Thursday, October 23, 2014

The 7542 puerh standard and compound interest.

1995/96 Menghai Tea Factory '7542' cake
The compound interest formula is very useful to understand to the price of older 7542 cakes.
The calculation goes like this:
Price in Y years = Price now x (1+ rate of return)^Y

What's interesting with the Menghai 7542 cakes from 1975 to year 2000, is that these puerhs were made with the same recipe, similar know-how in the same factory while the Chinese market was a monopoly managed by the CNNP corporation. (See picture above for the full name). This means that these products are all quite similar and should follow similar aging and pricing patterns.

The second reason that makes the 7542 interesting for puerh drinkers is that the 1970s 7542 are now very highly regarded by collectors. Some see this cake as the next generation green label! (The other cake that enjoys a similar reputation is the 8582 from the mid 1980s: it is seen as the next generation red label). So, this recipe (before year 2000) is a good standard to understand how a raw puerh should taste after a certain time.
Menghai Tea Factory '7542' from 1995/96
The stability of this puerh helps us to calculate the rate of return. Since the cakes are similar, we can assume that the price of a 39 or 34 years old 7542 remains the same over time. (This assumes a 0% inflation rate, which is rather conservative).

- Case 1: for a 1975 '7542', the market price I heard is 10,000 USD.
Let's be conservative and assume that my latest selected 7542 is from 1996 (it could also be 1995). In 21 years, it will be as old as the 1975 '7542'. Now, its price is 399 USD. What will be its rate of return, its annual growth rate to reach the same price as a 7542 from 1975 in 21 years?
10,000 = 399 x (1 + R)^(1996-1975=21)
According to the above formula, this rate is approximately 16.6%!
We can use this rate to calculate backwards also:
Price of a 18 years old '7542' = 399 = Price of a new cake x (1+ rate of return = .166)^18
The answer is that the price of a new cake should be approximately 25 USD.
- Case 2: for a 1980 '7542', I found a recent auction where a tong was sold for 184,000 RMB. Converted to USD, this means that 1 cake costs approximately 4,380 USD. Another lot sold for 195,500 RMB, but let's use the lower figure.
What's the rate of return here if the price of a 34 years old puerh stays the same?
4,380 = 399 x (1 + R)^(1996-1980=16)
Here, the rate of return is approximately 16.1%. We are very close the rate calculated above.
1995/96 '7542' puerh
These rates of return are very similar to the rates I calculated about 80 years old cakes based on previous auctions. Such rates are very high and explain why so many investors are tempted to invest in puerh. As a former financial executive, it's fun to run these numbers to look at tea from a different, purely financial perspective. What's important to remember is that we are looking at the most respected cake (brand) from a certain time. Lesser known and lower quality puerhs don't reach the same prices. During the 1975-2000 era, there were fewer products since there were fewer producers and 1 monopoly that didn't encourage much innovation. The quality and branding issue will be more important for investors for newer puerhs. It's difficult to say now which new puerhs will still be sought after in 20 or 40 years.

The advantage of the 1995/96 '7542' and the 1999 '7542' is that they are most likely to follow the same evolution of the 1975-80 '7542' (also known as 73 qing bing). And I had the opportunity to taste such a 70s '7542' recently! I could feel that the character of this old puerh is similar to my 1990s '7542'. The energy is still superb and it feels so pure and light! The taste has continued to become more refined, while the scents have turned darker and intoxicating while preserving a fresh and energetic feeling. It's very, very good and very few leaves are sufficient to make a great cup.
1970s '7542'
A 40 years old puerh is like a taste of paradise. The astronomical price doesn't seem so far fetched if you are old and rich. Being in my mid 40s, I don't have the luxury to wait 40 years, but 20 years seem OK. That's why now is a good time to purchase this puerh standard before the compound interest prices it higher and higher.

Note: See more pictures of the 95/96 cake in my recent article (in French).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Truth in advertising

The advantage of going from blogging to selling tea is that I spend time searching and selecting teas I find fantastic. But the disadvantage of selling tea instead of just blogging about it, is that it blurs the line between describing and promoting it. Nevertheless, I think that most readers can see that I take real pleasure and interest in good teas. Also, I give the opportunity to purchase small quantities (25 gr or sometimes even by the gram) that let you evaluate the teas at a reasonable cost (and I give free sample(s) with each order).

