Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Is Yang Qing Hao So Famous These Days?

YangQingHao, heard of it?  Years ago it was a rarely mentioned puerh tea producer in Western circles.  I think Houde was the only place you could get it in the West once and a while and the selection was limited.  So why do so so many puerh drinkers know of YangQingHao?  Maybe it has something to do with a household name in Westren Puerh circles- Emmett Guzman.

Emmett has been around puerh for a while and I even remember some of his comments on this blog years and years ago.  When I put out to readers for some recommendations of semi-aged Yiwu puerh he suggested his baby, YangQingHao.  I researched it a bit on the net which is virtually filled with blog posts and steepster reviews nowadays… people LOVE this YangQingHao stuff.  I was very surprised with how familiar people are with YangQingHao nowadays.  But why all of a sudden so popular?

Accessibility.  All the credit has to be handed to Emmett for his now famous group buy-ins of YangQingHao.  He has made the whole selection of YangQingHao cakes completely and very easily accessible to the English speaking world.  This is big.  All too often the West is restricted by language and intimidated by the process of using middle men.  To be able to flip through an English site of a whole producers catalogue is priceless.  This is the only one I know of.

Affordability. Years ago I had never even heard of group buy ins or group orders as a way to acquire puerh.  I actually had to research what a group order actually means.  Its benefit is two pronged- accessibility and cost savings.  Emmett has made not only YangQingHao accessible but also affordable.  We basically pay what you would pay in Taiwan (actually cheaper than Taiwan for some cakes).  This is also big and rare in the West.

A gap in the market.  Another reason I think YangQingHao is popular in the West is because it fills a gap in the market.  There are really very few places that offer a large selection of higher end, boutique puerh from 2004-2007 in the West.  Some vendors might offer a cake or two on their site from these years but most stuff is big factory productions which were the most popular and mass produced at that time period.  There are very few places where Westerners are offered the whole catalogue of puerh from a specific factory or vendor.

Unique Storage.  I think people in the West still don’t really understand storage and how that either benefits a puerh, or disadvantages it or even just changes it.  These YangQingHao cakes seem like they are stored at a nice balance of not to dry but also not too wet.  They offer a response to very dry storage which the west had become accustom to and the very dry cakes that have been stored in the West their whole lives from that time period.  However, the storage is not so humid that the higher notes have disappeared.

Criticism. Even with its success there are criticisms of YangQingHao.  Most question whether it’s worth the price.  The criticism is especially true for those that question the actual taste of the tea.  Most agree that the most of their offerings have great Qi.  Some question why there are so many cakes left for sale.  If YangQingHao puerh is so good then why hasn’t it sold out in the first few years in Taiwan?  Good question.

Here are a few plausible answers...

The tea was initially overpriced.  If the tea was initially overpriced when it was first put on the market or was over priced for years and year and marketed as high end puerh without the material to back it up, then you would expect there to be a lot left over.  Think about it, if you are selling a product that you know will only increase in price why not over price it and see how much you can sell and what you don’t sell you can likely sell later for much more years later.  This is the reality of selling puerh.  The only problem is when the tea reaches a celling price where the market will no longer pay much more and the tea no longer increases exponentially in value annually.  I think the owners of YangQingHao are at this point in the market for 2004-2011 puerh and so they have incentive to sell now and keep prices relatively stable.

Personally, back in the mid-2000s I did not have the appetite to spend $135.00 on puerh.  This tea was marketed to a very niche group of puerh drinkers and, at the time, many thought it was a bit overpriced.  What is most interesting to me is that the price of this tea has not increased 10X the initial price like some of the factory puerh from that time period (i.e. Douji, Chen Shang Hao, ect).  The price of Yang Qing Hao has only modestly gone up since that time.

The centralized supply management of Yang Qing Yao.  Another plausible reason there are many Yang Qing Hao cakes is that the market supply has been closely monitored and controlled by Mr. Yang.   I don't think he was selling this tea by the jian to warehouses and distributors and other vendors.  This really allowed for market control of the price, I suspect.

Export duties from Mainland China. I really don't know enough about this.  I wonder if this operation was on the Mainland would more of the inventory be long gone?

Large production size.  Sha8 had mentioned this before somewhere.  He suspects that Yang may have had access to giant swaths of tea gardens all to himself.  He also suspects that production numbers for these cakes are much higher than most boutique Puerh especially compared to the scale of production these days.

In the next few weeks and months I hope to explore the question of whether or not Yang Qing Hao is worth the money by posting notes on a few of these productions.  Even though there is tones written about Yang Qing Hao, I hope to try and add a new, fresh, personal perspective on these frequently reviewed puerh.  Please join me in this exercise as I meditate with Yang Qing Hao.


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