2017 Spring Puer Tea

2017 Spring Puer Tea State of the Union

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.

2017 Puer tea leaf
Freshly picked Puer tea leaf, 2017

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.

withering tea leaves
Withering Leaves, Spring 2017

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.

tea wok
The back of a wood fired tea wok, Spring 2017

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.

Puer maocha
Maocha from Spring 2017

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:

U 2 CAN HELP
2017 U 2 CAN HELP, check white2tea.com for details

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

Chinese Government Infrastructure in rural Yunnan
The government providing free bricks and roads in Yunnan, Spring 2017

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)

Yunnan corn moonshine
A fermenting barrel of corn for future moonshine, Spring 2017

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.

  • Tomas

    When will be the teas ready and posted for sale??

    • TwoDog2

      They will be trickling in over the next few weeks. Probably the end of the month

  • Ian

    Thanks for the report (and the gem mining), always appreciated.

    • TwoDog2

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading!

  • Well you know me, the fly in the ointment…There is a concerning lack of specifics here that puts me the buyer in something of a bind. Unless I want to chalk this post up as doom marketing, what areas are specifically suffering from poor quality tea, and how will I, as a buyer, possibly know who or what to avoid based on the scant information here?

    Here is the issue, so far four vendors I watch have already posted new teas. In all cases, the teas are marketed as the same productions as last year. No vendor is going to stand up and say “oh yes, my tea is affected.” They are all going to say “my tea is not affected, we have the same farmers etc.” or “I made certain that what I bought this year is equal to or better than last year.” Unless I know specifics about regions, a general cautionary statement is not terribly useful.

    My choices are not buying tea, or believe the hype and just buy here. Or, and this is probably a likely course for most, buy nothing and wait for consensus on 2017 among drinkers some years from now. The good tea vs bad will just have to sort itself out.

    • TwoDog2

      In my experience, it affected everywhere. Lincang, Lancang, Yiwu,
      Menghai area; Everywhere. If you want to take it as “doom marketing”
      feel free, your call. There will no doubt be many vendors who extol the
      greatness of 2017, and by the way, that’s a much better marketing ploy.
      In the end I would give the same advice I always give, try a lot of teas
      and buy the teas that you enjoy and fit your budget. Only buying tea
      from me was just a joke. Other vendors will have good tea too, but it will be divided (even more clearly than usual) along the lines of effort.

      • Hm, well gloom, scarcity and I am trying to sift from this State of the Union the yellow and green cultural factor W, and multiple hangovers coupled with attendant repentant morning afters. Despite the situation you describe, I suspect it is a bit early to drop the dresser on the foot before the cakes settle. I would not say that there to anyone else.

        • TwoDog2

          “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.”

          The part about quality is my own opinion, but the prices and scarcity are facts. The early spring harvest had a lower yield and higher prices, nearly across the board.

          I was not trying to sling mud or drop dressers with this post, just giving my opinions on what I experienced.

          There will be plenty of good (and bad) tea to sift through, regardless of my views.

  • Peter

    Thanks for a great & entertaining read!

    • TwoDog2

      Appreciate the comment

  • Theo_Leaf

    So, no Ferrari up to LBZ yet? Maybe just a matter of time; those two ladies are good candidates!
    Interesting how the concept of progress in the same context can be interpreted by different individuals; i should just get one U 2 cake, even though it’s not LBZ gushu.
    Best, T_T

    • TwoDog2

      As soon as the roads are perfectly paved, I am sure there will be a Ferrari or two. Thanks for reading