Tag Archives: Puer Tea

Old Tea

1950s Yancha

Perhaps the epitome of one’s tea journey is to have the experience to enjoy a good genuine old or antique tea. To savour a good and optimally brewed old tea is alluring. Not only one has the chance to experience its exotic and complex taste and flavours generated from years of aging, it is also an overwhelming experience to comprehend the history of the tea.

What is the notion of drinking old tea? There are too many variables out there but we can generally summarise them into four categories, in order of hierarchy, from the lowest to highest:

1.  Ignorantly drinking a fake old tea which was thought or told to be genuine;

2.  Drinking a genuine but badly stored old tea;

3.  Drinking a genuine and well stored old tea;

4.  Enjoying a genuine well stored old tea with the optimal and quintessential brewing method.

The first two categories of finding and drinking fake old or badly stored old tea, from what I overheard from some tea connoisseurs, is plausible delusional. There are so many incredible stories and bamboozle to entice one into these directions. The risk is not only in monetary loss but there are high chances that it is likely to be a health hazard as well.

The third category of drinking a genuine well stored old tea is what most proficient tea connoisseurs will go into. Due to their long experience and exposure in tea, their chances of finding good and well stored tea are better. By constant tasting over the years, they are most likely to narrow down their preference for this type of tea.

But a genuine well stored old tea is still so rare with limited quantity that most of them hardly have the chance to experiment with the brewing. Some of them might be lucky enough to find proper guidance from the real teamaster and with bold enough courage to buy those teas in larger quantities to learn and experiment. Then they move to the forth category.

At the forth category, with constant experiment and relentless pursuit in brewing these old well stored tea, they narrow down the margin to get it closer of brewing it right. At this stage, it is crucial to spend a lot of laborious time exploring traditional, conventional and unconventional ways of brewing tea to reinforce understanding of the tea. Then, the likelihood of brewing the tea optimally will progress further as time goes by. After mastering the brewing techniques, the old tea becomes really very enjoyable.


1950s Yancha with original tea and packaging + a cashew nut.

Imagine being able to coax decades old tea of its wisdom, vigour, vitality and dynamism and able to control and articulate all these attributes in the brew in any profile you desire …absolutely joyous.


To be at category 4 of enjoying a genuine well stored old tea with the optimal and quintessential brewing method is really a very hard and long journey. It is usually taken with very small steps and also determined by the blessing of fate. To chance upon a real old well stored tea and learn how to brew it optimally is definitely a rare fate and the epitome in any tea connoisseur’s tea journey.

Assortment of well stored and aged old teas from 1970s to early 2000

However, in today’s context, the chance of finding a genuine well stored old tea with the proper guidance to brew the tea is extremely rare. For most tea connoisseurs, it would be more realistic to find the best new tea, which is suitable for aging, learn how to brew it and follow the journey as it ages. Learn about its’ character and grow along with it in its aging process. It is like following the journey of a growing child. This direction will be more achievable and as joyous too.

Ultimately, that said, everything is still a journey. There is no right or wrong, just our personal experience to reinforce our own understanding.

But the long journey, taken in the right context, is definitely… extremely joyful.



ZaoBao 早报

ZaoBao 早报 27 July 2014
ZaoBao 早报 27 July 2014

There is an elaborate article on tea in one of our national newspaper ZaoBao 早报 today(27th, July 2014).  I was one of those interviewed and this blog is also featured in the article.  However, there is a typo error on the web address and I will re-tag it for the search engine to direct it here. The correct address should be http://www.teaism99.com instead of http://www.teasism99.com

ZaoBao 早报 27 July 2014
ZaoBao 早报 27 July 2014

For those who finally made it here…a big WELCOME to my humble tea blog.  Thank you very much for visiting.

Have a great tea day!


1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha
1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha

When the tea, especially Puer is selected from the  finest grade of tea leaves and processed in the best possible way, the word 甲級 Jiǎjí is often added or stamped on the tea wrapper.

1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha
1993 Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng Tou Cha

The  second grade is called Yǐjí 乙級 and the third grade is called Bǐngjí, 丙級 but nobody is going to label their tea as third grade. However, due to lack of control on these labeling in the tea  industry and some tea producers may blatantly use them, irregardless of the quality of the tea and processes.  

