Well known recipes, A Guide to?

Puerh and other heicha
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Zac
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:12 pm
Location: London

Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:50 pm

Hi there everyone. I'm very new to pu'er tea and have just a handful (5) of cakes. So far I've just gotten the gist of the differences between shu and sheng pu'er. Initially I really dislikes sheng but after trying and trying again I've learnt to enjoy one of my slightly older cakes.

I'm still perplexed by the bafflingly complex and honestly intimidating world of pu. There are so many factors and mysteries, not helped at all by the fact that I don't read Chinese. There are collectors, storage techniques, ageing, brands, fakes, record-breaking prices, spoilage... It's all very intimidating, but also exciting because of all the possibilities and the flavours.

Then there's the choices. So far I've bought cakes that I've been recommended to by people on forums like this one. It's a great start, but I find myself asking, "How do people know about specific recipes and cakes"? Unlike other teas, the fame of specific named pu'er makes seem to precede them, like there's a universal catalogue or guide out there. I've read how the "numbers" work, and that some like 8582 are famous, but I need to know: how do you know?

What makes a cake famous? How and where do you know of it's fame? Is there a list of the most famous recipes? Are they worth trying out, even once? What about newer, unnumbered cakes- are there famous ones too- or are all assigned numbers? I can't seem to find any information about this "system".

Is it just heard through forums and word of mouth? Is there a good guide out there? I'm trying to get a good book on pu in general but I'm not sure that's the answer.

I know the best way is to drink, drink and drink, which I intend to do, but it would be helpful if there were a guide describing the famous cakes out there. Anyone?

And thanks for reading the long post.
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aet
Posts: 235
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Location: Kunming ( China )

Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:16 pm

Zac wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:50 pm
Unlike other teas, the fame of specific named pu'er makes seem to precede them, like there's a universal catalogue or guide out there. I've read how the "numbers" work, and that some like 8582 are famous, but I need to know: how do you know?

What makes a cake famous? How and where do you know of it's fame? Is there a list of the most famous recipes? Are they worth trying out, even once? What about newer, unnumbered cakes- are there famous ones too- or are all assigned numbers? I can't seem to find any information about this "system".
I guess, same way as some products are famous. Dayi has their shops around all China, like Starbucks or something. Advertisements on airports, train stations, banks, bus stops on posters ...etc.....just massive marketing campaign. In Kunming ,when I go from tea market to my home I pass 4 shops , and that's I'm avoiding city center coz of traffic.
Certain cakes like 7572 get famous for what ever reason, I honestly do not know the initial trigger , but once it's started it goes like snowball....everybody wants it...typical in China...massive influence. They even have a saying for that , comparing it to the traffic lights. People staying on red light and waiting to cross the road , once 1 person moves ( go on red) , the all crowd goes right after.
Reason why some tea villages get famous is also some long story but concept would be very similar ...marketing / promotion of the place.

Not sure if chasing famous pieces is the right choice. That's not a grantee that it will match your taste and prices are higher than not famous pieces naturally.
You also need to distinguish where is it famous ? Long time ago there was very famous one tea factory among the Russian tea drinkers coz one RU supplier export it a lot and his buyer naturally promoted the factory and their products they re-sell, yet in China this company is considered as some "no name" with no interesting products or location from where they source the tea.

So I guess, for you, as internet buyer , the famous would be what you read often about on forums, FB, IG or other soc. medias.

Number or not number has no any connection with famous or not famous , neither good or not good ( not talking about the number specifying the grade )

As a beginner, more you read ( even articles, threads not initially aimed on your questions ) ,more you learn and make your very own opinion / strategy of buying puerh..or tea in general.
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mbanu
Posts: 536
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Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:30 pm

Zac wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:50 pm
I find myself asking, "How do people know about specific recipes and cakes"? Unlike other teas, the fame of specific named pu'er makes seem to precede them, like there's a universal catalogue or guide out there. I've read how the "numbers" work, and that some like 8582 are famous, but I need to know: how do you know?

What makes a cake famous? How and where do you know of it's fame? Is there a list of the most famous recipes? Are they worth trying out, even once? What about newer, unnumbered cakes- are there famous ones too- or are all assigned numbers? I can't seem to find any information about this "system".

Is it just heard through forums and word of mouth? Is there a good guide out there? I'm trying to get a good book on pu in general but I'm not sure that's the answer.

I know the best way is to drink, drink and drink, which I intend to do, but it would be helpful if there were a guide describing the famous cakes out there. Anyone?