The Internet gives readers and customers the possibility to voice their opinions on forums or directly as comments or reviews on the blog and boutique respectively. I encourage you to share your feedback online. Your voice counts because, unlike me, you are not sellers, but simply wish to share your experience to help others make the best choice. A good review is a way to express your pleasure and support. And a bad review is a red flag that can help me correct a problem I may have overlooked.

Tea leaves are not the finished product, but the tea brew is. That's why I spend a lot effort to explain and show how to prepare tea in order to get the most out of it. But what ultimately counts is your experience of the leaves, not mine. That's another reason why your reviews are so useful.

I was very glad to read Ryan's comment of my 2006 raw Lincang puerh a few days ago:
"This is one of the best young raw puerhs I have ever had the pleasure of trying. Its is incredibly sweet, complex, and refined. It is extremely present and active on the palate and leaves a powerful aftertaste. The quality of this young raw puerh is unparalleled to any other puerh I have ever purchased!"
Ryan also commented on my 1979 high roast Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding:
"The aroma of this tea is truly exquisite! It smells incredibly sweet with notes of molasses and dried fruits. It has a thick and smooth mouth feel, and has a very complex flavor profile. This tea is one of the best aged oolongs I have ever had."
Today, in an email, my tea friend Paola wrote to me that : "The imperial jasmine is unbelievable.  REALLY the best I have ever tasted. Did not know such a jasmine tea existed." It's not a review (yet), but I was still very pleased to read it.

And since this article is about advertising and marketing, let me also tell you the 2 meanings of my boutique's logo:
The Chinese calligraphy (and the stamp) both say Cha zhi Le. This means Tea Happiness. But it also has a personal connection, because the translation of my last name in Chinese is Le (Happiness)!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1995/96 Menghai 7542

Saviez-vous que Warren Buffett, le génial investisseur, a gagné 99% de sa fortune après l'âge de 50 ans? Etonnant, non? Cela me fait penser au puerh de collection dont la valeur augmente de manière pratiquement exponentielle! Une galette 7542 des années 1970s vaut actuellement environ 10,000 USD! Et les galettes plus anciennes valent bien plus encore.
Mais les puerhs ne vieillissent pas tous bien. La qualité du puerh à l'origine et le stockage sont deux facteurs déterminants. Avec la galette 7542, on a la chance d'avoir une recette qui fut assez stable dans le temps, surtout tant que la firme Menghai fut une entreprise publique. Sa privatisation eut lieu en 1996, et ce puerh de 95/96 est donc l'un des derniers de cette période. On peut donc mieux extrapoler comment cette galette va évoluer dans les 20 prochaines années. (C'est surtout vrai si on a eu, comme moi, la chance de goûter à une 7542 des années 70s, un puerh fantastique, soit dit en passant).
Neifei avec mention de Menghai
Quant au stockage, l'important est surtout qu'il soit propre et que le thé n'absorbe pas des odeurs étrangères. La particularité du puerh est sa longévité: on peut le conserver sur des décennies. C'est un avantage surtout si l'on est jeune. Passé un certain âge, on n'a plus forcément le temps et la patience d'attendre 40 ans. Et l'on n'a pas forcément non plus des dizaines de milliers d'Euros en budget thé chaque année. Aussi, ce genre de galette de près de 20 ans d'âge offre un bon compromis. L'autre avantage d'une galette de près de 20 ans, c'est qu'on voit mieux comment elle a déjà évolué.
En guise de dégustation test, j'infuse 3 grammes  en gaiwan en porcelaine sous le soleil indien chinois de la mi-octobre! Le bambou, plante symbole de l'été fait son retour également.

