neděle 24. února 2013

2012 YS Chen Xiang/2007 Longfeng 5yrs commemorative cake

I'll start this post with a little background on "both" of these Wuliang teas, then I'll write about their taste and I'll conclude with discussion of pricing.

1) Appetizer - some background
Longfeng has made an edition of two cakes to commemorate their 5 years anniversary on market. This Wuliang piece from 2007 is one of them (the other one comes from 2012 Yongde material). It is a tea of "Longfeng own production" - which means "made by Scott and paid by Longfeng" - we're used to that already. But things are even juicier this time: The previous "own productions" were, at least, disjoint with what Yunnan Sourcing was selling. However, it is no longer the case. Wait for the dessert to read more about that. Now, however, let's get back to the tea which has nothing  to do with dirty politics (good for him).

2) Main course - the tea itself
The tea comes from Wuliang, an area I'm not too fond of, despite its relative cheapness.  However, I dislike prejudice even more than I dislike Wuliang, so I approached the tea with pure mind. It was harvested in 2007 and pressed in 2012. Therefore, it aged 5 years in loose form, which makes it a bit unusual (and the cake falls apart easily too).

Before I venture into describing the taste, I have to add that this tea, in my opinion, badly needs yixing. When I prepared it in a porcelain tester or porcelain teapot, it was almost nasty, dominantly smoky (in an unpleasant way), etc. In yixing, the smoke is somewhat ameliorated. 

The wet leaves smell Wuliangish, woody, a bit smoky (like a half-burned log), with some dark fruit under that and something I'd describe as "perfume" - which is weird, but I've seen a chap on steepster saying that too, so there may be something about it. This combination of aromas is good, as some Wuliangs I had were just half-burned log with extra dose of unpleasant vegetalness.

The liquor is light orange (not as dark as on the photo, I got to have a talk with my wide-angle lens and its exposure setup) and smells nicely - woody and perfumy.

The taste starts as buttery (this gradually disappears as  steepings go on), woody-dark fruity, very decent and friendly, given that this is Wuliang material. Good complexity and thickness (very good, given Wuliang). The smokiness is rather light. Unfortunately, as steepings go on, the smoke and woodiness take over the liquor and while they are never unpleasant, they do not greatly please me either. But even my girlfriend (who dislikes smoke in tea even a tiny bit more than I do) deemed the smoke acceptable. It rather reminds me of Xiaguan production and Xiaguan style of smoke. This tea is somewhat similar (imho a bit better) to some of the 2003 Xiaguan "X-Mark" serie. Fortunately, the smokiness/woodiness is more akin to 2003 Xiaguans, rather than modern Xiaguan smoke that I dislike. I guess that this Xiaguanesque character is one of reasons why Mr. Prachar chose to sell his tea as his own as he seems to like Xiaguan a lot (well, surely much more than I do).

The aftertaste is nothing to write home about, there is some smoky vegetalness; on the other hand, there is light, long tingling which I like. Qi? No. But I guess you can't expect too much from a cheap Wuliang.

3) Dessert - conclusion
I rather enjoyed drinking this tea and for more Wuliang-loving people (Hobbes?), this might be a tea worth pursuing. It's a fine, unassuming tea, and a cheap one too: $24 per 400g cake from 2007, which is, in today's era of young tea craze, a very good price for anything. I certainly enjoyed it way more than I enjoyed YS 2011 Wuliang - which may be result of a couple extra years of aging, not necessarily superior material.

Now, $24 is good price, is it not? And Longfeng asks about $28 here. So far so good. However, things get uglier when you realize that Longfeng asks $28 per >>200<< grams, while YS asks $24 per >>400<< grams. 

Things get even worse with the other cake from Longfeng "own" commemorative edition as it is the Yongde for which YS asks $18 per 400g and LF still asks $28 per 200g. Talk about a markup... Unless you want to, I won't write about that Yongde cake. It's not bad, actually it's good for $18, but it's not that interesting yet. For the $56 per 400g asked by Longfeng, one will do much better with Finepuer's Daxueshan which is like two classes higher tea and costs about the same. Of course, if you return to "normal" pricing of YS, the $18 is a good price.

