Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yunnan Trip - My Ripe Tea Purchase

I only purchased 1 kg of ripe pu erh tea during my trip to Yunnan.  This is it.  4 bricks of 2008 Fuhai ripe tea.  I was told that this tea was made with similar materials from the 2007 Fuhai large leaf pu erh cake (link) which I had liked very much.

This brick was stored in Kunming and the climate there was less humid than Singapore.  As a result, this Kunming storage brick tasted somewhat suppressed and lack the punch of ripe pu erh tea that I am used too.  However, breaking up this brick, putting the tea in my tea caddy and only started brewing this tea after a couple of weeks did made drinking this tea a very pleasant experience.  Yes, it did taste similar to the 2007 Fuhai cake which I liked.  Nice woody aroma with a hint of floral notes.  I must remember to get more of this tea in my next visit.

But I digressed.  In my last blog, I mentioned the phenomenal prices of raw pu erh while I was in Yunnan.  Yes, I had noticed that certain new pu erh tea was gaining popularity and the higher prices that accompanied these tea.  Right now, raw pu erh teas from Lao Ban Zhang and Bing Dao are 'pu erh of the day'.  Prices of these tea are pretty phenomenal, to me anyway.  Prices of these tea are now commanding a few thousand RMB per kilo...which means a regular size cake made from these areas may cost close to US$200 retail.  

Let me share my thoughts on why these tea cost so much.  I believe there is a new group of tea drinkers/collectors that has came steadily into the Chinese Tea market.  This group is made up of local Chinese, but they are financially affluent and enjoys 'conspicuous' consumption.  They buy branded products and usually associate price with quality.  When they drink or want to buy Chinese tea, they would usually demand the 'best' or the most expensive to demonstrate their purchasing power.  As a result, Lao Ban Zhang and Bingdao pu erh teas have seen their prices rise because of this new demand.  Yiwu pu erh is starting to jump up in prices as well.  Tea dealers in China, who had taken advantage of this demand had benefitted as well.  While I was in Kunming, I noticed many tea dealers now drive expensive European cars and had even able to open more shops and upgrade their standard of living.  However, I would like to warn serious Chinese tea drinkers that you must know your tea if you want to buy these high end tea.....meaning....that its impossible that every tea shop has pure Banzhang or Bingdao tea - it could be a blend of teas inside your cake.  Caveat Emptor.  Buy your Chinese tea from a reputable teashop.

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