Finally back to my perch in Beijing after spending two months and change in Yunnan scouting out Spring puer tea.
There are too many stories of great people, teas, and adventures, so I thought it might be easier to bullet point some broad observations about the puer tea and tea market this year:
- It was an excellent year for early Spring puer. There was very little rain. Some places noted that the last rain they saw was in October of 2013. This drought is by no means good for the region or good in any sense, other than the fact that tea which sprang forth in 2014 was strained, concentrated, and powerful
- Most of the best teas I experienced this Spring were low on fragrance but had flavor and fragrance buried deep within the soup, rather than “on the top” or surface fragrance. This might make people who are fragrance chasers upset, but for fans of aging puer with depth 2014 is ideal. Many villages still use a fragrance heavy method of production, but in my book those teas are all flash and no guts.
- This Spring had more tourists than I have ever seen on tea mountains. Lots of people with big hats, fanny packs, Coach bags, and sunglasses coming up to the more famous locations like Laobanzhang, Laoman’e, and Jingmai. Some people flew in to Xishuangbana just to go and visit Laobanzhang. They all assured me they purchased some very real Laobanzhang because they know some guy there or something. They likely all left with fake crap.
- Lots of problems with fakes in areas that were previously not full of fakes. Big factories like Yulin and Chenshenghao set prices high enough to make it lucrative for the farmers to bring in material from their cousins in other villages and sell it off as their own. This was always the case in places like Laobanzhang, but now it is happening all over. No point in buying Yulin cakes, they are expensive and chocked full of low quality material.
- Processing skill in smaller villages seems to get increasingly better. Many tea entrepreneurs are mentoring tea farmers about how to best process their leaf. Some of the villages that had poor quality processing in 2013 improved greatly over the last year.
- Prices are high almost everywhere. You can still get cheap teas in far flung Lincang, but for consumers who are demanding top tier quality teas from Yiwu or Menghai, there are very few bargains. Best to look to some aged teas if you are on a budget.
- Roads continue to improve. The paved road to Laobanzhang is almost completed and they are building a paved road to Laoman’e. This bodes well for tea travelers and tourists, but is not good news for anyone anticipating a price collapse of of Laobanzhang old arbor tea.
- Construction is everywhere. Villagers are upgrading from wooden homes to 5 story cement buildings with 20 rooms. One person in Laobanzhang was building a 20+ room guesthouse!
- I am very excited about the teas I pressed in 2014!
All of my Spring cakes are pressed and on the way to the warehouse. They should be up on the site in the next week or two.
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