But, if you preordered both of the commemorative cakes from LF, you were given the awesome opportunity to buy 1kg of Xinghai tea nuggets at the "extremely discounted" price of cca $75...while it costs $39 at YS site. While this is still a big markup, it's probably almost feasible (if you wanted to buy just that 1kg, you'd have to pay a lot on shipping). However, the babbling about how the offer is only for the "worthy" who preorder the commemorative cakes, and how great bargain that is - that is not feasible.

I ask myself what went wrong. Is the Czech puerh scene really in such a bad state that we should consider YS's most basic cakes to be some great teas commemorating an important anniversary? 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not flaming against the cakes from YS, which, although not the top of what market offers, are priced very competetively and I'd say that they are a rather good buy for the people who like these regions. What I'm against is robbing and making fools of local people. I know of several people who bought whole tongs of these commemorative cakes... My condolences. Tong of both 2012 and 2007 tea cost you about 6960 CZK after discount. If you have rather bought 4 and 4 of the respective cakes from YS, you'd have had 200g of each more, in more practical packaging for aging, and you'd have paid  less than 4800 CZK, shipping and VAT included. Not mentioning you'd have cheap shipping by that time so for the spared money, you could buy a whole lot (2 kg) of that super-duper Xinghai nuggets if you wanted them. And you'd have good discount coupon for the next time.

10 komentářů:

  1. " Is the Czech puerh scene really in such a bad state that we should consider YS's most basic cakes to be some great teas commemorating an important anniversary? "

    I really know nothing about the Czech tea scene aside from what you write. When I travelled through Eastern Europe, I had some vague romantic idea about sitting in dark cafes and teahouses while writing, but I'm not sure where I got this notion--Kafka?
    When I was there in 2005, there is a guy who runs a nice little teahouse type place in Cesky Krumlove right on the river that I would go to everyday, though the food is atrocious (but can't say I was much impressed by Czech food, sorry!)

    As far as robbing local people..I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is probably the most Asian and Chinese place outside of Asia--for most people, with respect to tea, all it means is that there's tons of tea shops run by Chinese "experts," who are mainly experts at fleecing tourists and other non-Chinese people. Gotta do your research. Outside of Asia, tea is essentially still an unknown and easily manipulated market. Ignorance is the norm, not the exception.


    1. Hello Nick!
      Well, we have a lot of teahouses here (surely more than a hundred just in Prague) and some of them are probably ok, good places to hang out with friends. However, for pure tea experience, I prefer to drink tea at home.

      Heh, classical Czech cuisine is difficult to define, I think. There are two main issues with it, I believe: a) It is heavy and many meals take long time to cook, which is a problem in this hassled era; b) It is often "simple", in a certain way, and it relies on proper meat and vegetables. But such things are not that simple to buy, as most meat and vegetables is sold via supermarkets and is not always of good quality.

      Anyway, I think there are some good old-style meals to be had, but I must admit that I prefer cooking other styles/cuisines more.

      Hmmm, seems that situation is not that good in San Francisco either. Well, let's hope that evolution continues to bring good tea vendors to both SF and CR!

    2. Hopefully will one day be doing my part...
      Greens and oolongs have gained a lot of traction here--but again, it has to do with those immediate light, fresh, juicy flavors being more popular and accessible to most people/easily swayed by powerful aromas and tastes, kinda like a thinly dressed lady; puer is a much tougher sell, I think, especially in places where people are so big on the immediately pleasing and flashy looking, which puer is usually not, though it is often much deeper..kinda the same reason why happy-jumping "outer" martial arts with lots of big kicks are typically more popular/easier to extract money from people than the more internal less flashy looking ones (tai ji, aikido, qi gong..etc.)

    3. Well, I don't entirely think so. Where I do agree completely is that for common folks are Pchu-er teas a big mystery and something beyond their imagination (what? Tea pressed into a cake?? What would I do with 357g cake? ... ) so they seems to be harder to sell.

      However, my own experience have shown me that there are many oolong and green teas (and hong cha also), which are truly deep. The condition for me is the traditional way of processing and the quality of leaves. For example Qi Lan from Wu Yi teas or Anji Bai Cha from greens had my fully attention and excited me a lot.

      Well, I have to admit, that in the past I also thought that this and that particular sort of tea is shallower than other. This opinion always lasted to the moment I gained more experience with that particular sort. Nowadays I would not be as brave to say this about any tea :) Of course, that there are many low quality teas on the market that are really bad, but I learned not to generalize on the base of few samples. The modern light Tie Guan Yin is a great example of potentially "shallow" category, but it shows that higher sorts are capable of interesting tastes and I know a number of tea-lovers who have more experience than me and they love this tea.