As a tea consumer, it is very important to learn how to identify a good tea by looking at the tea leaves instead of the wrapper when purchasing tea.  By learning how to taste and studying the tea leaves, one can ascertain the quality of the tea.   It is definately not advisable to look at the label of tea wrapper or worst still, buy any tea just by listening and reading too much of it. Most tea merchants will never say anything negative about their tea.   The general description on any tea are always good but realistically there are  good and bad tea.

So if you go for the finest grade, make sure it is not the finest wrapper or finest sales pitch but always the finest tea. Wrappers, stories and marketing can lie but not the tea leaves.

Jiǎjí 甲級, Yǐjí 乙級, Bǐngjí 丙級 or Lājī 垃圾 can be quite obvious if you look at the tea leaves carefully and taste the tea prudently.

1998 Yiwu Sheng Red Mark Jia Ji
1998 Yiwu Sheng Red Mark Jia Ji

Big Mouth Centre 大口中

Ta Kou Zhong

Icon always comes with interesting nickname. Likewise, the iconic  Puer tea nicknamed Ta Kou Zhong , 大口中, which is directly translated as Big Mouth Centre.  It refers to the character of Zhong 中 in the wrapper of Seven-sons Puer tea cake made in 1970s to 80s and also some tea cakes wrapper of the early 90s made by various producers.

The stylized rectangle character of Kou 口 in the character of Zhong 中 is bigger than normal, and therefore Ta 大  is used to describe the unusually bigger size of  Kou 口 in the word Zhong 中.   That is how it gets its nickname from.

This iconic Puer tea is said to be of higher quality and some described it as the tea that possess the dynamism and vitality of a galloping horse.  Wow!

Today, I will brew this (1970s 大口中) tea just to find out the truth behind its description.

This piece of tea that I kept  is very well stored. The tea leaves are clean, reddish dark maroon and smell fresh without any undesirable odour.   After  removing some tea leaves carefully, I refreshed the dry tea leaves and let it settle for a while before brewing it.  The tea is really wonderful and last many brews. The colour of the brew is translucent golden amber. It is really very beautiful.

This tea has a pronounced  enticing taste of lotus and bamboo leaves aroma and sweetness with tranquil complexity.  It also has hints of similarities to the 1950s Liu An tea that I had tried.  The overall impression is quite far from any galloping horse dynamism or vitality as described by others, but close to something that we would  describe as perfect. Voilà!

Now, I just like to enjoy this tea without getting distracted by writing too much technicalities…

Patiently, respectfully and attentively, as I sip this tea, just like when we are in the company of an honoured veteran.

Hmmmm… Viva el té!

Lao Banzhang (LBZ) 老班章

I started this blog at the request of many friends who wanted to learn about tea. So I thought it would be even better to share the knowledge with the world.  I was really lucky to be able to travel so much to explore tea and learn from many teamasters.  But I am still humbled by the vast knowledge of tea, tea culture and the art of tea. I am still learning and hope to learn more by sharing.

This is my first blog on tea after a few decades of dedication to tea. Tea was just a pastime to me and it made me really curious. So my journey started with the fascination on tea and my thirst for tea knowledge. I drink all types of tea that I can possibly get access to i.e. Darjeeling, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Taiwan and Chinese tea.  My current dedication is for Puer and Yancha tea which I religiously spent hours every day on them.

So for the first blog post, I will write about something iconic.  Currently, the most talk about Puer tea is the Lao Banzhang.  I chanced upon Lao Banzhang in 2007 when it was pretty unknown and was said to be a crazy undrinkable tea.  Nevertheless, it became famous.  Personally I love this tea from day one and I was impressed by its strength, rounded bitterness, sweetness but mostly by the hint of kombu seaweed when it was young.  I brewed this tea every few months since 2007 and it never fail to impress me every time I drink it.   I often served this tea to novices,  oldtimers, teamaster without mentioning about it and most of them said it was a great tea. I always belief that a great tea should always taste great to everyone from novices to seasoned tea drinkers.

Here is a photo of the 2007 Lao Banzhang, an iconic tea now, insanely priced, vastly imitated and fiercely speculated.  To me, it is simply just tea and a really great tea that often make a great day greater.

Lao Banzhang