Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Price of Puerh: Everything I Know About Puerh Has Changed!
This quote in a post from James at TeaDB almost completely sums up my life and return to puerh buying:
If you have been living in a cave with your pu’erh stash forthe past 15 years and are just reemerging to restock your stash, I have somenews for you. You should’ve bought apple stock. And google. And loads ofpu’erh. Young pu’erh is expensive now. There was a time not so long age whenthree figure young pu’erh was considered an outrage. Now it’s commonplace andvery easy to spend over $100 for a tiny little 200g beeng that may not even bethat good.
It seems like a LOT has changed in the puerh drinking world over the last 6 years (it hasn’t been 15 years at least). Can’t believe how much has changed… The next series of posts will look at all of this crazy change from the point of view of someone who was drining puerh that long ago and from the point of view of someone who is actively trying to re-stock.
Price of Puerh
Apparently, new sheng puerh continued to rise in price sinice 2011. Blog posts by good old Hobbes of the Half-Dipper and Marshal’N of A Tea Addicts Journal both published in 2014 point out that it is much cheaper to buy puerh with a bit of age on them then buy new stuff (oh I’ve been reading LOTS of tea blogs lately). These posts are a few years old but from what I have seen so far, it still makes since to buy older stuff but the price gap is definitely closing. This was almost immediately echoed by readers of this blog after last post. If it keeps going at this pace maybe the price gap will completely close within the next couple of years?
The plus side to buying semi-aged stuff is that you can drink them right away and can understand better how they might age (because they are semi-aged now!). This should benefit me because this is exactly the type of puerh that I’m looking for now. I might have to rethink the buying of new sheng and spend more of my money on some older stuff.
Overall, I think there are many factors effecting the price increase of new puerh. Back in the mid-2000s everyone was most concerned about the rise of the Chinese middle class and people hording puerh to create demand and control the price of certain factories and productions. I think the mechanism by which drove up the price of young puerh is much more complicated than this but in the end comes down to availability, supply and demand, and how much people are willing to pay (I am aware of how obvious this sounds).
Price really is everything when buying puerh. No matter who you are, unless you have unlimited money to spend, you will pay attention to prices. However, I think there is more truth to this now than it was 10 years ago. Back in the day people definitely paid attention but with prices still relatively accessible for new puerh people didn’t fuss too much. Back then there were really 3 types of price categories of new puerh: 1- cheap factory stuff and CNNP 2- mid-range productions like Douji 3- boutique Taiwanese productions like those on sale at HouDe. I placed myself very deliberately at the bottom two points (better factory stuff and midrange productions) and I’m happy with that decision now.
James talks about the missed opportunity in 2008 (the date of most of my cakes) in this nostalgic post. Considering all the uncertainties about aging puerh in very unnatural conditions in North America, I feel I did really good with the puerh I purchased and the money I spent considering so many uncertainties. So I am at peace with this.
How will the price of puerh will impact re-stocking? The spending plan going forward (revised) is first to stock up with the cheaper but good semi-aged stuff. This will focus on quantity but with quality in mind. Then I hope to acquire some mid-range and even boutique semi-aged puerh as well to add some variety and depth to my drinking. I’m still undecided on how much new puerh I will acquire but I feel like I have to slowly start doing this sooner or later.
I love tea samples but am not a big fan of buying samples which can eat up a lot of money. I would rather use my experience with drinking and aging puerh and take a very small monetary risk at buying full cakes that will pretty much serve as large samples. If they check out then ordering more is an option or even a tong.
I am also debating about including a discussion on price a bit more with upcoming puerh posts. Years ago price was not as important of a consideration as it is to me now as I re-stock. Nowadays, I appreciate when people discuss the price and relative value of the tea they are writing about as it does better inform my buying.
Out of everything that has changed, the price is one of the most dramatic of all changes… but even 10 years ago we knew it would continue to increase in price.