A post by Ulumochi from an old tea forum thread. Even though this post is from 2012, I think it’s interesting to see what kinds of conflicts show up in pu’er discussion between folks in the Chinese language forums, and what sort of dialogues can be found. Make whatever parallels you wish to the Western world. Enjoy!
Lately because I’ve been pretty busy, and also because Taiwanese forums have seen a huge influx of neophytes as of late, the waters seem to be a bit murky. I originally decided to keep a low profile and stay off of the forums for a while. Up until very late into the night right before I planned to go to sleep I saw a post by user “Splendid 99” and was suddenly hit by a rush of energy, unable to go without responding. Take a look at what you see in the mentioned post:
Splendid 99: To begin: Because new pu’er tea is bitter and very stimulating, it’s not well suited to the tastes of Southerners. Old tea is very docile, with much of that youthful stimulation gone, very fitting to Southern tastes. Thus, the market slowly began to spring up aged teas. Older tea, on one hand, is being continuously distributed, while on the other hand, being continuously consumed. Another aspect is that there is a very limited quantity: as soon as people discover a particular tea is good, as people chase after it for purchasing, the market price skyrockets. This is the prelude to pu’er tea’s ever-climbing high prices.
From the history of this tea, aged pu’er is actually mostly in the hands of Hon Kongers, whether that be old dry stored teas, or wet stored (HK traditionally stored) teas. These Hong Kong tea vendors are experienced in their market. They have a firm grasp over the majority of the “resource” that is aged tea. They are very good at using this resource to make money…Sell a little…wait for a price bump…On the market all that there is to be found are these teas. What can you do about it? If you want to buy, even at a high price, you’ve only got one place to go. This is the foundation for the future pu’er hype.
How do Taiwanese come into the picture? Taiwanese invest in ventures and factories in Dongguan. They can be found in Hong Kong, Dongguan, and Guangzhou, because at the time, they had a somewhat special identity, their entrance into Hong Kong was very convenient. Some Taiwanese had decent insight: quick thinking Taiwanese saw this market opportunity and took teas from Hong Kong to Fangcun to put to market. Because Taiwanese had deeper cultural deposits, and have a gift for smooth talking, the market quickly stirred up. Starting around the year 2000, aged pu’er tea slowly starting having a solid market, with sales growing ever larger. Of course, the teas Taiwanese people got from the hands of the Hong Kong tea vendors was overwhelmingly flooded by wet stored Hong Kong pu’er. During this time, the people of Guangzhou had not had a long history of exposure to pu’er tea at this point, and carried very little knowledge of the tea. Taiwanese people came to the market, the locals thought they were so amazing, like students listening to a teacher lecture about pu’er tea. Luckily, pragmatic Guangzhou’ers didn’t completely listen to them and had their own independent thoughts and ideas. Along with lots of practice and experiences, they didn’t entirely fall victim to following the path of wet stored teas. Otherwise pu’er tea would have taken another detour. This is the contribution of the people of Liwan. From 2000 to 2003, Taiwanese heavily pushed wet stored teas on the market. Liwanese tea enthusiasts worked with theorizing dry stored teas. In the end, Liwanese came out on top. From this point on, the market said goodbye to wet stored teas and began trending towards dry stored pu’er teas. This is a victory for pu’er teas; it can be said a milestone had been reached.
Taiwanese tea sellers picked up their teas from Hong Kongers, taking it to Fangcun for sale, waiting for it to be sold out, then returned to Hong Kong to resupply, only to find that Hong Kongers had jacked prices once more. Taiwanese decided that this wasn’t an ideal business strategy – more like watching your hard work be celebrated by others. They decided that they also wanted to grab hold of these “resources,” so they decided to immediately buy large batches of tea as soon as it would come into Hong Kong, leaving it in Dongguan, then taking it to Fangcun for sale. Taiwanese had successfully studied the Hong Kong way, waiting for the market to warm up in Fangcun, selling off the stock they had there, then raising the price before replacing the stock. At this time, a speculative hype in the pu’er market began to form, a fledgling stage of a sensationalized phenomenon in the market. Fangcun’s tea merchants began to feel much like how the Taiwanese did while watching Hong Kongers make all the money, they also had to chase some sort of exit. Well then, what road did they end up taking eventually? To be continued….
