Friday, May 24, 2019

Puerh Drop 2019

Oh yes… did the puerh ever drop this year (not in price of course)…

It started with fireworks, rather unintentionally, really…

Weeks ago James of TeaDB kicked off a storm when hepresented (by complete accident) a dichotomy of budget vs premium Western puerhvendors.  Scott of Yunnan Sourcing rightfully defended his brand as being both premium and budget (and probably everywhere in between).  He also threw the gauntlet down with his own dichotomy, reframing the topic to be about Western vendors with high markups vs low mark ups.

It actually sounds kind of nasty but it is, in fact, Scott attempting to re-define or at least remind us all, about what Yunnan Sourcing is at its root and what it is not.  Did Scott say anything mean? Hateful?  I don’t think so at all but it certainly doesn’t follow a certain unsaid rules.  Sure, it’s a bit controversial to talk openly about how much you think your competition marks up their product… it’s something I wouldn’t do.  But there it is… Scott just says it the way he sees it, an open book.  Read all that info about each tea he presses- It pretty much includes everything that you would possibly want to know (except how much he marks up the raw material of course).  He likes to give us information and what we do with that is up to us. That’s why I like Scott and Yunnan Sourcing and will continue to support him and his vision.

So, those into puerh know who Scott is trying to differentiate himself and Yunnan Sourcing from, its main competition Paul of white2tea… we all know this.  And the fact I am still talking and thinking about this, and repeating what was said is, well, probably good for the Yunnan Sourcing brand (if you hear something enough times then people start to believe it).

Alright then, so Paul of white2tea, isn’t one to respond directly (nor is he one to just take it) instead he responds in his own roundabout way- some rather brilliant satirical, and sarcastic responses on his Instagram… I mean how do you respond to the accusation that your markup is higher when that information is confidential?  You aren’t going to open your books up for everyone to see your accounting… and besides he has no way of knowing Scotts mark ups either….  Anyway, this past week Paul has been dropping lots of sarcastic and profane commentary about marketing on his Instagram in lead up to this 2019 puerh release… hahaha

While this was happening… Yunnan Sourcing was first to release some pressed 2019 puerh, their 250g (dare I say) “premium” Yiwu line from some pretty famous areas such as Wa Long, Ding Jia Zhai, Xiang Chun Lin… all tested for pesticides and the like.  I love all of these areas that have become more famous over that last 5 years or so.  Plus look at those wrappers… they are pretty amazing… a bit playful, and inviting… I really like them.  Great work Scott.  I’m very temped to try these.

Then… Boom… white2tea dropped its Spring 2019 sheng puerh line up.  If You Are Reading This, Lucky Puppy, and Splendid are the only teas to make a re-appearece in 2019. Every year white2tea has a creative theme which comes from the names, descriptions, and wrapper art.  This year’s theme seems to be playful and loving, full of positive energy.  There is no controversial, obscene, political, or kitschy  messaging what so ever (Ok maybe 2019 Astro Kittens is a bit kitch).  Only I love it!

The other theme I noticed is the use of blurred words and images on the wrappers.  To me this is a deliberate response to the critique that white2tea is never clear on the origin and terroir of their tea and its use of blurry marketing.  It speaks to their lack of transparency.  It also speaks to the ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding their productions.

However, this year I think Paul of white2tea did a great job of explaining what the material is all about and what to expect from each puerh product.  He is actually a lot less ambiguous in his descriptions this year and clearly outlines the goals for each of his products way better than past years on most of his 2019 puerh cakes.  Paul also sent an email with a quick list of recommendations with links that best describe you. When you click on the description it takes you to the tea that is best suited for you.  Its like a personality test that matches you with a puerh.  I thought this was pretty fun and helpful (see photo). Great work. 

Paul is genius in the way he drops his product too.  He is the Taylor Swift of puerh tea and actually uses a very similar marketing technique of dropping his product (see here), by teasing sassy, sarcastic, and vulgar but by then actually going in the completely opposite direction and releasing love and positivity.  This creates a really shocking effect when what you expect is overturned.  This is the true creative genius and marketing that Paul brings to puerh in the Western world and this is why I like Paul and white2tea and will continue to support him and his vision.

Wait, where is David and Yingxi of the Essence of Tea in all this fuss?????

They are barely on social media at all, not on any of the tea blogs, no youtube channel, no showing off the new wrappers… no nothing… Where is David in all of this marketing posturing? I bet he’s meditating and staring at a blank wall and just chuckling to himself.  In fact the Essence of Tea rarely makes a fuss over marketing, their word, their product is their marketing… it’s that simple.  They are almost anti marketing but by keeping us in the dark they are creating their own kind of excitement.   And this is why I like David and Yingxi and the Essence of Tea and will continue to support them and their vision.

I tell you… when the Essence of Tea drop their 2019 puerh pre-sale it’s going to be a big deal, things will sell out, it will be perfect.

Thanks again to these vendors (and all of the others as well) that have chosen to make a career by putting their love into sourcing, pressing, marketing, branding, and most importantly, selling this wonderful thing called puerh…

I got to go and stare at a blank wall for a while…



Bret said...

I bet James I wishing he had never said a word by now.

Matt said...


Thanks for your opinion on this.

Unfortunately, us bloggers don’t have an editor so somethings things don’t always get posted with the intent we are trying to convey. I think it’s obvious to me what James was trying to convey because he was speaking to the data which he presented. It just didn’t come out clear.

I applaud James for putting himself out there for the sake of stimulating conversation, even when it doesn’t always come out right.


Matt said...

Oh yeah,

I wanted to also mention that Farmerleaf also dropped its Jingmai early as it usually does:


Bret said...

Although I've never bought anything from W2T before... I'm planning on it soon. His marketing And presentation is brilliant. But..... Presentation only gets you so far. If you don't have the goods to back it up your not going to be around for long. Any affordable standouts you would recommend?

Matt said...


I agree about the brilliant marketing. I haven't tried tones of his stuff but he seems to sell some overpriced stuff, some priced about right, and some under priced offerings. I recommend:

2018 Splendid

2018 Bamboo Shu

I hope to have some 2019 reviews here up on the blog soon.