Tree Age in Pu’erh [Inbetweenisode 130]

This episode, James talks about the tricky topic of tree age, a common marketing point for dealers of modern pu’erh.

14 responses to “Tree Age in Pu’erh [Inbetweenisode 130]”

  1. I respect James’ opinion and value it highly, and I’m hoping to offer a comment to stimulate discussion.

    I’m at the point where I don’t think there is tea to buy where I’m getting 100% info because vendors do one or more of the following:

    1) Give no info about the tea at all, or use creative marketing which is made up.

    2) Withholding. You get some truth but not all of it.

    3) Honest lies. In this case, the vendor is naive either to tea or the selling culture or both, and presents information they were given without questioning it. The vendor doesn’t know better, just starting out, can’t speak the language etc.

    4) Dishonest lies. The vendor knows better and lies because if they don’t, someone else is going to lie anyway and the tea won’t sell. If you can’t beat em, join em.

    The “best” vendors right now are the ones saying the least about the origins of the tea, making few or no claims. If we avoid 3 and 4 and just try to buy from 1 and 2, we aren’t really protesting or changing anything about the selling culture. Might as well just get out of puerh buying altogether or buy from your friends no questions asked. And if we just buy from 1 and 2, then sellers 3 and 4 will catch on real quick and realize they merely need only say less, which is not necessarily more truthful or transparent. It just looks better to certain moral high ground.

    Otherwise, pay whatever you want and drink it.

    • Appreciate the points. One of my main issues is seeing people buying tea because it is marketed as old trees and want to taste the old tree taste. Whether it falls into cat 3 or cat 4 doesn’t really matter in my opinion.. I think just about everyone is better off just ignoring that specific piece of information.

      • I buy toilet paper guaranteed not to clog my septic but it does anyway. I can choose to not wipe my arse and hold a stinky high ground until someone tells me the truth about their paper, or I can just accept that they all say the same. All marketing, regardless of the product, is designed to get you to buy, and to buy that product over someone else’s. We can dress up in a chicken suit like Michael Moore, but unless you want to boycott buying altogether it won’t change much. The only real choice of any impact is don’t buy puerh at all. There are plenty of teas, such as those sourced by Tealet, which are free of typical marketing.

        • My point is that there are a group of people buying the tea exactly because of the tree age claim, not despite it.

          • Yeah and I’m playing devil’s advocate somewhat 😉

            I fail to see the real harm here. Who is harmed? The experienced collector probably won’t buy these teas anyway, largely for other reasons, mainly that their requirements are at another level. Would you buy these teas even if they were described accurately? Many of the people complaining about MP or Verdant wouldn’t buy the teas even with accurate marketing write-up. The tea isn’t to their taste or current acquisition strategy.

            But I am getting old. Returning to my question about who is harmed, back in my day we protested company practices like paying workers slave wages or deplorable working conditions, still the case for many tea plantations in other countries. Or we protested companies like baby formula pushed on poor women that discouraged breast feeding. Clear cases where social or physical harm was at issue. But today we complain about a marketing write up of teas no one is forced to buy, and obtained direct from small farmers who are paid very well. Is this a first world kind of griping?

            Like I said, I am hoping to stimulate more discussion because this is a good topic and tea people are at what I feel is an odd impasse. Much to-do about nothing, or at least if it’s not nothing, we can stop buying puerh and choose other tea products with no marketing.

  2. I recently bought some tea from a Seattle area vendor who is sadly closing shop. I’ve been going there for some time and have had several conversations with the owner. He is someone who knows a lot about tea and has been a presence in the Seattle area tea culture. His productions have “old tree” and “ancient tree” on the different cakes. When I asked what that means he said Old Tree is 90 to 200 years old and Ancient is older than 200 years(not a quote but close). So I’m trying to be smart and don’t believe e-bay claims to tree age but knowing a little about the vendor and looking at the leaves and actually drinking the tea (it’s pretty good, by the way) I tend to believe this source. This brings up a few points. I’m judging big burly stout leaves with jagged edges to be a sign of a big tea tree. Can it be seen from the leaves if the trees are at least somewhat old? I do seem to remember a video about gu shu. And then as you’ve said in the video ancient trees really do make good tea, and I’d like to seek to experience those teas.

    • Yes, these are the topics. I appreciate that James has a topic for discussion because a lot of people visit here who don’t read Steepster.

  3. I sort of disagree here.

    The main issue is how to advertise quality, even with fake gauges like the age of trees the leaves came from. The alternatives to age tends to be more frustrating to consumers, like what white2tea does.

    So, the main issue isn’t really people deciding on products based on age so much as people either willfully believing they’re buying value (when buying cheaper items), or engaging in a self-limiting cynicism (all tea merchants are crooks and all those so called experts are deluded, I’m just gonna buy what I wanna buy. Thousand year gushu? Heck, whatevs, I know it ain’t so but it’s probably just as good!)

    So I don’t think appeals for people not to do that will work. Just make sure that people know that it takes time to learn how to enjoy good puerh. In time, they’ll figure out what sort of false claim is a useful advertisement to genuine qualities.

    • “…false claim is a useful advertisement to genuine qualities.”

      I suppose that’s where we’re at in this time and age… It’s quite disconforting the acceptance there is for lies and false claims.
      I’m personally not going down that road, and certainly not giving my money to support this ‘useful advertisement’ for whatever it means.

      And more specifically to your assertions, it’s clearly not so black and white as you present it (another sickening modern tendency to paint things with simplified contrast): to me, for example, the approach of Scott at YS is better than BOTH white2tea and the ‘exaggerated’ information of the aforementioned examples. You just get meaningful information from a source that has demonstrated a high level of integrity throughout several years.
      You imply that by saying the material comes from an 1800 years old tree, you at least get the idea that it is of high quality; how comes? If they are clearly lying (or passing on a lie) to get your moeny, how can you be so sure it’s still a good quality product? Wishful thinking?
      I’d rather stick to the more trustworthy sources myself, since there are; thankfully.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.