As I stepped out of the west gate of the Forbidden City, I noticed that it was a nice, bright, warm day. The archives close early on Fridays at 3pm, and I had a choice of going home, or going somewhere else. I decided, the tea addict that I am, to go to Maliandao.
Part of the reason is that L’s business partner in Beijing is back from their trip from Yunnan, and I was eager to talk to her to get some news from the battlefront, so to speak. I got there, and we started chatting over some tea. We started drinking some longjings they brought from Hangzhou last month, fresh from the spring picking (they are all pretty decent, with obvious differences among the three). Meanwhile, I learned about the new prices. They go something like this (all in RMB/kilo and only to the best of my knowledge — subject to change anytime!!!)
Lao Banzhang – 1200 (and rising)
Jingmai – 600
Yiwu – 400 to 500
Other area ancient/old arbour tree teas, at least for places in Menghai and Xishuangbanna – 250 to 350 ish, depending a lot on where, what, and who
Which is insanely high, as this is about double last fall’s prices, and more than double last spring’s. These are per kil of maocha, so divide by three if you want a rough estimate of how much a tea cake from these regions should cost. If the base cost of the materials of a Banzhang cake is 400 RMB, anybody retailing the tea in China will probably have to sell it for 1000 to make a reasonable profit of any sort. That, I think, prices a lot of people out of the market. Of course, plantation teas are much cheaper…. maybe only 20% of the cost of the ancient tree teas or thereabouts.
I got some free samples from her — maocha they bought from Nannuo and Banzhang. I’m going to try them out in the next few days.
I then went to the Mengku puerh shop to see when their new stuff will arrive. Early May, they said. That’s a long time, but for bigger factories, the delay is usually quite long. I guess I’ll find out what they’ve got in the spring this year. Right now, their store is deserted — no stock at all of anything. It’s almost all sold out, and it looks eerie.
I ended up in a store where I bought a cake before, and started looking through the newer stuff they got. They press their own cakes, so they have some pretty interesting stuff. I ended up spending quite a few hours there, trying 3 different kinds of Yiwus and some cooked stuff. The guy even bought dinner, so I felt sort of obliged to buy something. I ended home with one Yiwu, a 2006 fall tea, and I think was decent and not too expensive. One can always try a new cake and compare it with the stuff you’ve already got.