And thanks for reading the long post.
A few things that might help:

1. The numbers are an homage to the past, but have no legal force today. Anyone can name any tea 8582 and there is nothing that says it will mean anything. However. the pu'er industry continues to use them because they have public recognition, sort of like how "English breakfast" traditionally meant one of a few things but there's no breakfast tea police that would prevent someone from trying to sell sencha as English breakfast if they were feeling nervy.

2. The pu'er world used to be easier to track because it was completely nationalized. For many years, all pu'er that existed was made in just three factories (four if you count the one in Guangdong that had to stop when they changed the legal definition of pu'er). So there was sort of a universal catalogue, in that there were only so many numbered blends.

3. Almost all pu'er went to maybe six places (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Tibet), and three of them were city-states. If you travel back before the 70s, you are looking at Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet as being the whole market. (Singapore and Malaysia drank a similar fermented tea, Liu Bao, when it was available, and only drank pu'er as a substitute when it became hard to get in the 80s, and Taiwan did not like pu'er until the 1990s). Mainland China didn't become excited about pu'er until Taiwanese teashops started opening up there in the last couple decades, except in Sichuan and Guangdong, which were where the pu'er traveled through on its way to Tibet and Hong Kong.

So this became a world that was easy to categorize. That categorization was done primarily by Taiwanese tea-enthusiasts; pu'er being so familiar in Hong Kong the idea of categorizing it was a bit strange, sort of like if someone suggested writing a book on store-brand breakfast cereals in America. Without the novelty ("You pour cold milk on dried flakes and then eat it like a crunchy soup???") there is less motivation to do something like track down the buyers for dozens of regional grocery stores to find the difference between Rice Puffies and Rice Crackles and Rice Krispies.

So you had Taiwanese tea-enthusiasts interacting with the Hong Kong vendors who also sold to dimsum restaurants and starting to create ways to tell the difference between Red Mark and Yellow Mark, or 7582 and 8582, etc.

For quality it is a little complicated because Hong Kong and Taiwan have developed different tastes, and Tibet has been almost completely excluded from these conversations, although Tibet is the original export market for pu'er. Pu'er aging is sort of like a bicycle traveling along; the two wheels are randomized oxidation caused by a bad kill-green and fermentation caused by molds. When all the focus is on the mold wheel, you end up with shou, when all the focus is on the oxidation wheel, you end up with "Taiwanese dry stored" sheng, and when they are balanced you have "Hong Kong traditional storage". So someone from the Taiwanese school might consider an extra-old "dry-stored" (this is a trade term, Taiwan is not a dry place) sheng to be the absolute best, while someone from the Hong Kong school might consider it to lack a balanced flavor. This isn't strictly national, of course, the original Taiwanese enthusiasts learned to love pu'er drinking Hong Kong stored pu'er, and the Taiwanese style has made its way back to Hong Kong for people who want a pu'er experience that is more elegant than the loud and somewhat chaotic dim sum restaurant experience.

English-language pu'er culture is largely from the internet, and in particular from a handful of bilingual bloggers who were from Hong Kong but loved the Taiwanese style. So it is hard to separate out the tea itself from its fans, as each group works on itself creating things which are not questioned. Like when someone uses terms like "Kunming storage", or "Grandpa style", they are letting it be known that they are influenced by certain vendors and blogs, even though they might not themselves realize that their language is giving it away.

The best place to start is to ask yourself the basic questions; why do you want to drink pu'er tea? What is it about the experience you enjoy? (The people? The atmosphere? The internet points? What the tea is? What the tea is not?) The more you can answer these questions to yourself clearly and honestly, the easier it becomes to know which way to head.
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mrmopu
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Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:39 pm

The factory numerics now belong to the factories that produce them. They are now copyrighted. Before 2005/2006 , not sure the numerics were used by almost anyone. Now that isn't the case.
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mbanu
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Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:57 pm

mrmopu wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:39 pm
The factory numerics now belong to the factories that produce them. They are now copyrighted. Before 2005/2006 , not sure the numerics were used by almost anyone. Now that isn't the case.
Good info, thanks! I think what I am trying to explain here is that there is nothing that connects those numbers to characteristics with the tea. Like in the national era, the first two numbers were the recipe invention year, the third was the leaf grade, and the fourth the factory number, but today you can get a pu'er labeled 7262; this blend was not invented in 1972, but in the late 90s. And you can get a tea like 7578, which is a Haiwan copy of 7572, but of course Haiwan did not exist in 1975, when Haiwan took on the label there were far more than 8 pu'er factories, and I am even skeptical that the 7 leaf grade is the same between the two companies. I guess to go back to the cereal analogy, if you had three cereals, Captain Crunch, Colonel Crunch, and Corporal Crunch, there would really be no way you could use the name to quantify the cereal other than that they were meant to be competitors with one another. There is also no guarantee that if you unearthed a vintage box of Captain Crunch that the ingredient list would be the same because the name was the same.
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mrmopu
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Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:32 pm

