The Price of Menghai Tea Factory Recipes: Taobao & Other Purchasing Options

Menghai Tea Factory. The gold standard of ripe pu’erh and the producer of famous benchmark raw pu’erhs from the 1980s and 1990s. If you purchase legitimate Menghai, it is usually thought of as a safe buy. Dayi has the reach to make these recipes consistent year to year and while there is a higher price associated with the brand, you are paying for a reliable tea factory with a proven track record (Dayi tea is also liquid). This article examines a number of different routes available to purchase young Dayi plantation recipes. One advantage to purchasing pu’erh, especially classic recipes like these is the ability to research the price compared with the Chinese market price (Taobao).

Menghai Pu'erh

Welcome to Menghai. Source: Taobao.

Not All Prices are Created Equal & Shipping Concepts

Generally speaking the more difficult and the more pricy shipping is, the lower the price of tea should be. Buying multiple tongs of pu’erh in the most efficient way requires thorough research and will usually involve the most expensive, longest shipping option possible. In the case of pu’erh that will usually be via Taobao (the Chinese Ebay).

On the opposite end of the spectrum there are vendors like Dragon Tea House and Berylleb who offer “free shipping”. Free shipping makes the purchase really simple, but of course shipping isn’t really ever free. These vendors aren’t well-suited for big, bulky orders but are good if you want to purchase a small amount of tea from a reliable source (sorta). Other vendors like Yunnan Sourcing, Cha Wang Shop, and JK Teashop fall somewhere in between “free shipping” vendors and Taobao. Generally speaking, western facing vendors are better for reliably purchasing these recipes older than a few years old. In these cases, there are less reviews to tell the sketchy Taobao vendors from the good ones and storage starts to become a very important issue.

Note #1: Cha Wang Shop wasn’t included in this comparison because they don’t sell Menghai tea!
Note #2: Vendors on Taobao will naturally have lower prices, whereas vendors offering “free shipping” will have higher prices.
Note #3: It is no secret that many vendors buy their tea from Taobao. For those that like to cut out the middleman, buying straight from Taobao is especially appealing.
Note #4: All data is compiled regardless of batch, i.e. 701 vs. 702 vs. 703.

7542 (raw)

 Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2014 158 $25.28 - - - -
2013 132 $21.12 - - - -
2012 168 $26.88 - $59.99 - -
2011 145 $23.20 $33.00 - - -

The king of kings. Thanks to a number of famous aged examples of this recipe, i.e. 88 Qing Beeng, this is considered the gold standard of plantation tea. 7542 is easily the most expensive plantation recipe, with plenty of speculation. Because of this popularity, the Dayi premium is only exacerbated . Most western vendors don’t seem to stock newer 7542. This likely indicates that most vendors believe 7542 is overpriced!

8582 (raw)

Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2013 68 $10.88 - - - -
2012 75 $12.00 $21.00 $26.99 - $27.99
2011 64 $10.24 $23.00 $35.99 $18.59 $29.99
2010 75 $12.00 - - - $28.49

Far more affordable than 7542. The prices on Taobao for 8582 are less than half of 7542. Western-facing vendors also seem less afraid to carry this. The western vendors seem to mark it up to ~twice the cost of buying straight from Taobao.

7572 (ripe)

Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2013 115 $18.40 - - - $30.99
2012 105 $16.80 $24.00 - $20.00 $24.99
2011 86 $13.76 - $26.49 $14.30 -
2010 88 $14.08 $25.00 $25.49 $21.45 $26.99

The ripe equivalent of 7542. While prices aren’t quite as high as 7542 they are consistently higher than other ripe recipes from the same years. The average western vendor markup is hovers around 50%.

7262 (ripe)

Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2012 75 $12.00 - $24.99 - $24.99
2011 70 $11.20 $25.00 $27.99 - $29.99
2010 92 $14.72 - $30.99 - $32.99

Priced at ~$12/beeng for new cakes. The markup is similar to the 7572, with a higher western vendor markup (~100%).

8592 (ripe)

Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2012 80 $12.80 $19.00 $19.49 - $29.99
2011 70 $11.20 - $22.99 - $24.99
2010 68 $10.88 $21.50 $22.49 - $22.99

Very similar pricing to the 7262 in terms of average price and markup.

Hong Yun (ripe, 100g)

Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2013 21 $3.36 - - - -
2012 21 $3.36 - - - -
2010 25 $4.00 $12.00 $9.99 $8.58 -

A higher grade (smaller leaf) pu’erh to contrast vs. the classic recipes. An interesting tea to examine because it comes in 100 gram quantities. Due to the smaller size the vendor markup here is higher (to account for shipping). If you like Hong Yun, it is a good target to buy in bulk from Taobao!

