In the past I have really come down hard on the Xiao Bing (“Small Cake” 250g-100g) in favour of the larger style old school sized puerh cakes (357g-500g even 1KG!). I did this mainly for the sake of debate, a statement on marketing, and as a historical perspective. I still much prefer this larger size as it fits my budget, philosophy about aging, and drinking needs much better than the xiao bing does. I love the larger classic puerh cake size hands down. But let’s be perfectly honest, there are many advantages of the much loved Xiao Bing too!
There are a lot of people out there where the larger size bing will not make sense for them. I can understand this.
Lower buy in Price The biggest and most important benefit of the xiao bing is that it offers those who might not have the money or don’t want to spend large amounts of money on puerh to acquire a cake. Shouldn’t anyone regardless of spending power be given a reasonable option to have their very own cake of puerh??? The experience of unwrapping a puerh cake from its unusual folded paper wrapper and having to pry off some tea is a special one. Can you remember what it was like to unwrap your first cake of puerh and marvel at all the nefi and inner tickets, and ponder where you should pull off the material from the cake to brew up your first pot? Everyone, regardless of income/ or budgetary restrictions, should be afforded such pleasures.
The price of puerh is rising and will probably rise until global warming completely destroys the tea forests of Yunnan! Arguing in favour of larger cakes that are inevitably more expensive (although might be the same price/gram) than smaller cakes is pretentious and exclusionary and shouldn’t be looked down upon for this reason.
Newer Puerh Drinkers People who are new to puerh and are kind of trying it out to see if they like puerh or who are trying to acquire a taste for puerh might be less intimidated with a smaller size especially if they don’t know if they even like puerh tea. Of course, the more reasonable option would be to sample first but sometimes the price per gram of a 20g sample vs the same 200g cake can be significantly higher per/gram and if the other reasons stated here also make sense it might be an option. Surely, it is better than a larger cake for someone who doesn’t even know if they like puerh?
Drink Now Puerh People who like to drink young puerh and don’t intend to age it or for vendors who are pressing puerh that is not really intended so much for aging as drinking now might benefit from a xiao bing vs a larger sized bing. Really the biggest argument for the larger bing sizes is that it is better to age. It offers less of a likelihood that you might drink right through a whole cake that you intended to age for much longer. If it’s yummy when young and you have no willpower but you still have pipe dreams of aging it out, you will probably be better off with a larger Bing. But if you are planning on drinking it fresh, don’t intend to age it, and will just buy new puerh next year to drink fresh, then a Xiao Bing all of a sudden sounds like the most sensible option for the drink now puerh drinker. This is especially sensible if you like some variety and drink enough to warrant a few different Xaio bing from different areas, vendors, etc…
Those Who Drink the Wrapper There are some people who feel that the art is a part of the puerh drinking esthetic or who are simply big time suckers for marketing gimmicks. If you are one of these people than you can get more wrappers for less money in xiao bing form! Hahahha.. This is also true for those who like to tong… the tong people can get cheaper tongs!
More Precise Purchasing or Control Over How Much You Buy is a real strength of the xiao bing even for those people who might prefer a larger size bing (like myself). Instead of buying in 357g/400g/500g/1Kg intervals you can really control how much you buy in 200g intervals. It actually gives the puerh drinker more control over how many grams of puerh they purchase and therefore gives them more control over their purchase as a whole. I have found for myself that I bought 3 xiao bings (600g total) when I might have normally went with 2 x 357g cakes. But also I have never purchased 4 xiao bings because tong marketing simply gets the best of me and I go for the whole 1Kg tong. Either way, I found the 600g of puerh a nice amount to age. Alternatively, I have heard that Xiao Bing multiples can be real handy for puerh aging experiments!
Better Marketing and Sales for Puerh Vendors Wrapper Marketing is better than sample package marketing- it simply looks much more appealing. It seems like most vendors I talk to would rather sell full bings but marketing and sales suggest they make more money hawking xiao bings. Often people mention that sticker shock is the main reason why xiao bings sell over full size bings. I think there is probably a bit more to that. Scott and Xiao Yao at Yunnan Sourcing, David and YingXi at the Essence Of Tea and Tiago at Tea Encounter have all stated outright that they love the larger size bings for a variety of reasons however they continue to sell fewer and fewer full size bings each year. This year you can sense David and YingXi’s lamentations in the description of their only full size 2020 Spring offering this 2020 Essence of Tea Yiwu Jiu Miao. Also of note is Tiago of Tea Encounter offering all of the 2020 SpringZheng Si Long in 200g and 400g sizes- why not have both??? If there is a market advantage in such things this might be the direction of the future.
Maybe there is hope for the large size bings afterall?