Yeah until the standardization they could do and say about anything on the wrapper. People used to buy Zhong Cha labels and rewrap tons of stuff back in the day. Buy a wrapper and put in what you want.
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aet
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Location: Kunming ( China )

Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:26 pm

mbanu wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:30 pm
Like when someone uses terms like "Kunming storage", or "Grandpa style", they are letting it be known that they are influenced by certain vendors and blogs, even though they might not themselves realize that their language is giving it away.
..I'm not sure I understand the sentence. What way of being " influenced by certain vendors" ?
"Kunming storage" - 昆明仓 ..is just a translation of where tea was stored. Could be SH, BJ, Chongqing..etc.
Is Guangzhou, TW, HK storage also influence of certain vendors? What do you mean by that "influenced" ?
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mbanu
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Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:02 pm

So in English-languge pu'er circles there is a common misunderstanding about how pu'er storage works; this is based on not quite understanding the terms "wet storage" and "dry storage", which are not really such good translations of what happens to the pu'er. Pu'er storage is imagined like it is being kept in a giant humidor with a fixed level of humidity. So "wet storage" must mean that it has a fixed level of humidity above a certain level, and "dry storage" must mean it has a fixed level of humidity below a certain level. Sometimes this is also categorized as "Hong Kong/Guangdong storage", "Taiwan storage", and "Kunming storage", with it being imagined that Hong Kong storage is pu'er stored at a fixed high level of humidity, Taiwan stored at a lower level, and Kunming at the lowest level.

However, "wet storage" and "dry storage" are actually physical places, not categories of storage. Like in Hong Kong, a pu'er would go into the "wet storage" for a period of time to get the right micro-organisms, and then it would go into the "dry storage" to age, where the level of humidity would change with the seasons and the location of the tea in the storage area. But there is nothing to prevent the warehouse from deciding to skip the "wet storage" and put tea directly in the "dry storage", other than that this would change the flavor into something different than what they are hoping for.

Some vendors are not interested in correcting this misunderstanding; they will cheerfully categorize their tea by storage location knowing that their customer is confused, because having it categorized that way draws in customers who want to buy tea based on this. So a lot of times when someone uses a term like "Kunming storage" that means they are part of the pu'er hobbyist group that believes this means something more significant than "tea stored in Kunming".
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aet
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Location: Kunming ( China )

Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:58 pm

mbanu wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:02 pm
However, "wet storage" and "dry storage" are actually physical places, not categories of storage. Like in Hong Kong, a pu'er would go into the "wet storage" for a period of time to get the right micro-organisms, and then it would go into the "dry storage" to age, where the level of humidity would change with the seasons and the location of the tea in the storage area. But there is nothing to prevent the warehouse from deciding to skip the "wet storage" and put tea directly in the "dry storage", other than that this would change the flavor into something different than what they are hoping for.

Some vendors are not interested in correcting this misunderstanding; they will cheerfully categorize their tea by storage location knowing that their customer is confused, because having it categorized that way draws in customers who want to buy tea based on this. So a lot of times when someone uses a term like "Kunming storage" that means they are part of the pu'er hobbyist group that believes this means something more significant than "tea stored in Kunming".
"wet storage" and "dry storage" are actually physical places" ..these are conditions where the tea is stored ( can be any place if have equipment )
not categories of storage....disagree with that ..at least from Chinese vendor point of view...( I'm not Chinese but my friends are here in Kunming )

So if I may from Kunming vendor point of view:
We do / tend to categorize dry / wet , and from our point of view wet is GZ,HK, SH, MAL ..etc ...with higher humidity and heat ( combination of those two ) than Kunming can achieve.
Yet, sometimes I come across 2-4y clean stored sheng from GZ and has no any disturbing wet notes ( in KM most of vendors take this as faulty of storage , I'm personally more tolerant to that, my wife..local Yunnan ..can't stand it at all ;- )

I probably repeat my self here, but you can look at it as like that person from Norway has different "opinion" about summer than person from south of Spain. Same applies to humidity.

