Friday, July 13, 2018
2018 Puerh Situation in the West So Far...
The 2018 puerh production started off with murmurings of even higher maocha prices than 2017 which really is no surprise at all. What was really surprising is that we didn’t see the almost predictable vendor blog posts, tweets, or Instagram updates warning us of this dire situation. I think it was way too obvious even for them to try to rattle the cage on this one.
A few Western facing vendors were out of the blocks quickly. Crimson Lotus kicked things off with a release of a special Jade Rabbit blend of different areas and years which he unveiled with James of TeaDB. Cody of theoolongdrunk also has a review of this unique puerh. Seems like Crimson Lotus has gone the routeof mainly blends in 2018. Bitterleaf dropped their whole 2018 Spring pressings real early. Bitterleaf went back to one of their solid 2016 tea farms for their popular 2018 Secret Garden, they also offered some puerh from an area less Western vendors have been pressing lately, Lao Man E. See Cody’s reviews of many of their productions and Cwyn’s look at the Lao Man E.
Essence of Tea has really been the talk of the puerh world this spring with so much news and very big change. They seemed to really steal the spotlight this spring with the announcement they will be moving their operations to Kunming (while continuing to store long term in their warehouse in Malaysia), they launched a new beautiful website, and will be accepting USD as a trading currency. These are giant moves from one of the most popular puerh producers. On top of that, they started up a new tea club that looks a lot like white2tea’s. I think they learned that keeping it simple, fun, and educational is the way to go here for these tea clubs. No doubt, it will have a very Essence of Tea feel to it though.
Another thing Essence of Tea started doing this year is offering pre-orders of their puerh. This year many actually sold out. Check out Thomas’review of one of the sold out preorder, this 2018 WuLiang Forest Garden. You can sense from his review, lamentations of it selling out before he could even order more. It’s a weird world we live in, a sign of the times, when some of the best puerh is completely sold out before anyone has had a chance to even taste or sample it! I guess this is the new reality with puerh. White2tea played around with this idea with the release of their Snoozefest tea on Black Friday.
Yet another thing they will be doing is starting to de-list cakes, white2tea actually started this with two of their 2017 productions. Again, a sign of the times. By removing some of the product that they didn’t sell, vendors are increasing the feeling of exclusivity while removing options from the customer. I really don’t like this as it creates an artificial feeling, a fear of missing out. On the other hand, there will be others who will appreciate that the selection of teas in these vendors catalogues cleaner, less intimating, and easier to navigate. For the case of Essence of Tea puerh, they will presumably benefit from being in the Maylasian storage vs the Kunming. So I think that this is more of the reasoning here. Personally, I think digging through the back catalogue of a vendor’s tea selection makes much more sense because of the rising price of maocha these days. I think you can get almost 2-3x the quality for what you would pay for 2017 (probably 2018) puerh if you just go back 5 or so years. I have been doing this lately.
Yunnan Sourcing is sitting on a majority of their 2018 cakes no doubt. So far the 2018 wrapper design for their Yiwu release is one of my favorite from them ever. Scotts dog is featured on this Year of the Dog, so meaningful to him no doubt- beautiful stuff. No questions Scott will be releasing puerh from towns and areas we have not heard of, I’m excited to discover these new areas with his help. He is a pro at going to more remote areas in hopes of keeping the prices of puerh low for us. Of particular note, is that Scott continues to guarantee that all of this cakes are of the highest level of purity by testing all his pressings for pesticides each year. This must not be cheap, but is a guarantee that I appreciate. He is the only Western Vendor that currently does this with all his product.
It seems like white2tea is doing all they can to address some of the criticism they received lately. There were some complaints that their catalogue of 2017 puerh was too massive to navigate (25 raw puerh) , considering they offer little in the way of meaningful descriptions. So far they have released a much smaller catalogue this year (12 raw puerh) with much clearer, but still ambiguous, descriptions. They seem to be following the idea that there are two categories of puerh buyers- the value buyer and the big spender. They seem to offer a lot less of the middle price category. They have also brought only 3 popular cakes back from the previous years. Something to note is that they seem to be holding the same prices of the previous years on these cakes.
A vendor that I often fail to mention, Farmerleaf, has also released their 2018 for those into that, oh so fragrant and soft, Jingmai puerh.
I got to say that out of all of these so far, I almost did some Essence of Tea pre-order but managed to not purchase any 2018 yet. Not easy to do these days.
Thank you vendors for putting all your love and qi into getting these wonderful puerh to us every year.