Le thé se décortique facilement sur les bords, mais le centre parait bien dur. On voit aussi distinctement les traces du tissu de pressage sur la surface de la galette. Sa forme est bien équilibrée et dénote un bon savoir-faire.
Au bout de 2 minutes environ, l'infusion est d'un orange éclatant et bien transparent. 
On obtient des couleurs plus sombres en infusant 6 minutes (en standard de compétition), mais j'ai voulu obtenir ici une concentration plus 'normale'. Néanmoins, cette couleur nous apprend que le stockage fut relativement sec (plus sec que pour mon autre 7542 de 1999).
Aussi les odeurs sont surtout dans les notes de camphor et dans les notes aigus.
Par contre, au niveau du goût, on a beaucoup de puissance, de fraicheur et de pureté, 3 caractéristiques essentielles pour le puerh âgé. Il y a encore de l'amertume, mais elle semble jouer en bouche avec le moelleux et la finesse de ce thé.
L'arrière-goût est très long et il laisse une impression très propre et pure en bouche.
Les infusions se suivent et se ressemblent!
C'est fantastique tout ce qu'on peut infuser avec 3 grammes seulement!
Les feuilles ouvertes apparaissent vraiment jeunes encore! Il en faut de la patience pour laisser le temps faire doucement son travail de bonification. Mais le résultat en vaut déjà la peine. Plus il devient meilleur, plus il est difficile de ne pas en boire!
Ce 7542 du milieu des années 90 commence à devenir très bon et c'est un très bon exemple de puerh cru, stocké au sec, qui garde beaucoup de fraicheur et d'énergie tout en s'arrondissant progressivement.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The beauty of hung cha

Sun on winter tea plantations in northern Taiwan
The cool days and cold nights have (finally) arrived in Taiwan. It's time for a change in the teas brewed. Fewer green teas and low oxidized Oolongs. Now, it feels more like drinking Hung Shui Oolongs, raw puerhs, shu puerhs and red teas. Each of these tea category has a warming characteristic, but expressed differently. The best of all is... to be able to vary all these teas!

Today, on this Chaxi, I'm enjoying my Red Extreme Delight (RED). The Chinese classify it as a red tea (Hung cha). These leaves and buds come from Qingxin Oolong trees that have been planted in Mojiang (Yunnan) at an altitude of 1700 meters.

The dry leaves have smells of cocoa powder! There's also a dark orchid scent that feels very natural.
This Chaxi reflects nicely this dark, flowery and natural character of this tea.
Red tea is one of the teas the least associated with gongfu cha and high quality teas. It's the tea category that has been the most commoditized and produced in mass quantities (for tea bags and as a base for scented teas). But originally, Hung Cha comes from Fujian (Tongmu village) where Lapsang Souchong (zhengshan xiao zhong) was invented. This red tea is smoked over local pine wood. It is one of the most delicious and finest teas I know (when it's not fake, otherwise it can be pretty horrible). In recent years, a lighter version (less smoke and mostly buds) has revived interest in Chinese top quality red teas: Jin Jun Mei. My Red Extreme Delight was made as an attempt to create a tea with similar finesse and quality as Jin Jun Mei!
The gold/orange brew is extremely clear and bright. And the scents match this brightness!
There's orange peel scent in the cup, but there's also a very powerful orchid scent that comes close to perfume! The taste is sweet with a hint of astringency, a little bit like a citrus candy. The mouth feels cool, but the body feels warm.
It's a very refined and delicate red tea. This quality is no accident, but comes from the small leaves and buds that we find among the spent leaves.
A thin gaiwan or even a silver teapot will bring the clearest notes out of this tea. It's a warm and bright feeling within a very dark and mellow atmosphere.

Black is beautiful, especially when it transforms into gold! (This tea is availble here).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chabu ou Obi?

Combinaison d'un Chabu et d'un Obi

Beauté Orientale 'tradition' de 2013
Eclaircissons d'abord la signification de ces 2 mots étrangers:
- Chabu (prononcez 'tcha-bou') vient du chinois et associe le mot 'thé' au mot 'tissu'. Il s'agit donc d'une nappe réalisée pour l'infusion du thé. (Voyez, par exemple, toute ma sélection disponible sur ma boutique en ligne).

