; Cwyn's Death By Tea: May 2017 ;

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Puerh Tea Vendors

Most people who purchase anything online are accustomed to the faceless and communication-devoid nature of the transaction. The best transactions usually are those when the product simply arrives as expected. So anyone new to buying puerh tea surely does not expect the type of communication possible and often expected by long-time collectors and buyers. The fact that puerh tea lovers enjoy discussing tea vendors is no big secret. Puerh tea is unique in that customer service very often includes communication with tea vendors and even over time developing a buying relationship with that vendor. 

But how do people get to know tea vendors? I decided to present a little bio on vendors and agents that I know. By “bio” I mean just some small bits of info to help you distinguish one vendor from another, and perhaps to make reaching out a little less daunting. First, a bit of explanation about the list of people here: obviously I cannot list every single great vendor or agent. The ones in this article are mostly people who:

1)      Do puerh full time. Or most of the time. Really that means 24/7 and they do not sleep.
2)      Are approachable for beginners.
3)      Answer messages promptly and enjoying discussing puerh.
4)      Are people I have had some communication with OR many people have.
5)      People who will handle special requests with personal service.
6)      People generous enough to forgive if I get any info incorrect.

The Madmen of Puerh

Mr. Wilson has lived in Yunnan for almost two decades, and now at least for part of the year when he is not traveling for business to other tea regions. He has fluent language abilities. He has described his businesses to me as “a family business, my wife, some relatives and a handful of others.”

My first experience communicating with Mr. Wilson was well before I started this blog, and memorable to me because of a purchase of a teapot with a special design to celebrate my son’s college graduation. I was also in search of tea gifts for Son’s professors in thanks for their mentoring, and selecting teas for the graduation party. I emailed with Mr. Wilson over my choices, and he was very patient and helpful.

Our family celebration of my son’s graduation was one of the most profound family events we have ever had. We shared tea, food and because my son was a Music major, we had classical musicians sit down to play for the family. I still remember the warm haze of the day from sunshine, food, tea and loving friends. This day carried our family forward when my mother died the following morning. Without that day, I do not think I would have survived the coming months myself. Of course I have purchased a lot of tea and tea ware from Yunnan Sourcing since then, but this experience of personal assistance at a key family time is memorable for me.

I have a persistent fantasy of raiding the YS dumpster in Bend, OR.
Imagine all the half steeped tea leaves in there.
Scott Wilson is active on Instagram, Twitter and also YouTube where he makes podcasts on various tea topics, and always while brewing tea. His Doberman Lucy is under special acting contract in his videos. I am continually astounded at the strength and amount of tea Mr. Wilson can consume. He enjoys friendly email chat anytime with just about anyone who messages him. He accepts special order requests.

Paul Murray, white2tea.com, teaware.house

Mr. Murray is one of the more shy puerh vendors in person and online, as he prefers not to show any photos of himself. This is truly due to shyness, and it is no big secret I attend his tea tastings and look forward to meeting up with him and his wife Karen once a year.

Paul left  the US for China shortly after finishing his art and languages degree more than a decade ago. He began a love affair with puerh tea while working a job in another career area. He reportedly accumulated a very large collection during those years, and found his tastes moving into higher quality teas. As a result, white2tea was born in 2012 to share teas that he feels are the best he can find. People archly make much over his wrapper designs, but keep in mind his background training is in art; it’s not just marketing with him but creative expressions of his personal views on tea. Every wrapper has something he wants to say, not merely decoration to sell tea. And they are the truth as he sees it through art, so he probably does want to have sex with the Bosch lady.

This fantasy is of the new Guangzhou warehouse with two-headed guard dog.
Now based in Guangzhou for the good tea climate, Paul travels to Yunnan every year for several months in spring and autumn and has developed relationships with tea growers. He maintains Instagram and Twitter accounts daily, keeps a blog, and occasionally does live podcasts of tea tastings via SnapChat. White2tea accepts special private order requests for aged factory teas, in addition to their own productions.