Note: Some theory about middle-men vendors. Small quantities and free shipping = high vendor markup, compared with higher quantities and expensive shipping = lower vendor markup.

Golden Needle White Lotus (ripe)

Year Price (yuan) Price ($) YS Price DTH Price JK Teashop Price Berylleb Price
2013 154 $24.64 - $64.99 - -
2012 225 $36.00 $61.00 $55.99 $52.00 $79.99
2010 330 $52.80 $70.00 - - -

Somewhat of a step away from plantation tea in terms of pricing. The markup for the Golden Needle White Lotus really varies vendor to vendor, hovering anywhere from 30-150%.

Takeaways

  • Within the first few years, there’s not a whole ton of price variation between the same recipes (2011 7572 vs. 2012 7572 vs. 2013 7572). In many instances the newer tea will actually be more expensive.
  • Western vendor markups generally are around 100% for most of these recipes. For a single cake it is not really worth it to purchase from Taobao. Things change if you switch to tongs.
  • As the teas get older, be more discerning of Taobao and seller reputation. You are at their mercy for the condition and storage of the beeng.
  • Impulse purchases are not cost-effective and generally recommended against, but “free shipping” vendors can be OK in this instance.
  • If you do buy from Taobao, research agents and the individual sellers well.

Shah8 had a couple great suggestions in the comments suggestion, that I’ve decided to include in the body of the post. If you know what tea you want in quantity, especially if it is an older tea where storage becomes an issue ask a trustworthy vendor based in China (Yunnan Sourcing, White2Tea, etc.) to pick it up for you. Dayi is widely available in China and vendors know who the trustworthy sources are at the tea market! A site I was previously unfamiliar with Donghe Tea is a good price tracking tool, complete with some pretty cool graphs to look at tea trends.

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17 Responses to The Price of Menghai Tea Factory Recipes: Taobao & Other Purchasing Options

  1. Cwyn says:

    Thanks for the article!

    Shipping is, however, the great equalizer here. Just taking the Golden Needle, for example: if Berylleb on EBay charging $79 offers free shipping (which would be wise because EBay gives more visible placement to seller listings that have free shipping and hides the ones who don’t), then Yunnan Sourcing $61 cake calculated shipping is gonna come close to the $79. But here is the real kicker: how fast do you want this tea? The free shipping is going to be China Surface, and Yunnan Sourcing’s least expensive shipping option is also Surface. Choosing Surface means you are waiting 8-10 weeks which might be okay. However, if you want that tea sooner and not have it stuck in customs, you’ll want to choose EMS or packet. Berylleb’s EBay listing doesn’t have a choice of shipping, but Yunnan Sourcing does. Choosing a faster shipping from Yunnan Sourcing is probably a better option, especially when buying on Taobao or EBay means if that cake doesn’t arrive due to shipping problems or any other issue, you are probably out of luck getting another or facing language barriers or other issues getting a refund. But the price of EMS or E packet is nearly double the cost of surface. Yunnan Sourcing’s $61 cake sent EMS will now be more expensive than the Berylleb cake. And then, of no small consideration when buying from China is that Scott is a western vendor who speaks English, answers emails personally, and also handles personal requests if you don’t see what you need.

    True value for me is a combination of factors, of which shipping cost and communication weigh as much as the cake price.

    • James says:

      Indeed! For the purchase of single cakes, Taobao makes very little sense and it is easier to justify these free shipping vendors. However, this quickly changes as the order size increases. Once we expand the scope to tongs shopping from Berylleb makes little sense. In these scenarios, fast shipping should ideally be a very small concern.

      Cheers!
      -James

  2. shah8 says:

    Taobao is generally a bad place to get a good idea of spot prices, for a number of reasons. Many teashops, for example, are really walk-in based, and Taobao is advertising more than serious attempts to sell. Other teashops are selling fake tea. Various teashops have different pricing philosophies and have different context and pressures.

    It’s better to go with donghetea.com if you want anything like a solid price quote.

    Also, if you have a factory tea that you wish to acquire, simply ask Scott @YS for it. I got my tong of my favorite shu this way. You can also ask Sebastien at Jingteashop or Paul of White2tea. Such people operating directly in the markets knows who the trustworthy operators are, and you can get your tea more or less at the spot prices (especially when ordering stuff already in their shops).