" a lot of times when someone uses a term like "Kunming storage" that means they are part of the pu'er hobbyist group that believes this means something more significant than "tea stored in Kunming"." ...Kunming Storage ...Stored in Kunming ....I don't see any difference only "in" added .

I use , as Chinese here do , Guanzhou Cang, Kunming Cang, Xiangha cang ...which means "Guangzhou Storage , Kunming Storage, HK storage "
Sometimes we say , " oh that tea was stored in GZ " for example , but if you say storage with short expression , than we just say "Place Storage" or Shi Cang - "wet storage" , "gan cang" - dry storage ...that means "Category Storage".



The puerh stored in high humidity places is unfortunately more "troublesome" in longer terms , that's why probably some , as u say , puerh hobbyist highlight the KM storage.
Higher humidity and heat helps aging faster, yet it's more vulnerable to pick up odors from storage place, cardboard box where is stored , mouse excrement ..... etc odors. , also more vulnerable to get mold, let alone that taste is radically different.
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Zac
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Tue Jul 28, 2020 4:23 am

Gosh, thanks so much @mbanu, @aet and @mrmopu for all the extremely thorough answers. I've learnt a lot about production techniques and how pu evolved through different countries etc

What do you want from drinking pu'er?
The same as what most of us want: to get the most enjoyment out of drinking.

I thought I would be better equipped to do this if I understood the factory codes. I thought maybe if they were an easy shorthand to understand the basics of types of pu, like the famous codes were something all experienced drinkers should taste in their journey and that maybe that all experienced drinkers knew number xxxx is a great reference for this type of tasting pu, and number yyyy is another prototype for pu that has notes of y. But from reading your comments, I guess that's not the case and that pu'er has come a long way from being a nationalised, categorizable industry with a definitive and exhaustive list. Perhaps then one can learn about pu by drinking random cakes one can afford + looking up cakes that are being discussed in forums such as these rather than hunting down all the famous factory codes.
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Zac
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Tue Jul 28, 2020 4:33 am

Further thoughts"

@aet, you're post was really helpful about how one should proceed to learn in the journey of pu'er. It was really helpful to learn what the industry is like in China- I had no idea it was so mainstream! I had thought that it was still fairly niche and that most people drank other stuff on a daily basis- greens was what I had in mind.

Good to hear that numbers do not denote quality. I will definitely endeavour to read more articles and discussions around the topic and for the last few days have been hungrily devouring old forum topics on TF!

@mbanu, your analogy of breakfast cereal really cracked me up and I was chortling in bed in the morning! I loved it and it really helped me understand the factors at play in the industry and answered my question well about why it seemed that only pu'er out of other teas had such a standardized, categorical system of labelling and reputation between the labels.
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mbanu
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Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:00 pm

aet wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:58 pm
mbanu wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:02 pm
However, "wet storage" and "dry storage" are actually physical places, not categories of storage.
..these are conditions where the tea is stored ( can be any place if have equipment )
not categories of storage....disagree with that ..at least from Chinese vendor point of view...( I'm not Chinese but my friends are here in Kunming )

So if I may from Kunming vendor point of view:
We do / tend to categorize dry / wet , and from our point of view wet is GZ,HK, SH, MAL ..etc ...with higher humidity and heat ( combination of those two ) than Kunming can achieve.
Yet, sometimes I come across 2-4y clean stored sheng from GZ and has no any disturbing wet notes ( in KM most of vendors take this as faulty of storage , I'm personally more tolerant to that, my wife..local Yunnan ..can't stand it at all ;- )

" a lot of times when someone uses a term like "Kunming storage" that means they are part of the pu'er hobbyist group that believes this means something more significant than "tea stored in Kunming"." ...Kunming Storage ...Stored in Kunming ....I don't see any difference only "in" added .

I use , as Chinese here do , Guanzhou Cang, Kunming Cang, Xiangha cang ...which means "Guangzhou Storage , Kunming Storage, HK storage "
Sometimes we say , " oh that tea was stored in GZ " for example , but if you say storage with short expression , than we just say "Place Storage" or Shi Cang - "wet storage" , "gan cang" - dry storage ...that means "Category Storage".