Peter Stanik, pu-erh.sk

I have not communicated much with Mr. Stanik although I have ordered plenty of tea and tea ware. Other buyers I know enjoy their relationship with him, as he focuses mainly on gushu puerh tea and high end tea ware. His website is in Slovakia, so you may need to hit the language button options to access his blog and some areas of the website. On Facebook, he describes starting out on green tea and oolongs before a trip to Yunnan took him into a lifetime relationship with puerh tea. He opened a business in 2010.

Pu-erh.sk offers samples of nearly all of their teas and has earned a reputation of selling some of the best puerh teas accessible to those who try to respect their budgets. Just because you can’t afford a whole cake, no reason to miss out on great teas when pu-erh.sk offers sample sizes. The site also offers extremely fine tea ware, including Japanese hand forged tetsubin and a specialty of creations from European potters. This makes pu-erh.sk a great resource when you are ready to bump up to investment quality teas and tea kettles. You can find Peter on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube under Pu-erh.sk.

Honza Brož, chawangshop.com

Mr. Brož lives in Yunnan with his wife where he maintains a tea shop and web business, but is originally from the Czech Republic. I can admit Chawangshop is a website that causes me a certain amount of awe and mental illness, because I adore the teas so much. This site is unique in many ways, such as the selection of vintage tea wares at low prices, and craft products like rougher heicha that I cannot find anywhere else, and Chaozhou clay teapots.

2016 Yibang by Chawangshop
As with so many vendors, the Chawangshop selection derives from the experience and philosophy of the vendor. Mr. Brož shared with me recently that he began drinking puerh teas in the early 2000s back home in the Czech Republic, brick teas with no provenance which were still nevertheless “very tasty.” He saved a piece from each tea he drank back in those days, putting it away to age further so he could see how they changed over time. He describes learning a great deal about puerh by drinking deeply into his teas over many years. His shop is a way to replicate this same approach for puerh drinkers, because there is no substitute for long experience in learning how to drink tea. His teas are geared toward providing this experience over a period of years. He encourages people to put teas away into storage and continue to drink them over time.

Mr. Brož is active on Instagram and Facebook, as well as many tea websites and discussion forums such as Teachat. He offers special ordering and will track down teas or tea ware for private customers.

The Couples

Eugene Chew and Belle Sun, teaurchin.com

This husband and wife tea team is based in Shanghai, China. Eugene moved to China from Australia and stayed after meeting his wife who is a government accredited tea grader and tea ceremony expert. They founded Tea Urchin in 2011, and they design some of the most beautiful tea wrappers, as well as pressing their own teas and sourcing factory teas. Their teas are usually single origin, and they offer some tea ware as well. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I have had a few Tea Urchin teas, they are a regretted omission from my blog, not for any reason other than my money runs out too fast. But I have liked everything I’ve tasted from teas sent to me from tea friends and from traveling tea boxes.

David Collen and Yingxi Chen, essenceoftea.com

Essence of Tea hit the western puerh tea drinking world by storm in 2008-2009. If you don’t believe me, read the back pages of the Sheng of the Day forum on badgerandblade.com, a puerh discussion topic that dates back well before most western facing vendors got their start. People who had access only to factory teas got their first tastes of truly fine fresh puerh teas with cleaner processing than people were accustomed to. The Half-Dipper blog has extensive coverage of this company’s teas over the years.

Essence of Tea started out in England but now they are based in Malaysia, so the teas have access to what is probably one of the best storage climates in the world. Their teas also sell out quick due to the enthusiastic fan base. This tea business is a good resource for the real-deal vintage Yixing tea pot. I mean the real Yixing mud and vintage factory tea pots. When you are ready to go past your first $30 Yixing purchase into an investment tea pot, their site is the first one to try when you are looking for assistance with this big purchase. Essence of Tea maintains a Facebook and Twitter presence, and they answer emails promptly.

