Verdant Tea Offerings?


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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby Spoonvonstup » Sep 20th, '12, 06:58

hster wrote:Could you kindly post a wrapper picture of this Bulang?


Yes. I have neither camera nor smart-phone, but the picture should be clear enough from my dumb-phone to give an idea.
Image
As you can see, no resemblance.

hster wrote:How does this Bulang compare to other Bulangs or other sheng?


As I mentioned, I am very pleased to have this brick in my collection. Other bulangs I've tried of this age have generally landed in the fruit/golden-raisin section for young flavors. Metallic, tangy and bright, with some of the more interesting ones having cooling/camphor qualities as they open up.
It's been many months since I last sampled this tea, but since I don't have my original notes, I will just tell you what struck me about it. When I first sampled this brick, I was quite pleasantly surprised with it's sweet, almost positively oolong-like flavors. With many sheng, you'll get apple skin or raisin fruit. This one seems to me more like berries or even banana, oranges, candied lime. The comparison to a tangy.mellow Dancong like a Huangzhixiang seems right on target to me.. also woody, but with no puckering cottonmouth on the tongue or teeth or back of the throat. Wood more like a sweet Japanese incense rather than an old spice-drawer or woodchips. It plays out dynamically out as it steeps, switching up with each pour, generally leaving me on the edge of my seat to see what will come next. During one tasting with friends, we declared the tea a shape-shifter, since it presented new tastes and textures with every cup, all through the 25 or so steepings we did together (past a certain point, I stop counting). Aftertastes like sweetgrasses, peach skin, and even some pine cooling at the top. Others have noted camphor flavors, but I'm notoriously bad at detecting zhang.

Compared to other shengs I'd sampled and purchased while living in China and visiting the tea markets for about a year, this one was striking, stood out as one of the most many-layered bricks I've tasted in quite awhile, especially compared to what I'd tried that was around the same age. I came across only a few bricks of this quality, and those were going for around $100 in China... and this was the price from friends in the market. Admittedly, these weren't really for sale, and were mostly sampled to further my tea education. I was not on a US salary at the time, but I was lucky enough to have friends willing to part with portions of the bricks. Of those, I now only have tiny jars left, and I regret every time I open the jars that I didn't just tighten my belt, eat rice for a month, and ask to buy the whole thing.

Given the above, I had no qualms about paying for the quality of this brick, apparent in every cup I've brewed since then. I am pleased to have something so unique in my collection, whose qualities I've yet to find in other bricks. I am trying to forget about the brick so that I can try it in ten years to see where it's gone.

I think this was definitely worth what I paid. I'm not sure what else I can say.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby MarshalN » Sep 20th, '12, 08:29

To be fair, Hster was working off the name Star of Bulang, which is not what this cake is. This just says "xx (not shown in your pic) mountain Qiaomu (arbor) Raw cake". Nothing about stars here. So of course she got the wrong cake - it's not possible to get the right one with the wrong name.

I can't seem to find this exact thing on Taobao. I did find the 07 version, which is retailing for 40-50 RMB a cake on at least two or three vendors. You can draw your own conclusions.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby MarshalN » Sep 20th, '12, 09:00

While we're at it with this discussion, let me offer a few more points I didn't notice until I just dug deeper in his website.

The thing about Verdant Tea that bothers me, now that I have looked more carefully, are the following:

1) If you click on "where is it from", he'll give you a "Size of this edition", which is completely bonkers, because he gives you numbers like "12 cakes" "7 cakes" "25 100g tins". Even tourists who go to Yunnan press more than 12 cakes at a time, and some of his stuff are clearly way, way more than just a dozen or two in production size - one shu fermentation pile is already way over that. It'll be far more accurate if he says HE has that much, not "size of this edition" which is, at best, ambiguous and at worst downright misleading.

2) His propensity to use names like "workshop" which are, at best, misleading. Workshop implies a small scale operation, I think, to most people. Yongming and Longyuanhao was anything but small in the "workshop" sense of the word. If it's a factory, call it a factory and don't dress it up as something it's not. They call themselves factories.

3) Not showing you any packaging material that might tell you what the tea is. We've already gone over that. It's great that you trust Verdant so much, but honestly, if the wrapper is RIGHT THERE, even in his very picture, I don't understand why he can't show it for all to see, unless he has something to hide. And if it's because someone can go to Taobao and undercut him by a factor of 4 (as it seems to be the case for his 2004 Yiwu) well.... welcome to the world of e-commerce.

I know I haven't tried any tea from Verdant, and quite honestly, a vendor that relies on opacity and romaniticization of his products is not one who I'll patronize, especially when it always looks like he's trying to hide something. As for the Steepster ratings, there's already been another discussion on that and I don't think we need to rehash that again.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby hster » Sep 20th, '12, 13:23

Thank you Spoonvonstup. Could you kindly provide us a shot of the back as well concentrating on the printed portion of the wrapper.

Pu-erh compressed into a disk shape is most commonly referred to as a beeng. Rectangular shapes are called bricks(Zhuancha) and bricks tend to be lower quality than beengs. I would hope David's role as a tea educator is not missing here.

