Tuesday, September 18, 2018

30 years old '8582' puerh

Wrapping paper of the 1988 8582.
 Marco P. left this nice review about the 1988 '8582' raw puerh cake from the Menghai factory: "Possibly the best leaves I’ve ever tasted: they have a disarming simplicity in conciliating opposites such as thickness vs cleanliness, sweetness vs persistency, one prevailing note vs innumerable shades... I felt like making love." 

It's not every day that I get such a comment! So I thought I'd share it and give more background information about this tea. Let's start with the news about its latest auction price. Last June, in China, the price for 1 cake has reached a new high of 16,000 USD (which means 45 USD per gram)! This is very expensive for a tea, but when you consider it's 30 years old and mostly gushu, it's not that unreasonable. If you assume that a new gushu is priced at 2 USD per gram, then the return rate comes out at 11% for 30 years of storage (during which you have flooding risks... as we can see recently) (2 x 1.11^30 = 45).
The 8582 cake was created as a special order for Hong Kong tea stores. Despite its recipe name, it wasn't made in 1985, but it was first made in 1988! That's why it is also known as 88 qing bing (88 raw cake). 88 is a very auspicious number in Chinese. Pronounced in Cantonese, it sounds like 'making a fortune'. But despite this clever marketing, the 8582 wasn't a big success when it started to be sold in 1988. Why? Because it wasn't very good tasting then, and because its leaves appeared very big and rough. The concept of gushu puerh didn't exist, yet. 30 years ago, tea drinkers were looking for lots of buds as a sign of finesse and high notes. These big leaves with few buds tasted very bitter then. And, objectively, compared to a green mark or an aged red mark puerh, these new 8582 simply tasted inferior. Now, however, they are just as popular as the similar aged 7542. Their taste is thicker, while the 7542 have more refined notes.

The first picture above shows the wrapper. The design remained standard for CNNP productions until 2000. So, let me repeat that it's not useful to look at the wrapper to determine the year or authenticity of the puerh. Colors and font sizes would vary because of the manual printing method employed at the time. Paper thickness was also not necessarily consistent within a same year. And such a wrapper is very easy to copy. What's more difficult to replicate are the right color, size and shape of the leaves of the cake. Their aromas and taste are also unique. That's why it's so important to educate your palate with the right stuff. But how do you know if it's real? Well, if the taste should lives up to its sterling reputation and inspires you to write a comment similar to Marco's, it likely is real!

This comment is also remarkable, because it offers a good definition of what all great teas have in common: "they have a disarming simplicity in conciliating opposites such as thickness vs cleanliness, sweetness vs persistency, one prevailing note vs innumerable shades... I felt like making love." Grazie Marco. It took your Italian sensibility to explain it so well!

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