Ulumochi: I’d like to softly ask this gentlemen: When did you start drinking pu’er tea? And when did you start coming around tea forums? I’ve been drinking tea since 1999, from 2000 on I’ve been hanging around internet tea sites. I have met many tea vendors from both sides of the straits – from Hong Kong, Dongguan, and Fangcun. From then until today, I’ve heard many stories. Respectfully, it seems that your version of pu’er market history seems a bit different even from the stories I’ve heard…
Is this from your personal experience? Something you’ve heard? Or something you’ve made up?
Regardless of how convenient it might be for Taiwanese to travel to Mainland China, could it possibly be easier than it is for Hong Kongers? During the time period you mentioned, in order to get to Mainland China, Taiwanese had to first fly to Hong Kong, take train or subway, and have a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan residents, then get through two sides of customs before they would actually get to the Mainland (this whole process taking at minimum 10 hours). How can that be more convenient than it is for Hong Kongers to skip across the waters and beep a card? During these times when a Taiwanese person traveled to Mainland China, it was called “going to commie land.” With no friends or companions, how can that be compared to the geographic situation, politics, and interpersonal advantages Hong Kong might have? Taiwanese took Hong Kong product far far away to Fangcun to sell? Do you think Hong Kongers are stupid? You don’t think they’d just go make this easy money themselves? It’d probably be faster to take asteroids back to Mars to sell…
Taiwanese aren’t that courageous, Hong Kongers aren’t that stupid, and Guangzhou’ers aren’t that sage-like.
Let me tell you something: It all simply depends on how money messes with the equation.
Taiwanese enthusiasts started in the 90s, slowly becoming interesting in pu’er tea.
In 1995, Zheng Shihai’s book on pu’er gave tea vendors their first systematic understanding of teas.
In 1997, large quantities of tea started arriving, until around 2000, when there was a sudden burst of popularity. At that time, Taiwanese used the power of the internet, and absolutely had the intent of taking Hong Kong goods to the mainland to sell. But if they wished to sell Hong Kong goods, how would they be able to compete with Guangdong and Hong Kong sellers? Moreover, Hong Kong and Guangdong’s traditionally stored goods were still controlled by them, causing each batch of sales to become more and more expensive. Taiwanese don’t want their fates controlled by Hong Kong, and thus began promoting dry storage around 2003.
It was wishful thinking for Taiwanese sellers to skip completely over Hong Kong’s traditionally stored teas, and promote pure dry store teas. Unfortunately, they may not have thought of all the possible outcomes of their move. Fangcun obviously is much closer to Yunnan than Taiwan is. If Taiwanese were to promote this style, Fangcun sellers would absolutely do so with even more strength. When all is said and done, after promoting dry stored teas and skipping over Hong Kong, all that has to be done after that is controlling the less educated farmers of Yunnan, and the short-sighted factories and you’re golden…
Guangdong folks (Including Liwan) in previous times, were they not already pu’er enthusiasts, would only really see it in Dim sum restaurants as chrysanthemum pu’er. Is that not also wet stored tea?
Drinking wet stored tea was originally more customary in Guangdong. You wouldn’t really be claiming that their pu’er history came later than Taiwan’s? (Guangdong’s people are the OG pu’er drinkers after all)
Why would the OG wet stored pu’er drinkers suddenly start promoting dry stored teas? You don’t think that had anything to do with money?
These so-called dry stored/wet stored/plantation/large tree pros and cons are all constructed by parties with interests. The principle is: “Wherever there is money, that’s where we’ll put the discussion.”
What are the pros and cons? What is the value?
A famous celebrity gets a tattoo. Youngsters see this and go do it too. What they’re looking for is acceptance. When sellers see there’s money to be made, they push their commercials, and sell all the pros of their “tattoo.”
Once younger folk start working hard in their careers and enter into “normal” society, they see that nobody in this new society has tattoos, and for acceptance, they quickly run off to remove their tattoos.
When sellers see that there is money to be made, they immediately start pushing commercials about amazing tattoo removal technology and pushing negative views about tattoos.
These are the pros and cons, and value.
History can be forgotten,
But people with bad intentions can’t be allowed to randomly make things up.