Glen and Lamu Bowers, crimsonlotustea.com

Mr. and Mrs. Bowers have a truly inspiring story. They live in Seattle, WA and spend at least three months a year in Yunnan. Glen described himself as an avid coffee drinker for many years. After his engagement to his wife Lamu, he quite accidentally tried shou puerh while on a business trip to California. He felt so impressed by this tea immediately and talked to his wife-to-be, who happens to be from Yunnan, China. “Of course I know about puerh tea, I just assumed everyone did,” is a paraphrase of her response to him. I’m amazed to think that Glen and Lamu were engaged to be married well before Glen even started drinking puerh, I can only describe this as a spiritual connection. Glen and Lamu offer a unique service in Seattle: they hold tea tastings for married/partnered couples and sell tea sets designed for newly married people.

When in Yunnan, they live with Lamu’s family where they are able to commission Jian Shui teapots and genuine silver tea ware. Glen and Lamu also work closely with their tea farmers, investing time and money to help these farmers improve their processing and purchase equipment with the goal of cleaner tea. CrimsonLotus tea is active on Instagram, Reddit, Facebook and Steepster and they accept private email order requests for tea and tea ware as well as wedding sets. Glen is always available to help new puerh drinkers and answer questions.

Jonah Snyder, bitterleafteas.com

Mr. Snyder is relatively new to the puerh scene, and lives with his wife and her family in Yunnan. He has an advantage of living in Yunnan full time with a father-in-law who likes to drink puerh in the traditional Yunnan way of green and fresh. Thus he has an expert puerh taster in his family. Bitterleaf Tea has only been around for two years or so, but their specially commissioned white and wood-fired Jian Shui zitao tea wares, and vintage cat tea pets, are a big hit with social media puerh folks. I see them everywhere now, and their wares sell out fast. The website has gorgeous photos if you are in the mood to just browse.

Bitterleaf's 2016 Yiwu
The teas pressed by Bitterleaf are fresh and cleanly processed. They are starting to venture into offering more aged teas as they meet collectors in Yunnan. I recently purchased an aged tea they acquired from a collector and I’ve got my eye on their selection which, with their local connections, will likely continue to improve. Bitterleaf accepts private order commissions for tea ware, and their Instagram tea lifestyle posts are so lovely and cheer up my day whenever I see one.

John Hou, kingteamall.com

Mr. Hou is based in hot and muggy Shanghai, China and began selling puerh teas on Aliexpress in 2014. At the end of 2016, Aliexpress prohibited vendors from selling tea on their platform, an unfortunate decision on the part of Aliexpress that led to Mr. Hou opening a website. I’m certain he does not regret escaping all those fees he once paid to Aliexpress, but having a website requires a lot more outreach to buyers. He offers a large selection of Taetea and other factory teas, aged and new. He also sells tea ware, and you can often find puerh factory tea ware. If you want a gaiwan with a Taetea logo he might have it in stock.

King Tea Mall's 1996 Dayi Laochatou
This tea company wins my personal award for most fragrant tea package. I once ordered a tin of Taetea shou cakes from him which arrived at my house not only bubble wrapped, but the entire cardboard shipping box was wrapped in bubble wrap too. Despite all this extra wrapping and the tea cakes in a tin, this tea literally stank in the best possible way a very fragrant shou puerh can. I couldn’t believe how overpoweringly wonderful the box smelled. Must be the Shanghai storage.

Mr. Hou offers the best customer service. Not only will he accept private order requests, he offers repeat customer discounts anywhere from 5-20% for repeat purchases. He emails tracking updates on your packages so you don’t have to wonder where your tea is. If anything arrives damaged, you can expect a refund or a future coupon or a replacement. He is a very friendly person to chat with, one of the few vendors who will do live chat. He has started a blog on his website, and recently I noticed he opened an Instagram account. Mr. Hou will track down pretty much any factory tea you might want. If it’s out there, he will find it.

