me this was a good sign and signified an active tea. Of the teas in my cabinet, this 2006 Douji Large Leaf sheng (pictured above) is the most edge-stained of all. I pulled it out recently to give it a taste. I admit I had high hopes it would shine, so was surprised to find the taste and aroma to be quite subdued (again, this could be due in part to what's mentioned above). But nearly every tea has it's strengths and weaknesses (some have no strengths at all, like a 1997 Feng Qing mini-tuo I sampled recently, and once in a rare while you hit on one that seems to have few, if any, weaknesses). Despite the subdued aroma and taste, this Douji impressed me with it's viscous silky mouthfeel and a deep, strong and spreading qi. Overall, it reminded me of what I've come to associate with truly old tree sheng, with it's subtlety accompanied with thick mouthfeel and deep qi. But the qi was short-lived and not as long lasting as some others I've had. This leaves me with questions -- how much of the character profile I've been attributing to "old tree" is really more correctly attributable to large leaf varieties? It seems another branch has sprouted for me on the path of learning puerh.

Another tea I enjoyed a great deal recently was a 2005 Seven Sons Wide Arbor sheng (also pictured above). It had turned the corner toward aging, exhibiting a terrific sweet woody aroma, good complexity and was full of vibrancy and strong activity, to boot. Really pleasant all around. I'll be looking to pick up several more of these if they're still available (this one was from Best Tea House in Canada). It'll be interesting, though, to compare the newly purchased cakes to the one I've been storing since first acquiring it a few years ago. As with most teas I sit with, I'm left with more questions to explore -- how much of the sweet aged character of this tea is due to how it's been stored here at my house? Will the new cakes I purchase taste the same and be as enjoyable as this one? It's another "buyer beware" scenario.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tea suchness

Tasting Some New Tea from Ekkei

A gift of "immortal buds" sent from an old friend 
"first spring picking from Ekkei fields," he said.
Opening the packet, color and fragrance filled the room, 
Proud banners and lances of outstanding quality.
Clear water dipped at the banks of the Kamo 
Well boiled on the stove, just right for new tea.
The first sip revealed an incomparable taste, 
Purifying sweetness refreshing to the soul.
No need wasting time on butterfly dreams
Rising up, utterly cleansed, beyond the world,
I smile, there's not one word in my dried-up gut,
Just the wondrous meaning beyond all doctrine.

I've been poor so long, pinched with hunger, 
Now a kind gift to soothe my parched throat, 
Dewdrops so sweet they put manna to shame--
A fresh breeze rises round me, lifting me upward.
It doesn't take seven cups like Master Lu says. 
My guests get old Chao-chou's one cup tea;

And whoever can grasp the taste in that cup
Whether stranger or friend, knows my true mind.
Sake fuels the vital spirits, works like courage,
Tea works benevolently, purifying the soul.
Courageous feats that put the world in your debt 
Couldn't match the benefit benevolence brings.
A tea unsurpassed for color, flavor and scent,
Attributes that Buddhists refer to as "dusts,"
But only through them is the true taste known,
They are the Dharma body, primal suchness,

            -- Baisao (1675-1763)

(note: "Dusts," according to Buddhist philosophy, are the objects or fields of sensation and perception: form, sound, smell, taste, tactile feeling and thoughts)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pumidor progress report

1997 cake

The pumidor experiment continues and I’ve been learning plenty in the process, as expected.  Wanting to stay on top of any potential for mold mischief I did a thorough check of all the cakes in mid December, two months of time in the cabinet, opening the wrappers on the majority of them to check closely for any signs.  The good news is that nearly all the cakes looked fantastic.  Pristine, even. I took a ton of pictures, mostly for my own records.  Seems silly to post them here, but I'll put up a few for the visuals.

"worry spot" circled, 1993 cake

For the most part, there were no serious issues with regard to controlled humidity storage.  But there were a few red flags present on a couple of cakes.  Among the oldest cakes there were two that seemed to show very tiny areas of a bit of white frosting.  Keep in mind that I was examining these with a bright light and a magnifying glass (in full anal-retentive mode, I admit).  I took pictures of each of the worrisome areas and sent them off to several folks whose knowledge I trust.  None could see in the photos what I saw with the magnifying glass.  The photo pictured here is one such "worry spot" on a '93 cake.  I've circled the area that had me concerned, but looking at it now I have a hard time seeing what had me alarmed.  Still, it makes sense that it would be the older cakes, whose storage history is unknown, that would have the highest likelihood of developing mold issues.  So this was lesson #1 – be the most cautious and conservative with the oldest cakes.

