Sunday, December 19, 2021

2021 To All The Tea I Drank Before


Yes, sing this phrase 'to all the tea I drank before' to the famous song 'To all the girls I loved before' and you would had realised you are now a hardcore Chinese tea drinker.  I had bought and drank some nice pu erh tea, within my budget, and I am happy my tea stash is more than enough till my next tea adventures abroad.

I recently had an online chat with my Guangzhou tea dealer friend and both of us agreed that the investment/ speculation aspect of pu erh tea had made both of us sit up and pay more attention to the pu erh tea prices.  

Yes, I buy buy and sell tea. My motivation for selling tea, which I started an online store few years ago, was simple. When I go for my tea adventures overseas, I would buy the tea I like and to get a good discount, I would buy a carton of that tea.  One carton of tea would take a long time to finish. Buying a few cartons every trip would add up, in terms of space, and I made the decision to keep a few tongs of tea from a carton and selling the remainder of the tea. This will free up space for me to get more tea and let my tea readers and buddies buy and drink some Singapore/ Malaysian storage tea.  My readers would had realised that the tea selection in my store is small and limited.  This is a hobby based business and I will continue to add more tea from my stash and from my tea adventures when I start travelling next year. 

My tea dealer friend and myself noticed many new pu erh tea that are now sold are not drunk.  These tea are kept to be resold for a a higher price.  This investment phenomena is not new but it seemed that the volume of these investment purchased is now more pronounced.  Common teas like Taetea 7542 is an example. People now buy the 7542 and store them away hoping to sell for a higher price,  Taetea realised this phenomena and raised its prices of their new 7542. The demand for the new tea remained strong (in spite of higher prices) and the tea continued to be bought up.  Xiaguan tea factory has joined this investment tea climate by producing Hong Yin and Banzhang limited edition cakes this year.  My tea dealer told me that most of the buyers of these new tea are investment buyers than drinkers.  Tea dealers had to ensure the cartons of such tea sold, must be in mint condition....any dents of damage to the unopened cartons are rejected by the buyers.  My tea dealer friend remarked there is no necessity now for buyers to sample the tea before a purchase of such tea.  

This uptick in pu erh tea investment is a worry as many of these investors do not appreciate or drink pu erh tea.  The main goal is to profit from reselling tea.  There is no concern on aging the tea.  It is a strong possibility these buyers are more focussed in maintaining the 'mint' condition of the unopened carton of tea.  Humidity and temperature may be adjusted to keep this 'mint' carton box and the tea may not age well inside the box.  

The entry of some many new 'investment' buyers had caused some anxiety in me.  Tea would be more expensive and may deter new Chinese tea drinkers to take up tea drinking as a hobby.  The last time Chinese tea was heavily speculated (around 2007) caused many losses to investors when tea prices fell and left a negative impact in the Chinese tea industry.   I should get a clearer picture of the tea markets when I travel next year and will let you know my findings. 

Till then, thank you 2021 and I look forward to 2022.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

2009 7542 903


Pu erh tea drinkers including myself love numbers.  We not only enjoy buying, drinking, storing our pu erh cakes, we even name our pu erh tea by numbers.  

Ask any pu drinkers to name popular pu erh tea and you will get and hear numbers like 7542, 7581, 7572, 8582 along with exotic names like Banzhang, Yiwu or brand names like Dayi and Xiaguan.

I just opened a popular pu erh tea cake - 2009 7542 903.  

These numbers meant - 

2009 - year of 2009

7542 - name of the pu erh tea cake

903 - third production batch

All these numbers sound so scientific.  Yes, we tea drinkers are quite smart.  If you had noticed the World Chess Championship that is going on as I write this blog, one of the players actually brought a hot flask of tea on stage to drink while he analysed the chess moves.  I bet the tea is pu erh tea.

Back to this tea.  7542 is a very popular pu erh tea.  This tea was originally produced by Taetea (aka Dayi) tea factory. This tea rose to fame when a Hong Kong tea seller found a old batch of 1988 tea in his warehouse and found that the tea had aged to a very nice drink,  That tea was nicknamed '88 Qing'. 7542 tea became famous to this day.  Today a new 7542 cake commands more than $120 per cake.

I had kept this 7542 in my personal collection for more than 10 years.  This tea brewed up strong.  Non smoky, woody, notes of dried herbs.  There are still astringent notes.  Even though the tea is already 13 years old, I felt the tea would need another 5 more years of storage.  Though the tea brew is a nice dark amber colour, I felt the tea would be even better with more age. The are still some 'roughness' and some bitterness in the tea that need to be smoothen out with more time in storage.

I had sampled many 7542 post 2014 and there is a significant difference in the tea.  Many tea drinker friends and I felt that the newer 7542 had changed.  The processing of the tea is different. The new 7542 is lighter in taste.  There are fresh floral notes in the tea.  It is more drinkable to 'drink now'.  I am personally not sure how the newer 7542 will taste when you store it away for 12-15 years.  I had also observed that the newer 7542 are a good success for Dayi tea.  They had raised the prices of the new 7542 and most of these tea had sold out. However, my tea distributor friends had also observed that the newer 7542 though sold out are never drank.  The tea had now became an investment commodity.  Investors would buy cartons of these tea, keeping these tea away in its pristine condition, unopened carton and all, and selling the tea for a profit. Any dent or damaged to the unopened carton would meant a lower price for that particular tea.

It is unfortunate that many new tea now are expensive and many buyers treat the tea as an investment.  For tea drinkers like myself, tea should be enjoyed and be drunk.  Chinese tea is more than just tea bags and bubble tea.