My Anthem

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pu-Erh Cha, Dear?

TEA COLLECTOR for two years, NCChoo has a large collection of 2005 Nan Zhao, primarily as a form of investment and also a late bloomer in appreciating Chinese teas, especially of the renowned kind. Consuming tea in association with a healthy food diet ensures Choo and family a soothing environment to enjoy a semi-retired lifestyle that gives him time to research and build on his treasury of mainly two types of teas.

In Choo's own words:

"I have a large collection of 2005 Nan Zhao as a form of investment.

The climate (temperature & humidity) in Malaysia where I am staying, is very conducive to tea aging. The experts say that one year of tea aging in the Malaysia is equivalent to about 3 years in temperate countries.

My Nan Zhao Pu-erh tea has now aged to a level where the colour of the infusion from the third round, is light brown and the taste is devoid of that of raw tea and the smoky smell is at a minimum. The flowery fragrance is very distinct.

I am no tea drinking expert but some friends who are more expert than I have told me the taste is excellent approaching that of a good aged tea. From the eight infusion onwards, it tastes sweet.

I am very pleased to have this collection of tea to savour as well as an investment vehicle."

Meng Hai Pu Erh

Choo proudly declares he also stocks the Meng Hai Pu Erh -- acknowledged by Chinese tea connossiers in China as the "best" pu-erh in the market now.

"This tea is of the highest quality. I consider in the blue-chip Pu Erh, and it justifies the high premium price it commands over the other Pu Erh teas," he added.

Since he started collecting the teas from the Meng Hai Factory, their values in two years have appreciated easily double the investments as the local tropical climate is conducive in maturing the teas -- that is, in accelerating the Composting process, besides of course, the rising demand in the marketplace, Choo explains.

Market Prospects of Pu Erh Tea

TWO OUTSTANDING features easily noted of current developments
which will determine largely the prospects of Pu Erh in the
local and overseas markets are as follows:

(1) A significant amount of scientific research is being
done on the effects of pu-erh on the human body, the
microbial activity involved, and the science of
developing mature pu-erh faster. As more and more people
become more aware of the health benefits of Pu Erh tea,
they will invest more on Research and Development, and
this will further enhance the tea quality.

(2) The rising economic affluence has created a new middle
class in China. This new middle class has
created an unprecedented demand for quality Pu Erh,
which in turn has put pressure on the factories to
produce more tea even faster. This trend is also noted in
other countries in Southeast Asia, especially those with
substantial overseas Chinese communities, including Malaysia.

Consuming Pu Erh tea has indeed become a symbol of achievement.
New research facilities have been commissioned to further the
processing techniques with an emphasis on scientific theory,
manufacturing technology, quality and economics.


The following literature is extracted from Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia:

Menghai Tea Factory
Menghai Tea Factory (Chinese: 勐海茶厂; pinyin: měnghăi cháchăng) is a tea factory producing pu erh tea located in Menghai, Yunnan, China. The factory is well known for its old raw pu-erh cakes and is highly reputed in the tea industry of China.

Menghai Tea Factory was founded in 1940 and is located in Menghai County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China (中国云南西双版纳勐海县). The factory was originally called Fo Hai Tea Factory (佛海茶厂), but changed its name to Menghai Tea Factory in 1953 with the establishment of the Xishuangbanna autonomous prefecture.

Menghai Tea Factory is credited as being one of the first two factories to make "cooked" (熟茶, shúchá) pu'er tea in 1973 (the other factory was Kunming Tea Factory). As the tea factory industry in China privatized in the late 1980s through the 1990s, Menghai Tea Factory adopted its "Dayi" (大益) logo and went fully private in 1996. Currently, Menghai Tea Factory is owned by The Bowin Company, who purchased Menghai Tea Industry Co. Ltd and Menghai Tea Factory in October 2004.

Menghai protection ticket from 2006 7742 recipe bingcha; prominently features Dayi brand logo Menghai Tea Factory is perhaps the most widely known producer of compressed and loose pu'er tea, including túochá (沱茶, "Bowl-shaped Tea"), bĭngchá (饼茶, "Disc Tea"), and other compressed shapes. Vintage Bĭngchá from Menghai Tea Factory are perhaps the most highly prized pu'er tea produced in the 1970s and 1980s. Current productions from Menghai Tea Factory products remain popular, even with trends of pu-erh collectors favoring smaller producers. Because of the high prices fetched by both new and old Menghai products, Menghai products often suffer from widespread counterfeiting. In 2006, Menghai began issuing microprinted tickets in their pu-erh cakes in an attempt to throw off counterfeiters.

Like Xiaguan Tea Factory and many other formerly government-owned pu-erh factories, Menghai produces many cakes by recipe, indicated by number. Recipe numbers are formulated in a four-digit numeric format: ####. The first two digits represent the year the recipe was first produced, the third digit the grade of leaves used in the recipe, and the last digit represents the factory (2 for Menghai Tea Factory). 7542, for example, would be a recipe from 1975 using fourth-grade tea leaf made by Menghai Tea Factory.

Some examples of bĭngchá recipes are below.
Menghai also produces some zhuānchá (砖茶, "brick tea") and túochá by recipe as well. Many pu'er series by Menghai—especially newer series--are not referenced by recipe number.

Bĭngchá recipes (partial list):

Raw: 7432, 7532, 7572, 7582, 7742, 8542, 8582, 8972, 0622

Cooked: 7262, 7552, 7562, 7572, 7592, 7632, 7672, 7752, 8562, 8592, 0532, 0562

Menghai Tea Factory previously produced its teas under the zhōngchá label of the state-run China National Native Produce & Animal by Products Import & Export (CNNP), but registered its own brand, Dayi in June 1989, and began producing exclusively under this label in 1996. While some Menghai labels contain other more prominent labels, such as the Menghai peacock, the Dayi brand is always found on these labels as well.

Dayi logo below recipe number on Menghai 2006 7742 cake wrapper.
Menghai 8542 Recipe Bingcha, 2005


The Tea Horse Caravans

One of the more colorful aspects of Pu Erh history is
the Tea Horse Roads and the Caravans that traversed
them. Tea products made in Yunnan were transported
by mules and horses in long Caravans along established
routes that became known as the Tea Horse Roads.

Traders from Tibet, Laos, Burma, etc would trade for
tea in the tea markets of Pu-erh County and then
hire the Caravans to carry the tea back to their
respective homes.

It was the logistics of transporting tea via these
Caravans that inspired merchants to start compressing
the tea in the first place, it was easier to handle
and they were able to get more tea on each horse
that way. This form of transportation was relatively
cheap, but the transportation lead time was quite long
since the Caravans traveled very long distances at a very
slow speed. It was quite by accident that they
discovered that Pu-Erh actually tasted better at the
end of the journey than at the beginning.

Though the Caravans no longer exist, the rich culture
and history prevails to this day. The old tea Horse
Roads are quite the tourist attraction in China and
you can still find remnants of three well-maintained
routes today in Pu-Erh County. Many footprints of
mules and horses can be found on those roads, as well
as sign posts, and other famous landmarks. These are
the roads that made Pu-erh famous.