2012 cake, mold developing on wrapper

But down on the lowest shelf, on a few of the youngest cakes in my collection, there was a clear problem starting to develop.  The three cakes were located in a stack of cakes setting closest to the humidifier unit.  All were from the same vendor and had been wrapped in particularly thick paper.  As I pulled them out to examine them I noticed that the knot of paper at the center of the underside of the cakes seemed actually damp (not hugely so, but noticeably so) and there were tiny spots of the very beginning of mold growth on and around the knot of paper.  None of the other cakes in that stack (or anywhere else in the cabinet) had this same problem, only these three with the thick wrappers.  Fortunately, the mold was only on the surface of the paper and hadn’t penetrated to the cakes inside.  I’d caught it at the very earliest stages (lesson #2 – check your cakes EARLY and OFTEN if you’re adding humidity).  But this was clearly a worrisome sign so I decided to open the doors to the cabinet to let the tea dry out for a period of time.  I also removed the wrappers from these three cakes and replaced them with new wrappers. 
same 2012 cake pictured above,  wrapper removed
The small room where the pumidor cabinet is located is particularly warm due to the way the house was designed.  It’s consistently about 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house.  While the cakes were sitting open to the dry air I placed a hygrometer in the room to check on the humidity levels.  Without the humidifiers going and with the high heat of the room, the RH level was dry—REALLY dry--averaging between 30-35%.  The longer the cakes sat out in this very dry air, the more anxious I was to get them back in the cabinet and get the humidity levels bumped up again.  In total, they sat in the dry air for 4 weeks.  I put them back into controlled humidity in mid January. 
2001 cake
This time around I did a few things differently.  First, I shuffled the cakes in the cabinet, placing them into different spots than they were before.  Next, I placed five small (calibrated) hygrometers in different places throughout the cabinet.  Over the next week I took readings from each of the hygrometers at various times throughout the day.  It turns out the humidity levels are highest, and the temperatures lowest, in the lower part of the cabinet (graph below).  You might be thinking “Well, duh!” but when I contacted the maker of the three cakes that had mold on the wrappers he did a similar comparison of hygrometer readings in his own storage and found the opposite to be true.  Which leads to lesson #3 – never assume anything.  It just further emphasizes the importance of getting to know your own storage conditions.  There are no shortcuts or one-size-fits-all.  If you’re experimenting with controlled humidity then GET SOME HYGROMETERS (they’re cheap) and check out different areas of your storage. 

There's the whole matter of dew point, as well.  I’m learning it’s not as simple as “dew point X is good, dew point Y is bad.”  While I’m still far from understanding it all I’m currently spending a lot of time at this website, paying particular attention to the MOLD RISK factor.  While I’m sure there are more things than just RH and temperature that encourage mold growth (airflow, the type of mold spores present), it’s a pretty good start at getting one’s head around what happens when you start playing with temperature and humidity.  I sat down and charted the points from the hygrometer readings on each shelf, below.  The blue circle on the left shows the general area of the readings from the top shelf, the middle green circle shows readings from the middle shelf, and the red circle on the right from the lowest shelf, with the mold risk parameters (as defined by the dew point calculator, linked above) enclosed on the right by the darker red sideways "V" shape.  
What’s interesting is that I’ve got the set-point on my humidifier unit set at 60%, and yet the RH levels in the chart above show a range of 60-71%.  So why am I getting such high RH readings?  I think I know the answer.  The regulating unit for the humidifiers is placed at the upper right corner of the cabinet, just inside the door opening which (thanks to the info gleaned from the hygrometer readings) is likely the driest spot in the cabinet.  Fortunately this is an easy fix.  I just need to factor in the average RH difference when calculating the set-point for the humidifier unit.

As for the inconsistency of RH levels between shelves and the pooling of humidified air in the lowest part of the cabinet, that’s a little trickier.  Clearly it’s an airflow issue, but there are different ways to address it and I need to figure out which way is best.  The humidifier unit has two sets of fans.  The first set is located on the top of each humidifier.  Whenever the regulator signals that the RH is low it causes the fans on the humidifier units to switch on, blowing humidified air straight upward (this is also why I have no cakes directly above the units on any of the shelves).  The second set of fans (two small fans like the kind you’d find in a desktop computer) are placed at the top of the cabinet along the back wall and run as auxiliary components to the unit, with their own set-point for turning on and off that has nothing to do with the RH levels.  For the data points in the graph above they were set to go off for one minute in duration every 20 minutes.  I’ve changed them now to go off every 10 minutes and am hoping this will help to balance the hygrometer readings.  Time will tell.  I may have to set them to go off even more, or I might have to place them in different areas of the cabinet.  There’s also the option of adding a few more computer fans to the two that are already hooked up.  I’m also giving some thought to the general density and arrangement of the cakes on the shelves as this could also contribute to or impede air flow.  This issue will probably require trying out different approaches to discover the best solution.  I'll keep you posted!

This is all a great deal of fussiness, I know.  But I find great fun in experiments like these, and most importantly I really love what the added humidity is doing to the taste of my teas!  :)