; Cwyn's Death By Tea: April 2024 ;

Monday, April 8, 2024

Stop It

Nothing is worse than a well-endowed whinge. We are even more repulsed when such a whinge is a boring repeat of a topic covered ad nauseum on blogs and forums. The following has been said 10 million times already, but I'm now fed up and I am just saying it.

For the most part, I have stayed away from discussing puerh factory blends and processing along the lines of so-called "modern" puerh teas. Why is that? Well, I get it. Everything the factories sell must appeal to someone, because otherwise why would they sell these teas? Nobody persists in selling what does not sell, so clearly I don't fully know the market that buys "modern processing." I do not want to berate anyone's personal taste in tea, so if you are happily buying new factory productions every year AND drinking them up, I will still love you. I suggest you go tuck in with a cuppa and click right out of here.

Now, I understand a very salient fact of puerh tea, and that is the vast majority of puerh teas do not last to the 20 year mark. This is probably one of the major observations on the part of factories. You just cannot easily buy 20 year+ puerh tea simply because there is little of it, and what remains and manages to get to market somehow is horrifically expensive. So, the factories need not look very far to conclude that puerh is a short-term product that is either consumed or destroyed before 20 years, except for obsessive puerh hoarders. 

Thus, the factories have chosen to market to this reality, that people are likely to consume their tea in the short term rather than the long term. Puerh of course is a difficult drink when new, harsh on the body, yada yada, so anything they can do to appeal with that first sip, well...they are doing it. They know young puerh is a turnoff for new customers, and growth depends upon the new customer. This means you may be getting a production meant to be consumed now, or consumed earlier, rather than stored and aged. 

Factories do all kinds of things to favor the front end experience of the tea, starting with propogation and ending with the wok and pressing. To figure out exactly how a particular tea gets tweaked, you need to drink it multiple times and even then, the full result is a company secret. We can pick out obvious things like oxidation, improper sha qing like browned edges, sun-drying, "wild" leaves, etc. but we won't know what propogation happened, or exactly how long the tea leaves wilted in the basket after picking. 

I don't know who buys and enjoys factory modern blends, but I do know where the market is here. They miscalculated the west. We were to be the "new" customer turned on by tweaked tea blends that don't age, don't need to be stored and aged, but we are not. We were to be the new market for shou puerh, and by and large, we are not. At least, not shou in a tea bag. 

The market here is exactly like that of Asia, in that puerh obsessives control the aftermarket, and these are overwhelmingly people who prefer aged, raw puerh. Tell me someone you know who doesn't prefer aged raw puerh over green, and over shou too. Pretty much nobody drinks green puerh, other than to test it. Everyone wants aged raw puerh if they prefer puerh tea at all. What we see here in the west is people would rather have a poorer quality drinker tea leaf, just as long as it is aged, even aged badly, over a fine young tea. Everyone wants it aged and preferably cheap, yes, the full oxymoronic puerh market is the same everywhere. You can't really buy what you want.

Thus, the anticipated "new" customer is not controlling the factory tea market here. No, it is the puerh obsessives who are doing it. They want to buy either an already-aged raw puerh, because they only drink aged, or they will buy new for home storage with the intention of aging it themselves. The drinking crowd wants to drink aged puerh on a daily basis, and thus they don't mind buying inexpensive hot-storage teas from Asia, even if a bit musty and not the best leaf.

But the home storage enthusiast is the ONLY customer who is going to buy new and not drink it. We are looking for qualities that are suited for long aging. We are looking for leaf strength, and intensity and body feel, or mouth feel. We are looking for bitter more than floral. Florals are lovely, but they won't survive storage for long. We want the tea meant to survive the rains, the cold, the heat and are easy to store, thus pressed rather than loose.

Specifically, home storage customers want the recipe teas. The teas processed and proven to age. I am especially referring to the 7542 recipe. This tea recipe is the basic, and the starting basis of almost anyone's collection. Now, this is not to say we don't have much finer teas in our collections, but everyone has basic recipe teas in their storage somewhere. That means teas dated before 2010 or so. 

You factories have messed with the recipes to your peril. I need to see actual figures to really believe any western customers buy the newer tweaked teas, beyond one or two examples. I drank up my 09s early, and that wasn't difficult. But it should be impossible to stand to drink those until aged. We want our taidi-cha, thank you very much, and we want it to transform!

Just stop it. Stop whatever it is you factories are calling the recipe teas these days. I don't want any more special productions that don't age. Stop the tweaking. 

Now, I know I can buy some taidi tuos and call it a day. The factories do serve the customer drinking puerh for dietary reasons, so we can get teas designed to age, if we are willing to buy tuos and tolerate large leaf bricks and productions with lots of twigs, because these teas are boiled by the consumer to extract the twigs. Cheap means you get large leaf, chopped leaf and twigs. So yes, we can still buy these. But this is the lowest grade, and not the recipe teas. 

We cannot expect all the tweaked productions to go away, because someone is buying them. But we can and must advocate for the recipe teas, even if just the 7542, to retain its aging properties. Sadly, we have already advocated non-stop over this for the past 20 years and every year is worse with more tweaking. I will take a tea stuffed in bamboo and roasted rather than a 7542 now. And that should never happen.

I know the leaf itself has changed, the mixes no longer include buying random arbor tea from farmers and throwing it in. Trees and bushes are over-picked. These realities cannot dial themselves back. We will never really buy arbor tea cheap or even white label again, that boat is long sailed and the best tea is hoarded off the top instead of the bottom, it is contracted for a lifetime or more into the future. But the recipe still stands. 

This is all said every single day on tea forums in English, and probably in every language elsewhere as well. By the stereotypical puerh obsessives you pros cannot stand. We are saying stop it, and the wallet follows.