Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Furry Brick

This morning, my eyes nearly popped out seeing these fuzzy white hairs growing on this tasty 06 Lucky 7581.  How? What? When? Why?

I give my shengs frequent visual and sniff inspections multiple times a week mostly to check for signs of life. The Bay Area being touted as a dry god-forsaken place for aging, I have to obsess about teas drying out to mummies.  However I haven't been too diligent about my shus which do okay in this low humidity.   

This neglected brick had been stored just only in an outer basswood box in a loose opened plastic bag mostly to keep the crumbs together. The last time my eyes laid on this brick was probably two years ago.  All the panicky thoughts raced through my feeble mind. What else got contaminated? Should I never be using a plastic bag at all? What about my idiotic new sealing strategy!  What about Saint Hojo of Sealed Pu?

I couldn't just open up my other shus then and there to do a mold check in case contaminating spores became airborne.  I ran a HEPA air filter for a few hours to clear the air.  While I was waiting,  I looked for options to identify this white mold while brewing up some of the unfurrified chunks (the mold appears not to have improved the flavor).   I considered DNA analysis but the test only looks for Stachybotrys /Aspergillus/Penicillium molds that are commonly found in homes.  If it's not one of these, then I just wasted $62 dollars.

If DNA is out, then microscopy and visual identification was the next option. The only microscope rental service I could find was UC Berkeley's Electron Microscope Lab which would be over-kill.   I opted for the more flexible option of my very own digital 500x microscope which will arrive mid next-week. Before I casually take a toothbrush to this brick or chuck it altogether, I just want to make a final attempt to identify this white fuzz which looks similar to the fuzz I found in the shu stored in the ceramic jar.

After the air had been cleared, I opened the shu brick box and the other tea were completely pristine as much as shu can be.  I checked every single item of shu some of which were also in open plastic bags for containment and everything was clean.  I've had shu samples from multiple vendors in plastic pouches for years without any mold trouble.

So in the nine years of storage, I have had two mold incidents- one involving shu in a closed ceramic canister and this here brick.  This brick must have had more initial mold before it came to me than any other shu I've got- i.e. the furry white mold was already dormant in the brick and not seeded from my house. I will use only paper or wood storage for shu except the samples in their plastic bags for now.

For the sheng's which I store mostly in basswood boxes, the few that I put in closed plastic bags I've opened the seal and will monitor them closely.  I cannot wait to get my hands on the digital microscope to give my pu a full inspection. 

I was so distressed today that my sweet husband tried to cheer me up with oysters.  I greedily gobbled up more than my fair share.

1 comment: