Monday, August 21, 2006

Mike Petro on Identifying Puerh: Four Principal Indices

[[from an email to corax. published by permission.]]

A common point of confusion in the puerh market arises between a tea's harvest region and the factory that produced it. Many prospective buyers will assume, for example, that a puerh labeled "Menghai" is also puerh produced by the Menghai factory, although it may not be. But is that consumer's ignorance really a vendor's fault? Moreover, is it their responsibility to correct it?

To speak of a "Menghai Puerh" is no different than to speak of "Yiwu Puerh" or "Banzhang Puerh" or "Bu Lang Puerh." It is likely that only those knowledgeable enough to "know" that the Menghai factory is a desirable factory would assume that "Menghai Puerh" comes from the Menghai factory; most puerh newbies don't even know the difference between the factory names and the region names. Most of us with this much awareness will also know that there are several factories in the Menghai region. A red flag should go up any time there are a region and a factory with the same name, e.g. Menghai, Chongqing, or Xia Guan.

IMHO this is a case of the consumer's needing to educating themselves enough to ask the right questions. It is up to the tea-savvy consumer to ask if the vendor is referencing the region only, or the factory as well.

Now, it is the truly knowledgeable and trustworthy vendor who fully discloses (1) factory, (2) harvest region (or "provenance"), (3) blend components, and (4) vintage (or "harvest season/year"). Sadly, relatively few vendors hit on all four; sometimes they do not even list any...

Any vendor caught trying to intentionally play on this opportunity for confusion should be publicly shamed, but alas "intention" is a difficult thing to prove.