Puerh Obsessives servicing tea community

Jay Khilnani, tealifehk.com

Mr. Khilnani is a go-to person for traditional Hong Kong storage teas and heicha. He grew up in Hong Kong and moved back there after college. He has been drinking tea his entire life, and went down the rabbit hole of puerh collecting before deciding to sell tea online. In addition to his selection of teas entirely stored in Hong Kong, he has a selection of teas which underwent Kunming dry storage for most of the tea’s life, but then a year or two in his storage to open them up more. 

This selection will continue to grow, as Jay acquires more dry stored tea which will then have 1-2 years spent in humid conditions, something rather unusual online. Usually what you see are teas either with many years of Hong Kong storage, or teas with all drier Kunming storage. Jay’s selection includes the wetter teas, but is unique in that you can get teas with some benefit of humid storage for a short time, but without the overly musty, cooked-out flavors.

Jay is active on teachat.com, Steepster and other social media platforms. He accepts special order requests for puerh teas coming from anywhere in China. He will do the work of tracking down what you want, but a sample of his own teas will be well worth it. I hope to try his Fuzhuan bricks someday, as I imagine his will be full of golden flowers just the way I like and better than what I can do with my drier storage.

Emmett Guzman,  @emmett_guzman_iv

Mr. Guzman is an important person to know because he is a liaison for Taiwan producer Yan(g) Qing Hao premium puerh teas. He coordinates monthly tea buys of this brand via Steepster and Facebook. Yang Qing Hao is a often-faked tea brand, so Emmett is the person who has access to the real tea from the company.

Also, he has recently started a courtesy of selling premium puerh tea for private collectors. That is, if you have a premium collection he can coordinate discrete anonymous sales, collector-to-collector for a small fee. By premium collection I mean teas that are $500/beeng and up. So, in other words this is not the person to contact to sell your EBay teas, but a good way to buy or sell the best of the best to people who can afford to buy.

If you want to venture into trying the really, really pricey stuff, Emmett’s group buys are a good way to start. He can also track down special tea requests. I expect that the longer he continues to coordinate premium tea buys, he will acquire more and more connections with very private collectors. For something truly special, it might be worth contacting him with your requests so he can keep you in mind when he obtains a unique opportunity to buy. The best way to contact him is message Emmett on Steepster, @emmett_guzman_iv  on Instagram, or check out his Facebook page.

James Schergen, TeaDB.org

Mr. Schergan is not a tea seller, but he has an educational tea website along with Denny Chapin. James is avidly interested in helping puerh tea folks via his videos, and he will assist people with navigating the waters of puerh tea buying, especially with TaoBao buying. He can also hook you up with names of Taobao agents, these are people who will buy off TaoBao for you for a fee. Every week TeaDB has videos and articles geared to puerh tea drinking and buying. It’s worth going through their back catalog of materials to learn as much as you can. TeaDB has their videos on YouTube and maintains a presence on Instagram as well. 

As the dot org suggests, TeaDB is a good resource for any quick questions you have, because you will get an honest and up-front answer to any question with no BS. They will tell you straight-like, “that is a good tea,” or “don’t buy that tea pot.”

Andrew Richardsen, LiquidProustTeas.com

I have written about Mr. LP already. He devotes much time to puerh beginners and is active on Reddit and Steepster. He does a lot of service in puerh tea though his own tea website is about teas other than puerh. LP coordinates tea group buys and will help people with Taobao.

This year he is commissioning fresh puerh tea. He claims he is “getting out of tea” because he is getting married and starting graduate school. Riiight…we’ll see. :D

I hope you enjoyed this list of vendors and straight up obsessive people who are good resources for puerh tea. I know there are many more I could list, but I feel these people are the most approachable, especially for persons new to puerh tea.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark from Yunnan Sourcing
in ragg paper (uncut edges)
Back off the tea wagon, I resumed my puerh tea habits with a mostly healed up lower back. Tax return time flushed my wallet so I can spend a little bit on tea. One cake I spied during my down time is this 2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark over at Yunnan Sourcing. I noticed the US site had 20 cakes available and I held my breath nearly a month hoping to score one of these before they sold out. At that time the China site did not have this tea, but I notice that it is available there now too for $2 less, and with more photos than the US site. I tried finding this tea on Taobao before buying, and while Taobao has a number of mark teas I could not find this exact one at the time.

