2011-2018 Pu’erh Prices [Inbetweenisode 197]

As we approach summer 2019, another round of young raw pu’erh products are coming up. In the past half a year, I’ve written a couple posts on the topic of pu’erh prices and trends. These posts have been centered around the price of pu’erh produced and sold by western vendors when they’re initially pressed.

This is a short video continuing that discussion. For anyone that is interested in young pu’erh and their price dynamics, I think you will enjoy this episode.

Major Takeaways: (1) Prices have gone up a lot! (2) vendor prices have increased more in the western world between 2011-2014 than 2014-2018. (3) 2017 & 2018 were the highest prices ever.



12 responses to “2011-2018 Pu’erh Prices [Inbetweenisode 197]”

  1. James,

    Great work and solid methodology. I like how you bring your privious articles together to give us a bigger picture.

    I don’t see how this is at all controversial though…


      • James,

        I read the comments but the vendor arguments don’t really refute your results or your conclusions but rather give your data better context.

        How are you to know about what vendors mark up or buy their mao Cha for?

        Obviously some vendors don’t like the idea of their products being labeled as budget…


        • I applaud the vendors for speaking up though. They are, as you say, the most knowledgeable about the issue of raw material/maocha and production price increases Or purchasing trends.

          The controversial part is actually the Vendors speaking out about other vendors not the research you present or your conclusions.

          We don’t have access to this… what we do have access to is the above research about price, that’s it.

          Of course there is a difference between plantation vs gushu, different quality of different farmers/ producers within the same producing area, etc.

          But in the end, I think it’s better to present research that is more general than specific because in the end you are just judging a tea on its own merits anyways and the general producing area just gives you a suggestion of the qualities you can expect.

          Vendors are often stuck on the idea of “the price of materials” because it influences their mark ups but really as a drinker I’m more concerned about the quality of puerh I’m drinking and the perceived value.


          • Thanks Matt. Appreciate the feedback and support. I agree with what you’re saying.

            Vendor’s have the distinction of having a much more behind the scenes look at all of this, which undoubtedly impacts how they think of price.

  2. There is a fundamental flaw in this analysis regarding the price rises 2011-2014 and 2017-8.

    Background: First of all, the real price rises happened from beginning 2009 to 2011 or so, and was increasing at a more sedate pace through about 2013. A bit of a pop 2013-2015. A dip/stasis around 2015 and a new rise from there.

    Now, back to the real point. The reason the graph looks the way it does was because the top blew out on the best teas, and vendors from Taiwan and the West gradually bowed out of offering a large number of very premium teas. You can see the process–where in 2009-2011, Essence of Tea offered a really good Bulang cake, but in 2012, they offered a more blended Bulang that I’ve never felt was as good. In 2013 the vendor changed abruptly to offering a lot of teas other people pressed, before returning to doing lots of own-pressed teas in 2014. White2Tea hasn’t been doing teas very long, but you can also see the pattern with the Last Thoughts line–A great 2014, a decent 2015, and a so-so 2016 before stopping. Quality fell to hold the line on prices.

    With Taiwanese vendors, YangQingHao was the most sensitive, bowing out over 2011-2012, in terms of doing many teas and gradually focusing on a few extremely high end teas. Sanhetang consistently does a huge range of teas, but after 2014, have had only one truly premium tea line with the prices to match, from Tianmenshan in far north Yiwu. Chenyuanhao *seems* to have mostly followed Yangqinghao, but doing more teas–doing “mansong”, “bohetang”, and various other big forest tea microareas. With a cheaper line of LSD, Mahei, etc.

    Again, great stuff, from basically *anywheres*, have risen in prices so much that legit good gushu is not a particularly viable market strategy because, by and large, they cost more than what enough customers would pay for tea.

    The slowing of prices do not reflect the inflation of tea cakes or maocha, but the limits of the broader tea market customer’s ability to absorb rising prices. That’s why vendors are playing games with white tea, shu, hongcha, teas with chenpi or other additives, extreme blending, etc. As well as stocking one or two really good teas.

    • Hi shah,

      I’m not sure if it’s so much as a fundamental flaw as much as just being important to know what the data + graph actually are and how it was created.

      I don’t think what’s presented here is a good way at all to look at the high-end market. If you could get data on analyzed certain, in-demand areas, especially scarce ones, the graphs would look quite different (likely much steeper in some cases).

      For these areas I mainly believe the same narrative you’re outlining that these products have gotten rarer and more expensive.


  3. James,

    An intesting future data post might compare how much vendors increase the price of their own puerh throughout the years as it sits in their warehouse. It would help readers with the buying process. I think it would nicely compliment this data set and it is something that you could actually measure. Sure there would be lots of caveats but it would be interesting data to see.

    Because I think there are really different business models that puerh vendors use. Some might have a higher mark up at original time of offer but won’t really raise their prices that much or not at all as the puerh sits in the warehouse. Whereas some vendors increase their prices of their warehoused puerh using a formula every year.

    Great work.


    • Right. That is a good idea and actually fairly interesting/practical for people that like to shop for slightly older tea. I’ll look into seeing what I can figure out.

      Thanks Matt.


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