  2. Ahoj,

    tyhle věci jsem si už také vysledoval a také mě to dost zklamalo, protože jsem vždycky Longfeng a pana Prachaře považoval za někoho, kdo pro čajomily v Čechách dělá něco záslužného - vozí kvalitní čaje, rozšiřuje informace, zvyšuje povědomí o čajích atd. Nechci říkat že to už úplně neplatí, i přeprodávání čajů (s patřičnou marží) se už několikrát řešilo a já proti tomu nic nemám, pokuď si koupím čaj jednoduše v Čechách bez těch věcí okolo objednávání z ciziny, ale ten přístup LF je docela zarážející. Já si opravdu vždy představoval pana Prachaře, jak objíždí v Číně čajové oblasti, ochutnává a vybíra ty pravé čaje, ale teď vidím že se to dá defacto udělat metodou poslání vzorků a na základě jejich ochutnání a výběru pak zadat vyrobení příslušných čajů. Jaksi se tady ztrácí ta přidaná hodnota, že kupuji opravdu vybraný a jedinečný čaj, který bude jak dobrý na pití, tak třeba dobrá investice.

    Vím že by to byl pro tebe asi opruz, ale nepřemýšlel si někdy o nějakých větších objednávkách, že bys třeba ohlásil dopředu odkud budeš objednávat a bylo možné se připojit. Já bych v takovém případě neměl problém poslat peníze předem. Já s tím zatím nemám moc zkušeností.

    Díky Ondra

    1. Ahoj,
      hele, já ani nevím, jak to ve skutečnosti je... Protože mi přišlo, že když kdysi byly takové ty Longfeng exclusive selection (tam byla třeba ta výborná Pasha cihla z 2002, či slušný 2003 Wuliang koláček), tak to mi nepřišlo, že by byly nějaké věci úplně běžně k sehnání. V minulých letech byly aspoň ty LF edice disjunktní s tím, co YS měl, ale tady mě to už fakt dostalo, to je moc :-) Jasně, že dřív taky šlo o nachutnávání vzorků, ale ani to by mi tak nevadilo. Ale aspoň o nějaké přidané hodnotě mohla být řeč.

      Přijde mi, že z Longfengem to jde, co se týče puerhu, poměrně z kopce - ale ono je upřímně řečeno těžké si v puerhu udržet přehled, navíc když řeší i jiné žánry čaje (a přijde mi, že co se týče wulongů, je nabídka rozvinutější a zajímavější než když jsem od Longfengu kdysi něco taky kupoval) - prostě mi přijde, že se zaměřuje jinam, no... Ale co já vím :-)

      Ty větší objednávky - jo, s pár lidmi to takhle děláme, protože se přeci jenom ušetří na poštovném (navíc leckdy dostaneme aspoň slevu, která vykompenzuje DPHčko na celnici).

      Napiš mi na sebe kontakt na a já dám vědět, až něco budu objednávat (teď jsem bohužel zrovna spíš objednávky dělal, takže to nebude úplně hned, ale bude to).
      Měj se!

  3. No jo, to máš pravdu, jak s tou aktuální nabídkou oolongů, tak s tím výběrem puerhů v minulosti. Rozhodně nechci nikoho kritizovat za to, že něco dělá tak a tak, vím že sem pan Prachař občas mrkne :-), já s čaji od nich neměl nikdy žádný problém. Co se mi líbilo byla právě možnost nákupu 50g vzorků zajímavých koláčů a ta šíře nabídky. Určitě pošlu kontakt na sebe a zatím moc díky.

  4. As we live in a free market economy, everybody is able to set their prices as high as they like / think that they can get away with, while making maximum profit. This is essentially the aim of any business that isn't being run as a hobby and while some think they can make the most money by selling great value cakes, others prefer to offer things at a premium price level and market it that way.

    In the end it's up to the consumer to decide, what he is able and willing to pay for and if there is no outright deception, everything is up to one's personal perception of pricing vs perceived value compared to known alternatives.

    1. As a student of economics I subscribe to everything you said here. But one more thing: Pressing the cake can make a lot of difference. For example taste a fresh Mao Cha and then taste it when pressed, it tastes different. So these teas dont need to be necessarily the same.

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