The good news is Yunnan Sourcing’s US site now offers Free Shipping for orders over $75. With this tea at $68, I can easily find something else to toss into my cart to reach that free shipping mark. Recently I noted that white2tea has reduced their flat rate shipping from $14.99 to $9.99. So all the online griping over shipping costs seems to have had some effect on at least two vendors.

My cake arrived during the first hot and muggy spell of the summer. Of the two teas I ordered together, this is the one that stank up the box with minty incense. The beeng is 357 grams with machine compression. Mr. Wilson describes the storage on this tea as “dry Guangdong,” which is more humid than a dry-stored Kunming. I found my cake is definitely on the dry side of humid storage with no off odors and I welcome the bug bites on the wrapper. Overall my cake is drier than, say, the 2006 Chang Tai I bought last year from Yunnan Sourcing. The material in this tea is a spring blend of Bulang and Nannuo leaf with a mix of buds and larger leaves.

No mushy spots on mine.
I leaf this heavy in an early 2000s zisha clay pot, and gave two rinses and tossed the first steeping as it was still too light. The tea smells slightly medicinal, with wood and chicory notes. Viscosity is quite decent with a thick pour and a few small bubbles that do not pop. Early steeps have a slightly sour fermentation note which disappears over subsequent steepings. This is a very actively aging tea, but definitely over the hump of youth as Mr. Wilson states. Leaves are still green but they are turning a pale brown. Liquor is a dark orange and remains so as I steep.

A Bulang/Nannuo mix of buds with larger leaves.
Early flash steeps are bitter with a quick throat and mouth huigan, and the cup retains a floral smell. I am using a brand new cup made by potter pal Inge Nielsen, so no other tea can produce this nose. I taste woody florals, slight medicine, some sour fruit, and the chicory note which increases in later steepings. Some qi and astringency are present with a slight delay. I down six steepings and then went to fold laundry when I got hit with the qi in my eyes and in the middle of my back. After my folding the astringency hit and I coughed a dry mouth and went for a drink of water.

This tea performs very well in zisha/Yixing clay.
The smell of the tea liquid in the cha hai keeps drawing me in. This has just the smell I want in an aging tea, floral and chicory leather like grandpa’s 1940s home office with a big wood desk, dark leather chairs and vintage letter writing set. He has an empty container of pipe tobacco open and the wood pipe long unused in the ashtray. He does not smoke it any more but still likes to chew the mouthpiece a little. Steeps 8-10 I need to extend the brew time a little. This is not a mega steeper but a very pleasant drinker tea that lingers sweet in the mouth for more than an hour.

I agree with Mr. Wilson’s assessment that this tea will be really nice in 8-10 years. The lack of any date stamp knocks the collectors off the buyer list for this tea, leaving it for those of us with a storage hobby. While the price is entry level for a semi-aged tea, I really hope that the storage fiends are the people who go for this. I consider this a tea to put away for that full duration as Mr. Wilson suggests, so you can have a very nicely aged puerh tea in just a short decade, or maybe less if you live in one of those more humid places. This tea has the best possible start and yet is dry enough that I cannot consider it wet stored at all. If someone says to me “oh well this tea did not ‘do’ it for me,” then I think you are missing something. 

Tea is still green but with pale brown aging started.
This is not a tea to drink right now. It is actively fermenting and I taste where the tea is currently going, but it is not yet at the final destination. While the low price might draw some people new to puerh, I think some prior experience in assessing semi-aged teas helps to really appreciate where this tea is at today. Perhaps experienced storage folks probably do not need another drinker tea. But if you do, well here is one to consider with a fine start. If you lack storage assessment experience, perhaps you can give this a try while telling yourself “this is a tea I must put away rather than drink today, a trial cup is merely a test of where it is at.”

