The State of 2017 Spring Puer Tea
I have to clear the air straight away; 2017 was not a good year for Puer tea. I don’t want to dance around it. It just wasn’t as good as the previous few years. Now, before you panic, that isn’t to say that there was no good tea. There was some very good tea. However, that good tea was in short supply and commanded higher prices, as one when expect when the supply is squeezed. From my vantage point, it took a lot more work in 2017 to wade through the glut of average quality material and get to the goods – and if you’ve been watching my snapchat/instagram, you’ve probably seen a cake worth of maocha going down every day for a couple of months. These days my cakes are being pressed, so I took this free moment to write up my 2017 spring Puer tea reflections.
Short Supply of Puer and Erratic Weather
Why was the tea generally worse and in short supply? The main reason is erratic weather. cough climatechangeexists cough I’m sorry I am coming down with some sort of…cough whythefuckistheuspresidentleavingtheparisclimateaccords cough pardon me, I am really sorry, it’s just this cold. cough itsnotacold cough
The early spring was extremely dry and cold. This resulted in a lot of very low quality (editor’s opinion) early growth. The tea was short stemmed and lacking necessary water content, causing most leaf to be difficult to process, since it was not the norm. Some people would say those teas are more concentrated. Those people are welcome to buy them. I personally found those teas to be dry and awkward; and processing difficulties resulted in tea being dry and of lower than average quality. In addition to that, through late March the weather was too cold, leading to slower than average spring growth. Then, a small amount of rain and a bump in temperature lead to some later than usual growth, but still much less than previous years.
Anecdotal evidence, some farmers I spoke with had a mere 100 kilograms of tea by mid-April, whereas in 2016 they had 280 kilograms. This (and the weather described above) are generalities that may not apply to every mountain, Yunnan is a big place, but this analysis rang true for most places I visited during my nearly three months in and around southern Yunnan.
As a consumer, I’d recommend being a bit more discerning about which teas you buy this year. There was a lot of lower quality tea, and with the squeeze on the supply, a lot of it cost a pretty penny. The easiest way to be safe is to buy my tea. Just kidding. cough notkidding cough
The Usual Tuhao Suspects
The usual shenanigans abound this spring. Herds of tourist SUVs heading up to mountains like Laobanzhang and Nannuo mountain. Lots of tea vendors talking a big game about how they have spring Bingdao old arbor or other nearly unattainable teas. Plenty of arguments over correct processing and chaqi [tea energy]. Plenty of tea merchants breezing through to take pictures and quickly shuffle back home with their bags of maocha in hand.
Anecdotal observation of the above: In mid-March there was a pair of younger women from Zhejiang province, discussing their trip in Menghai at a dinner table. Regrettably, I was seated next to them and was granted no reprieve from their conversation. They explained how they had been in the Puer business for two years, and mostly dealt in gushu [old arbor] Laobanzhang. I found this kind of amusing, but then they proceeded to tell me they were going to Laobanzhang that day to get their tea. In addition to that, it was the second time they had been to the village in their life. Now, there are a few holes in their story, even in summary form; Laobanzhang gushu wasn’t even picked until early/mid-April and the material is difficult to obtain, even for seasoned veterans. They then went on to tell me how Menghai was too low class because it lacked a Gucci store. I quietly began inhaling my rice at record speed and recused myself from the table as fast as I could. Other topics of note, before I finished my devouring my food, included how Menghai really needed a Gucci store and how the local people were not stylish enough.
Encounters with people like this are etched in my brain forever. Who are these people? Who are their customers? They own brick and mortar stores in China. Do you ever see those posts on tea forums where people ask “Where should I buy some tea on my trip to China?” I always want to type “Nowhere! Turn back now! You’re fucked!” What if a tourist wanders into these viper nests? Good luck, kids.
Continued Economic Development and Better Life Quality
On a brighter note, several villages I’ve been going to for years are continuing to develop. Dirt roads are getting paved in cement. The government is giving free bricks to people with wooden houses. The general quality of life continues to improve for people in rural Yunnan. Which brings me to my blatant plug of the spring:
This year white2tea made a tea cake to benefit the non-profit organization Education in Sight. They focus on bringing eyecare to children in rural Yunnan, and for each cake white2tea sells we will donate one eye exam, a pair of glasses, and eye education to a child in need via Education in Sight. Our goal is to sell 100 cakes and sponsor 100 kids. We’d appreciate anybody who helps us spread the word. Even if you aren’t into buying the cake, you can donate to EIS and help the cause of kids in rural Yunnan! cough thanksforyoursupport cough
Moonshine of the Year 2017
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Puer state of the union without a best moonshine of the spring award. I was originally going to award it to a four year moonshine steeped in raw olives, but I can’t find the damn picture and I’ve had a long day, so the award goes to this corn moonshine that I drank at 11:07 AM, unceremoniously, out of paper cups at a tea farmers house. Sweet, clean, and with just a hint of that Dixie goodness. (I took pics on my snapchat, but those are gone now. So here is the barrel of the next batch)
The 2017 teas are being pressed now, and we will release them as they trickle in. We rushed the 2017 U 2 CAN HELP cake because we wanted to make sure it got some proper spotlight before the rest of the teas drop.