Tuesday, May 16, 2017

White2Tea & The Post Truth Era of Puerh

Before I dropped off the radar you could count the number of Western puerh vendors on two hands.  On my return to puerh buying, there are so many more out there.  To me this is a good thing but a little overwhelming at first.  To be perfectly honest, I have mainly purchased all of my puerh either in person in Korea or on Taobao.  Essence of Tea and Yunnan Sourcing might be the only exceptions.

Even old, reliable sites like the classic red and gold Yunnan Sourcing website have recently made major changes (saw that one turn over recently).   Other sites like Puerhshop have really slowed down as well.  Change happens and more selection and competition is always welcome.

I’ve been trying to check out all the new vendors out there.  This article by James of TeaDB has really helped me out.  The new puerh vendors out there that I am finding the most interesting are two American puerh vendors Crimson Lotus Tea and White2Tea.  They are really taking the puerh market in different directions, no doubt, in response to past issues with buying puerh in the West.

I think Crimson Lotus is brilliant for marketing to and branding their puerh to the science fiction niche.  I have also noticed that many many people who drink puerh also enjoy science fiction- most of my puerh drinking buddies in Victoria and Korea fall into this category, I think.  Overall, it’s an interesting concept but, as always, it comes down to how good their tea is… puerh can’t lie no matter what planet it’s from!

It sounds like White2Tea is really shaking up the puerh tea world… Tea with no region, no explanation, no story, no background, no pictures of farmers, no context what so ever.  All these values line up squarely with my own tea philosophy- “A blog that is the tea’s”.  However philosophy and reality often don’t align and as I begin my search for puerh once again I find myself looking for regions, mountains, factories, producers, and vendors that I know and that have a certain characteristic, quality, profile, tack record and “house taste”.

With the White2Tea’s decision to go in this direction basically you have to either trust the brand, trust the curator TwoDog (Paul), trust others who have tried the tea and recommend it, or sample all the tea yourself and decide for yourself.  I find lots of problems with this system.

I find it eerily familiar that TwoDog has basically based his marketing of Puerh on a similar strategy as Donald Trump… has anyone else noticed this?

Firstly, he has picked up on the discontent/ dissatisfaction of many Western puerh drinkers.  Secondly, he has discredited the old system of selling puerh as basically dishonest.  Thirdly, he insists that everything that is claimed about the origin of puerh or even a singular quality of certain areas is a lie.  Forth, he is thriving off of the idea that “controversy is good for business”.  Fifth, and most importantly, he offers a solution to the problem- just simply trust his puerh.  I guess we really are living in the Post-Truth Era of puerh!

I think the only fair way to assess puerh in this Post-Truth Era would be to sample puerh from all vendors, factories, and areas blindly.  Then decide on purchase based on how much the tea was valued in the blind testing verses the actual price.  The problem is that that no one would have the time and energy and money for that type of extensive sampling.  So quite naturally we try to narrow it down to certain brands, areas, factories, and vendors from either past experiences, others recommendations, or from simply brand identification.

With all this being said, I am most compelled to try White2Tea’s young puerh over any other vendor … so I guess all this smart marketing works… I kind of feel like I want to support his vision for tea on its own merits.. I guess even if you identify the marketing strategy at hand that doesn’t always make you immune to its effects…

If we know only one thing to be true it is this- that old MattCha was probably GongFuing to Drake long before Paul (TwoDog) even knew who he was.



Ninja [Johnnie] said...

Very acute observations of the Pu Erh world... I think in China, the change is even more dramatic given the popularity...

World Tea Podcast said...

Interesting read and take on the pu'erh situation. I'll tip my hat to White2Tea's marketing. Very entertaining, the Snapchat is always a watch, and those labels on the bings. Credit to the direction, effort, style. Saying this, I'll side with you on the origin details, etc that Id want to know about. But I still don't find myself asking those deep questions when buying my beer.

Matt said...


I really don't know what is going on in China. The info mainly comes from what vendors are telling us or what we are reading on their blogs. I wish we had an objective English opinion there.

World Tea Podcast,

Agreed- the marketing is something brilliant the puerh drinking world has never seen! It would be interesting for Paul to go even further and have all the puerh in plan white wrappers with just typewriter font names then he would literally be "White2Tea"!

The difference between puerh and beer is that puerh only has one ingredient and is minimally processed. So where it comes from is supremely important. Also, historically puerh has always been classified by location not a certain flavour or profile.

The beer I drink I usually know the hops going into it and a bit about the processing but in the end it all comes down to taste.. maybe you should start asking deep questions... or maybe I'm just too damn serious about my beer drinking...

Really the question is- Are you drinking the product or the brand?


David said...

Hi Matt! I'm really happy to be able read your blog again. It's nice to read humble and honest reflexions on tea.

I'm not going to make some proseltysm, I'll just say that I seldom recognize myself in the tastes of others on the web. I guess at some point, even if it doesn't sound appealing, one has to try and make his/her own opinion (which means samples). But once you've found the seller that matches your expectations, no need to wander anymore if he is consistent in his lineup, which will be the case if he's serious.

Good luck with your puerh quest!