Yunnan Sourcing US showed 18 cakes left today, but now it will show at most 17, because I bought another. I cannot tell how many are available on the new China site, and you know what is going to happen. Because the tea lacks a date stamp, Mr. Wilson has somewhat under-priced this little gem and he will figure that out all too soon. A 2005 tea for $66/68? I do not expect this price to stay so low for long.

New spring teas are on the horizon! I notice that Bitterleaf Teas are first out of the gate with 2017 spring puerh tea already. Unexpectedly I received a couple of samples today which I will try next time. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Puerh Tea Headlines Spring 2017 Edition

Puerh Tea Harvest Confirmed for 2017

Yunnan tea farmers are proud to report a new harvest at hand for 2017. As reported on social media, the harvest is later than usual.

“Something about the weather, or climate change but we don’t know what,” said a vendor on his Instagram page. “The teas are just budding now and it is already mid May!”

Meanwhile, tourists are flooding Yunnan with very little to see yet.

“It’s okay,” said one tourist in the crowded hostel bar next to his Chanel-clad girlfriend. “I just drink the hooch.”

His girlfriend who appeared a bit glum responded to prodding for a comment.

“I’m waiting,” she said. “He promised me.”

Western Vendor Found Bloated in Bedroom

Reports arrived from Yunnan concerning a tea vendor found in his hotel room, allegedly bloated from drinking too much fresh maocha. After failing to emerge from his room for many days, the hotel called the local military to accompany them in checking the room when a foul odor garnered complaints from other residents.

“He looked just like Blueberry Boy from Willy Wonka, except green,” said the Proprietor.

“We found an empty Tide bottle, but apparently he didn’t use it, or couldn’t,” added the local captain.
 “Hard know what he ate, I guess his kidneys couldn’t take it.”

A scientist from the Yunnan Tea Institute had this to say:

“In most cases puerh tea has a diuretic effect. I must stress how strong Yunnan tea leaves are, and outsiders simply don’t have the digestive capability of locals who have adapted over centuries to drinking the tea. You can’t force nature.”

A herbalist was called for an enema, and the man is recovering at a local clinic. He plans to return to drinking tea, according to a clinic staff member speaking on condition of anonymity due to medical regulations.

“He says this little setback won’t stop him,” the herbalist confirmed.

Tourists Kill Ancient Puerh Tree with Too Many Photos

Recent news articles from the region are that a puerh tree died after one too many cell phone pics. Even though the tree was cordoned off from the reach of passers-by, the presence of too many phones managed to kill a tree reported to be at least 1200 years old despite local efforts to keep the tree in place on an embankment.

“I don’t know what happened,” a hysterical female tourist from Beijing told reporters. “I have the latest IPhone.”

Locals had another view of the matter.

“We done our best to keep ‘er propped up,” said a local resident referring to the ropes keeping the mostly hollowed out tree from falling down the hillside. He referred this writer to his grandmother, who verified the age of the old puerh tree, saying it was growing there since she was a teenager.

“See here all them phones, it starts gov’ment surveillance,” she said, speaking with us anonymously on a condition of fear of losing a pension. “The more phones we got here, the more gov’ment radiation. We never had this problem until kids started buying those contraptions. Phones rot the brain just like that tree there.”

“They should’ve used thicker rope,” agreed her grandson, looking up from Angry Birds on an IPad.

When queried about the use of any insecticides on this tree, the local council was quick to issue a denial.

“No chemicals were used, ever, on that hillside. Nature has its way with those old trees.”

The tree did not respond to requests for comment.

Husband Finally Divorces Tea Blogger

“I’m fed up,” Michael said as he delivered yet another box of wedding dishes to his soon-to-be ex-wife. Although the couple had lived separately for more than twenty years, apparently the overwhelming tea hobby provided the final straw in a marriage already on shaky ground.

“Our kid is grown, and I’ve lived apart just to give her more room for tea ware,” said the husband. “I wish her well, but I paid my dues.”