    Right now, I would tell people to have patience for big factory sheng. The prices seems to be dropping as a whole, and you can get your 30 year bonds at a decent price relatively soon ?;~).

    • James says:

      Hi shah,

      Great suggestions! I’m going to include these as an addendum.

      It does seem like Menghai is at least dropping!

      Cheers!
      -James

  3. Cwyn says:

    Why do you think the prices are dropping?

    • James says:

      TwoDog sums it up well here. He compares plantation tea (Menghai recipes) to the sprawling suburbs and gushu to a 5th AVE Apartment (expensive but limited in quantity). There’s simply a ton of plantation tea around, unlike the far more limited quantity of gushu.

      • Cwyn says:

        Oh I see…yet at the same time he notes that the incomes, lifestyle and cost of living are still rising for tea workers in these small villages. I’m not sure that has peaked yet. Are tea plantations expanding acreage, I wonder? We need to know numbers on if and how much this type of tea expanding.

        And I really think TwoDog’s post on the effects of drought the past few years is worth considering. Tea could conceivably be grown in areas, or even expanded in areas like Myanmar, further south or areas getting more consistent rainfall. One wonders if Yunnan will remain the main puerh region if climate change keeps up its relentless pace.

        Another point of advice TwoDog makes to us tea drinkers is to find a balanced position where we will be happy with our tea purchases, regardless of what happens. I am glad I am only buying for pleasure and not for speculation! For me, I am certain I will remain happy with my purchases from tea sourcers who are maintaining one-to-one relationships with tea producers, the little guys, the big guys, and their regular buyers like me. While I am sure to buy the oddball cake here and there, most of my buying is from a curator professional, either with a real tea shop, or working as part of a small group in China. These purchases I will be happy with in the future because I am also investing in the curator so he or she can keep up those relationships, and make a living for everyone along the chain.

  4. Peter says:

    Another fascinating read, as always guys. I didn’t realise the mark-ups are so large – they’re huge! No wonder much puer is considered by some to be over-priced.

    • James says:

      Thanks Peter! I don’t think the markups are that insane, when considering shipping and all. Still it is best to be aware of these things. It also might inform us and give us a hint about what the rest of the vendor’s markups are like.

      Cheers!
      -James

  5. Larry says:

    Keep those articles unbelievable coming!
    I guess the vendors have us at their mercy.
    When it comes to ordering tongs or less from China, Homeland Security has and can open and take “samples’ of tea ,and have been closing the tea back up like chimpanzees. I read this on Tea Chat. Have any of you had this experience?
    Finally,
    I think the people you praise that write blogs like Marshan, Hobbes, and others go over most peoples heads. How many of us live there to get that same tea and who cares about reviews of tea from the past? They forget there is too much tea out there to last anyone a lifetime. You guys taste tea we have a good chance of buying, and your articles and advice are more “real world”.

    Take care one and all
    Uncle Larry,

    • James says:

      Thanks for the very kind words Larry! I’ve had a pu’erh cake wrapper slashed through but nothing egregious done. From what I can grasp, these incidents do happen but there’s no particular rhyme or reason to it. I’d only worry about it if you are buying many kilograms of tea.

      As for Marshaln, Hobbes, and the like. I think there’s a lot there to learn. Those blogs have been (and continue to be) extremely instructive. You might even be surprised once you are far enough along on your tea journey to go back and revisit some of their posts with a new, more experienced perspective. For instance, Hobbes and Jakub’s blogs became extraordinarily useful once I really started to dive into pu’erh.

      TeaDB was intended as a way for us to learn, and was geared towards people in a similar situation as us. I’m very glad you are finding it to be helpful :) .

      Cheers!
      -James

  6. Larry says:

    You guys were a huge inspiration in resuscitating my love for tea. In the early 2000′s there was no light at the end of the tunnel on information about puerh.
    The only place at that time for any info in English, is now a ghost site and has been for many years. There was even less info for yixing. Gongfu method back then was treated as a little known oddity with no information. I hope and wish that all who love tea will find the gongfu method.

    • James says:

      Thanks Larry! Glad to hear it.

      Pu’erh is indeed a crazy world, changing rapidly in both the east and west. I also think I know what site you are referring to (Mike Petro’s Pu-erh.net?).

      Gong-fu for life!
      -James

  7. Larry says:

    What has happened to Mr. Petro ???
    When it comes to gong-fu, millions of people can’t be wrong.
    Lastly,
    We must also spread the word about flash brewing.

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