- Obi: vient du japonais et désigne la ceinture du kimono traditionnel. C'est un tissu épais et long qu'on enroule autour de la taille et qui se ferme en boucle dans le dos.
 Dans ce Chaxi, j'utilise les mêmes Chabu que dans mon dernier article, mais je les ai retournés tous les 2! De plus, j'ai ajouté la partie décorée d'un obi sur la droite.
 Ces derniers temps, vous me voyez utiliser plus souvent des obi. Leur longueur donne facilement un look distingué à la présentation des accessoires. De plus, les motifs sont souvent cousus avec des matériaux très soyeux et brillants. C'est très accrocheur pour l'oeil tout en restant traditionnel et étonnamment sobre. En plus, on est en plein détournement d'objet. Au lieu de vêtir une femme, la ceinture devient le fond visuel de notre préparation du thé. C'est donc une utilisation créative de l'obi qui convient bien au concept créatif du Chaxi/mandala. 
L'obi est le plus souvent fait en polyester ou en soie, des matériaux qui n'absorbent pas bien l'eau, mais tachent avec du thé foncé. Le Chabu habituel est en coton, lui, et il contient un tissu absorbant pour les gouttes qui tombent ici ou là.

Avec un obi, on n'a pas droit à l'erreur. C'est pourquoi, il faut une assiette sous les coupes lorsqu'on verse le thé. Les Cha Tuo (soucoupes) sous les coupes sont aussi indispensables pour ne pas laisser de ronds de thé sur le tissu. Le mieux est de prévoir un petit mouchoir à portée de main pour rapidement essuyer les gouttes. Mais son utilisation répétée n'est ni zen, ni élégante. Si on ne maitrise pas bien la manipulation des accessoires, l'utilisation d'un obi peut s'avérer une cause de stress (avec la peur des taches). Un Chabu absorbant (et foncé) est bien plus relax.
Une autre astuce pour ne pas trop se mettre la pression avec un obi, c'est de se les procurer d'occasion.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

First brew of high mountain Oolong

This is my Qilai high mountain Oolong of Spring 2013. It comes from one of those rare mountains that have tea plantations reach above 2000 meters. It's a very fine high mountain Oolong and this is how I express its qualities:

- This tea follows the rule that the better the leaves, the fewer I need. I didn't weigh how much I used, but you can see that I roughly used enough for 1 layer on the bottom of the teapot.

- Good preheating of the teapot: I use boiling water. First on the outside of the teapot and then inside (to avoid a thermal shock). I wait for the lid to be very hot as well.

- I bring my water to a boil again. I put the leaves in the teapot and then pour the just boiled water with controlled strength on the side of the pot in order to make the leaves spin around with the water in the teapot. I close the lid and I pour some boiling water on the lid again.
 - My brewing time for the first brew is quite long. At least a minute, I think. (I don't count or look at my watch). If you like the brew strong and with lots of power, it's possible to brew longer. Good High Mountain Oolong isn't likely to turn bitter, especially if you didn't use too many leaves. However, I think it's important not to brew the first brew too short, because the tightly rolled leaves need some time to open up properly. Here's how the leaves looked like after my first brew in the teapot:
 They are already occupying the space on all sides. Opening up at the same rate means that the leaves are releasing the same flavors at the same time. Harmony. Scents and taste convey the same spring energy and freshness!

Friday, October 10, 2014

10/10 in Taiwan

Late 80s Jingua Gongcha
Today, October 10, is the National Day of the Republic of China (R. O. C.) on Taiwan. 103 years since the Qing dynasty has been overthrown in 1911. This explains why the decades are counted with 11 years of delay in Taiwan. (The nineties finished 4 years ago only, for instance). This can create some confusion for tea buyers. When the Taiwanese merchant says a tea is from the 80s, it actually means from 1991 to 2000!
A holiday is always a good reason to drink a special tea. So, I chose the Jingua Gongcha I recently presented. But this time, I'm using an Yixing zisha Junde teapot. The teapot has a nice softening effect on the brew. The temperature of the brew is also higher and gives me more time to take pictures while waiting for the tea to cool down in the cups. This makes a teapot more suitable for the cooler seasons.
I also feel now more inclined to replace the bamboo plant (summer) with these mini pine leaves (winter).
This plant is also reflected in the Cha Tuo

The qualities of this old shu puerh really shine on a grey and rainy day. All of a sudden, it feels warm and cosy!

This tea scores 10/10 today!
I wish that you'll also taste a 10/10 tea this weekend!

I leave you with a few more pictures that better translate the peace and beauty of this tea moment than my words would: