In my first couple years of drinking pu’erh I sampled heavily. Many vendors and many different teas. While I originally did not go into it with a goal of trying specifically young pu’erh, this ended up making a pretty strong majority of pu’erh that I sampled. This is due to a few factors. One is that there’s a predictable vendor drop with the harvest, sometime in late Spring/early summer or in mid-Autumn. This generates demand and buzz amongst the tea community. The second is that young pu’erh makes up the vast majority of raw pu’erh being sold to the west. If you put together a list of the five most popular western pu’erh-centric vendors and listed all of the teas they’ve released in the past year and randomly picked 10, you’d likely end up with ~8 or so being young pu’erh. You actually need to be pretty intentional about not picking young pu’erh if you want to try a different category of raw pu’erh..
There’s A Lot of Young Pu’erh Out There
While we can bemoan the ever-rising pu’erh prices, one thing that is definitely true is there’s a whole lot of choice. Options and different choices are a good thing. When Yunnan Sourcing and Essence of Tea started pressing in 2008 and 2009 there were only a handful of options of boutique pu’erh to buy. You could go with one of those two, or some of the Taiwanese brands being sold by Hou de Asian Art.
When I updated my annual pu’erh prices on release spreadsheet I added ~70 spring raw pu’erh products from five vendors (Crimson Lotus Tea, Tea Urchin, Bitter Leaf Tea, White2Tea, and Yunnan Sourcing).. This is one harvest from one year.. Once we add the autumn harvest and a few of the other vendors that produce tea or some of the Chinese brands being sold (Essence of Tea, Pu-erh.sk, Farmer Leaf, Tea-Encounter, Hailang Hao, Zhengsilong, Biyun Hao), the list grows significantly. It’s easy to see how trying every pu’erh produced and sold to the western audience is a time consuming and in my opinion taxing task.
This can be further expanded when we include previous year’s harvests. Very few western-facing vendors have been around long enough to the point that their own produced tea counts as significantly aged, meaning the majority of western boutique pressed pu’erh is still young. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that there are ~500 easily available youngish pu’erh products at the tip of your fingers.
- 2019 Young Spring Raw Pu’erh Added by CLT, W2T, BLT, TU, and YS: ~70 products.
- 2011-2019 Spring Raw Pu’erh Added by CLT, W2T, BLT, TU, CWS, and YS: ~450 products.
Lots of Variety Within Young Pu’erh
This is excellent news if you are a fan of young pu’erh. Having a high quantity being sold to an audience helps to keep vendors honest and encourages them to create more variety in what is being sold. While young pu’erh has gone up in price, most vendors still sell across different price ranges including more wallet-friendly options that you can purchase for less. There’s also a lot of relatively expensive $1/g being sold.
In my analysis of those five vendors, White2Tea sold the most expensive median and average tea. But if we look more closely, they sell a big range of tea. Their median is a $0.55/g ($110/200g) cake. But they sell spring tea ranging from a cake called Splendid for $0.14/g ($28/200g) to Unicorn for $1.75 ($349/200g). Yunnan Sourcing has tended to sell tea that is less expensive than the average vendor but will also sell something like a high-end Yiwu (Xiangchunlin/Walong) at $0.88/g ($175/200g) as well as the Purple Pig raw pu’erh at $0.10/g ($40/400g).
Variety of Terroir
Even with the trend of anonymous sourcing and more blends, it’s not difficult to buy 2019 young spring pu’erh from each of the major prefectures (Lincang, Simao, and Xishuangbanna). I took the same data as my pu’erh prices post and crunched a few more numbers.
- Total Productions: 69
- Estimate of Average Vendor’s Median Production (adjusted for vendor): $0.34/g
- Median Production Price (includes all 69 teas): $0.28/g
- Lincang Productions: 10
- Median Lincang Production Price: $0.25/g
- Simao Productions: 15
- Median Simao Production Price: $0.22/g
- Xishuangbanna Productions: 25
- Median XIshuangbanna Production Price: $0.42/g
Even excluding the info-stingy, blend-heavy White2Tea there are 50 products where we have location data. While you can quabble over the reliability of specific sub-areas there’s plenty available from each of the major prefectures and blends if you like them. Xishuangbanna has always been one of the most popular areas to press tea and is also the most expensive, but like pu’erh in general there’s a range. Not all Xishuangbanna tea is expensive.. Lincang and Simao tea tends to fall a little down the line on median price. Then of course, there are non-region specific blends made by White2Tea, Crimson Lotus, and Yunnan Sourcing.
Dipping Your Toes Into Young Raw Pu’erh is Easy
I’ve often complained of access issues for semi-aged and especially aged pu’erhs. This does not exist to the same extent for young raw.. If you want to dip your toes into young raw pu’erh there are no such issues. It’s not as cheap as it once was, but there’s a large selection in terms of vendor, region, and price.