Local county courts ordered the man to pay health insurance for the blogger until the final judgment. The couple was also told they could not sell anything in the meantime.

“This means her tea is going nowhere,” Michael said. “I only worked that damn job to give her health insurance, and I deserve to split assets in exchange. I tried to tell the judge her tea is worth thousands, but he thinks it’s a beverage.”

“It’s a beverage,” Carrie said shortly before hanging up the phone on a reporter seeking comment.

Michael plans to move to Anhui to work for a Canadian school, and pursue a relationship with a woman he met from there.

“I don’t know why he just doesn’t go ahead and drink my Anhui heicha logs,” said Carrie. “It would be a hellava lot cheaper.”

Puerh Tea Hobby Impresses Parole Officer

Puerh tea appears to promote a positive view of persons currently in community-based corrections programs. A local parole officer conducting home visits to verify the rooming situation of a local felon found him renting from a lady with a significant puerh tea hobby. The officer reported her impressions of the visit.

“I’ve never heard of puerh tea before. Apparently it’s a strong pressed cake of tea that must be aged for twenty years. I asked if it had any psychedelic properties because my client has a sobriety requirement. The landlady strongly denied the tea has any discernible effects.”

The tea ware was equally impressive.

“This landlady had a stone tea table and tea ware. I think the table was by somebody named Randova. I’ve never heard of it, but we have a lot of Polish landladies around here.”

The visit reportedly lasted for three minutes during which the paroled felon unlocked his room for the officer to view.

“I passed,” was all he said.

When we reached the landlady for confirmation of the story, she added a correction.

“Randová is not Polish.”

Puerh Collectors Lament Fewer Factory Cakes to Buy

Recently a group of puerh collectors complained about the trend of boutique tea cakes on the western market, fearing a downward spiral in availability of factory productions.

“Those new teas, they have no collector value,” said a man reported to have at least three hundred kilos in his collection. “They go flat in a year, and they don’t have famous wrappers.”

A woman in the collector group explained the value of factory productions.

“The tea needs to be chopped as finely as possible. If you can’t get leaves stuck in a spout, then we have a problem. Also, we need a strong tobacco flavor since none of us smoke anymore, which those new boutique teas mostly don’t have. All those florals really make me sick.”

“I especially appreciate the holographic stickers on factory cakes,” added a long time collector. “I bought a black light to verify I have the real deal. No one who owns those new cakes can say that.”

Another collector referred to the possibility of treasures found within factory cakes, something rarely seen in the “newer” style of smaller house productions.

“I find hairs, corn, insects, pods, strings, ribbons and especially prized are used cigarette butts. These are ways we know factory workers truly handled the tea, as opposed to some westerner who doesn’t know puerh from a Darjeeling,” he said.

We reached out to Menghai Tea Factory and Xiaguan for comment on the situation.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said the Taetea Factory Rep, scratching his head. “We maintain all of our old recipes in rotation, and we introduce literally dozens of new ones each year, thousands upon thousands of beengcha. We had to start our annual production as early as before New Year just to keep up with the demand. But these tea collectors on tourist visas are crazy. They camp here, too. Every day I arrive at work, I find them blocking the door trying to get in. They demand Lao Ban Zhang and I have to tell them we don’t make anything near that level.”

“My compatriot is sadly correct,” said the Xiaguan rep, referring to his colleague’s comments over at Taetea. “We have the same issue with the collectors. They say, ‘I want purple box’ when I have no purple box. I’d send them to Tibet but I might lose my job. Yet, how is it our fault we have the best tuos? Success has its drawbacks, is what I tell the Board.”

A representative of the Haiwan (Old Comrade) Tea Company heard about our visit to the other two factories, and wanted to issue a statement also.

“We at Old Comrade welcome the tourists, but it does get a bit overwhelming. For example, we have this guy who flies over from Singapore each year to haul home a box of tongs. His wife calls ahead to tell us not to sell him any more tea, but what can we do? His credit card goes through every time.”