Naka Puerh Tea

Taobao Tea Roulette : 2010 “Naka”

The Sting of Taobao Tea

Ordering $4 tea off of Taobao is kind of like playing roulette. The odds are against you – to a degree that make roulette look like a wise investment. After scouring taobao tea with dreams of winning big, but you would be thrilled to get any return at all. In all likely hood, you will walk away a loser. There is a reason the Venetian has enough money to hire gondoliers to sing to you; it’s a rigged game. So, why do we gamble? Addiction Hope. Hope is the reason.

New pair of Guafengzhai

As for myself, I’ve never been a roulette man, a craps man, or even a casino man. What I am, is a taobao tea man. I enjoy flipping around $3 or $20 or…let’s not talk about amounts, the point is, I enjoy laying bets and seeing if I can turn up a gem once in awhile.

Taobao Naka Puer
White wrapper Naka Puer from Taobao

This habit has turned up its fair share of shit tea, but once in awhile, you get lucky. This cake is an example of the excremental side of the dice rolling. One of many cakes where I spun the wheel – and lost. So…Why write about? No reason really, except that somebody noticed a stray comment I had made on a message board referring to this tea, and was curious if it was this yexiangwang tea. I decided to clear up which tea was which, and also try to point out some of the silver linings of the cloud that is this “Naka” tea.

First, let’s start with a basic question – is this Naka tea? The most logical answer would be – no. Why is this not Naka tea? Well, for one thing, Naka raw material ought to be more expensive than $2 per 357g. If someone tries to sell you a real Rolex on a street corner for $10, the most obvious question is “why $10”? I knew this going in to the purchase, but was curious what they were trying to pass off as Naka for the same price as a happy meal.

Taobao Gamble
The deceivingly pretty dry leaves

After a rinse, this tea leaves the gaiwan smelling fruity and sweet. The lid also has a beany aftersmell (neither of those are actually words). The first steep is very cloudy and dirty. Lots of floating bits and a lack of clarity in the soup. I decide to pour it out and score it as a double rinse.

The first drinkable steep is a dark golden color, with higher clarity than the first two rinses, but a bit more dirty than most good puer. Black floaty dots stubbornly remain despite repeated rinsing; I decide to drink them, as the alernative seems to be an additional five rinses and I am a lazy, lazy man.

Puer Soup
Puer Soup

The soup is very se [astringent], with a very light kuwei [pleasant bitterness], and no throat or mouthfeel to speak of. The tea is in and out of the mouth in a flash, like drinking hot water.

The next steeps stay in the mouth a little longer, with the clarity maintaining its cloudiness. It is difficult to pinpoint where this tea is from, but I think Lincang would a reasonable guess. The price, flavors, scents, and clarity would make a convincing argument. The tea never really becomes cleaner, in flavor or clarity. The throatfeel has moments of comfort, but they are fleeting.

Spent leaves
Spent leaves

The tea drifts along through the session in roughly the same way it began, a bit harsh and dull. But, let’s review our fact sheet: $4. 357g. You don’t go to McDonald’s and complain that your burger is overcooked. For $4, you take what you get, which in this case, is a dirty lincang-ish cake. You could do worse, but you could also do better. I chalk it up to another small loss at the taobao casino.

I would not really recommend this cake to anyone, but if you want to try it for the sake of masochism research, i can break you off a piece. I have plenty left. Or, go here.

Douji biz card

2012 Naka Shan Raw Puer Douji

I have been waiting patiently for the Douji 2012 stock to arrive, so I could begin to swim through their new teas. Below is this years production of Naka Shan raw puer.

Dry Naka Shan puer tea
Dry Naka Shan
Dry Naka leaves from Douji
Closeup of dry Naka leaves from Douji


The dry leaves smell like white sugar. Very young, with scents of vegetal grass still present – probably due to being pressed only a month ago, and picked but a few months ago. That young smell can be put-offish, but in this case it is quite endearing.

Brewed Naka Puer Tea from Douji
The soup

The first steep was very smooth for such a young tea. No harshness. A little bit of ku wei [good bitterness]. Some vegetal flavors lurking around, with a deep yellow soup.

It became creamy (or what I call creamy… a lot of Naka teas have this sort of fatty, dairy like mouth sensation) in the later steepings, and the kuwei picked up and dropped off around steep number five. There was also a rising se wei [astringency] that I imagine will disappear with age. The astringent feeling was lingering around until about steep number five.

I also noted it was a bit one dimensional, which for me, is not an issue. I am generally a Naka fan, so one dimension of Naka is joy enough.  It went for a total of eight steeps, and by nine was fairly lifeless. If a young tea grows tired after under ten steeps, it does raise some concern about how it will age.


Douji puer brew
Douji puer brew

In my notes, I reflected:

It is a lovely tea. I only have two complaints:

  1. price
  2. price
Spent Douji puer leaves from Naka Shan
A look at the spent leaves + soup


Conclusions on Douji Tea’s Current Pricing

Douji has left me a little bewildered about puer prices. This cake retails at around 550 RMB (not far off of USD 100). When you creep into 80 dollar territory, you can’t be half-assing it. I remember having a 2006 Nan Nuo from Douji awhile back, and thinking, “Damn, this is great tea.” That tea was using its whole ass. This Douji tea is somewhere near 5/8 ass usage.

In the past, Douji produced some good quality teas, (2006-recently) and their pricing was fairly expensive, but tolerable. With their 2012 teas, it seems several of their teas have leapfrogged in front of the market. Perhaps they are correct in their assumption that Naka teas will continue along the path of Lao Ban Zhang [currently a monopolized pricey region for puer]  and continue to drastically increase in price.  Or maybe their teas have gained enough of a reputation that they are priced for gifting. Or, perhaps this cake snuck into the wrong weight class.