The puerh stored in high humidity places is unfortunately more "troublesome" in longer terms , that's why probably some , as u say , puerh hobbyist highlight the KM storage.
Higher humidity and heat helps aging faster, yet it's more vulnerable to pick up odors from storage place, cardboard box where is stored , mouse excrement ..... etc odors. , also more vulnerable to get mold, let alone that taste is radically different.
That is very interesting! Maybe it is a regional difference? In Hong Kong at least, wet and dry storage are places; the HK vendor Sunsing put example photos of their two types of storage on their website: http://sunsingtea.com/sunsingtea/tc/kno ... =3&subid=5
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aet
Posts: 235
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Location: Kunming ( China )

Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:25 pm

mbanu wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:00 pm
aet wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:58 pm
mbanu wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:02 pm
However, "wet storage" and "dry storage" are actually physical places, not categories of storage.
..these are conditions where the tea is stored ( can be any place if have equipment )
not categories of storage....disagree with that ..at least from Chinese vendor point of view...( I'm not Chinese but my friends are here in Kunming )

So if I may from Kunming vendor point of view:
We do / tend to categorize dry / wet , and from our point of view wet is GZ,HK, SH, MAL ..etc ...with higher humidity and heat ( combination of those two ) than Kunming can achieve.
Yet, sometimes I come across 2-4y clean stored sheng from GZ and has no any disturbing wet notes ( in KM most of vendors take this as faulty of storage , I'm personally more tolerant to that, my wife..local Yunnan ..can't stand it at all ;- )

" a lot of times when someone uses a term like "Kunming storage" that means they are part of the pu'er hobbyist group that believes this means something more significant than "tea stored in Kunming"." ...Kunming Storage ...Stored in Kunming ....I don't see any difference only "in" added .

I use , as Chinese here do , Guanzhou Cang, Kunming Cang, Xiangha cang ...which means "Guangzhou Storage , Kunming Storage, HK storage "
Sometimes we say , " oh that tea was stored in GZ " for example , but if you say storage with short expression , than we just say "Place Storage" or Shi Cang - "wet storage" , "gan cang" - dry storage ...that means "Category Storage".



The puerh stored in high humidity places is unfortunately more "troublesome" in longer terms , that's why probably some , as u say , puerh hobbyist highlight the KM storage.
Higher humidity and heat helps aging faster, yet it's more vulnerable to pick up odors from storage place, cardboard box where is stored , mouse excrement ..... etc odors. , also more vulnerable to get mold, let alone that taste is radically different.
That is very interesting! Maybe it is a regional difference? In Hong Kong at least, wet and dry storage are places; the HK vendor Sunsing put example photos of their two types of storage on their website: http://sunsingtea.com/sunsingtea/tc/kno ... =3&subid=5
I think I understand the difference now. ..or maybe the all confusion ;-)
"storage" ..in Chinese if the storage means like a place, it is 仓库 "cang ku " ( noun ) , but if you use it as a verb stored , then it's only the 仓 "cang" added to the conditions of the storage - 湿 "shi" wet , 干 "gan" dry.
So wet storage ( stored ) is 湿仓 "shi cang" , dry storage ( stored ) 干仓 “gan cang" . We don't say 湿仓库 "shi cang ku " or 干仓库 "gan cang ku".
Now of course , as I said before, the difference between dry and wet is understand by Kunming vendors differently than HK, GZ or TW vendors or probably by all vendors in China who live in places with higher humidity .

Based on traditional specification :
Dry Storage, the traditional way of storing pu’ercha (普洱茶) in air that is not artificially humidified; the opposite of Shi Cang (湿仓)
References: Bā Bā Qīng Bǐng (八八青饼), Chén Guó Yì (陈国义), Dì Cāng (地仓), Shī Cāng (湿仓)

Wet storage - the controversial technique of Wet Storage, the storing of pu’ercha (普洱茶) in an especially - perhaps artificially - humid environment to encourage microbial activity; the opposite of Gan Cang (干仓)
References: Cāng Wèi (仓味), Dì Cāng (地仓), Gān Cāng (干仓), Hung Chong Tai (鴻昌泰), Mi Xiang (蜜香、密香), Qīng Dù Rù Cāng (轻度入仓), Rù Cāng (入仓), Rù Cāng Chá (入仓茶), Tuì Cāng (退仓), Zǎo Xiāng (枣香)

So if HK vendors say wet storage as a place, they mean the place with artificially increased humidity. But if you talk about the tea characteristics ( as the aroma and taste from tea leafs ) , then you can say : tea is wet stored or this tea is wet storage ( maybe in En.grammar is not correct..I think correct word should be "stored" not storage , but it's used quite long time though )
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