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DD Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby hster » Sep 21st, '12, 08:13

A helpful reader has sent me this photo with what David has e-mailed him about the Star of Bulang and wrapper with the green leaves at the bottom:

From: David Duckler <david@verdanttea.com>;
Subject: Re: (Verdant Tea) Yong Ming Bulang Star Sheng
Sent: Mon, Jun 25, 2012 3:43:55 PM
" I will say that this tea came in two batches with two different labels. This is the second one. Same year, same leaf, different pressing. "

notStarOfBulang.JPG
notStarOfBulang.JPG (124.04 KiB) Viewed 2348 times
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby SilentChaos » Sep 22nd, '12, 11:35

MarshalN wrote: This just says "xx (not shown in your pic) mountain Qiaomu (arbor) Raw cake". Nothing about stars here.


xx = Bulang. So, to complete, Bulang Mountain Qiaomu (arbor) Raw Cake
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby Splinters » Sep 23rd, '12, 22:10

My two cents: I ordered from Verdant for the first time this year. My experience was positive, and I recommend them.

I ordered the spring Laoshan green, the Laoshan white, the Jingshan green, and Golden Fleece.

First things first -- I've ordered many greens from many highly-regarded vendors this year, and I rate the Jingshan green as my #1 green tea of the year. Fruity, complex, and totally delicious.

I liked the Laoshans as well, and would consider ordering them again.

The Golden Fleece looked beautiful, but I suppose I'm not enough of a black tea fan to fully appreciate it.

I can't speak to their pu-erhs as I did not order any. But my overall experience with Verdant, from website to shipping to product received, was quite positive, and I'll be looking at their greens for years to come.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby David Duckler » Sep 25th, '12, 11:24

Hi this is David Duckler,
Thanks for all the great feedback. Glad to hear that so many people on Teachat are enjoying the teas. In any case, I wanted to respond quickly to Hster and the whole question of the Star of Bulang Cake. I did research this tea much more thoroughly after you brought it up, though I have yet to find an exact match on Taobao, etc. My business is just my developer Geoffrey, my friend Weiwei in China, and myself, so I rely on a trusted friend, Wang Yanxin, to correspond with businesses like Fuhai, Longyuanhao, Tiandiren, etc when I can't be in China. We ended up getting a tong of these Star of Bulang Cakes from her to help us out in a tight spot. Our Yiwu had run out, and this had the closest flavor profile. I was extremely happy with the flavor, huigan and chaqi of this cake, as were most everyone who tried it. If there truly is a cheaper source for it out there, I apologize. Usually, before we get in a brick or cake, I have the chance to try a lot of samples and do more research. It isn't worth the convoluted imports process we have to go through to get tea from friends like Mr and Mrs He who grow our Laoshan Teas (whom I am visiting in a few weeks) to bring in a tea that people can get elsewhere. It doesn't help grow the vocabulary and experience of tea drinkers.

About the wrapper, etc. My Pu'er teachers in China have shown me how wrappers are often interchangeable, and get mixed up. This one came in two wrappers with the same profile. The first was bulang zhi xin, or Star of Bulang. The second was the one pictured. Judging by flavor, it made more sense to keep the tong, which was packaged as one tong, under one name. I responded to Hster's original blog post a few months ago about why I value this cake, and why I think it is worth while, but that isn't so important at this point. The important thing is to establish that I run Verdant with integrity, and am interested in improving based on what I hear from others:

I would love to move on from this issue. To be honest, your feedback has been helpful, but I would really appreciate it if you gave us a chance, or at least allowed others to do so without working actively to persuade them against trying what Weiwei and I work so hard to track down in China. I ask this of you as another person who loves tea, and as someone open to your feedback; I have taken active steps to meet the needs of a wider pu'er audience based on your suggestions:

First, I have tracked down a great Fuhai cake that we are going to be able to sell for around $40. We got a great price, and we have brought our shipping costs down a lot. When that goes on the site later this week, I will be doing a complete photo shoot with the full wrapper included. When we built our site (just a year ago), we were doing pu'er photos just like green tea and black tea, thinking that leaf was most important. Now I understand that we should include both to help build trust. I will do that for all pur new pu'er releases going forward. There has never been any bad intent in our photos. I grew up in an artist family, and am probably guilty of putting aesthetics before function on the old pu'er photos.

I also see the misunderstanding about the listed 'edition size.' Our intended meaning is the amount that we bought, the amount available to our customers. Perhaps the wording can be changed to make that more clear. Of course even small productions are pressing hundreds or thousands of cakes. We aren't trying to claim otherwise. We just had a lot of people ask us to let them know how much of a certain tea we had to be sure they could get it before we ran out.

Exciting news for us is also a spring trip to Xishuangbanna. My tea research advisor introduced me to one of the board chairs of Dayi, and they invited me to visit their facilities in Yunnan. We are going to talk about custom pressings, extending their tea culture institute programs to America, and more. Lots of exciting things will come of it. I am also heading to China in October to reconnect with Taiwanese friends,drink lots of pu'er and do some documentary work in Laoshan. I am hoping the video and pictures and interviews will also help increase our transparency.

That's about all I have to say on the subject for now. Main point is that I want to move forward. If anyone including Hster, MarshalN, etc has feedback or positive changes they would like to see me make on our site besides what I just mentioned, or ideas on pu'er culture projects to pitch to Dayi, please do feel free to PM me. We have long since discontinued the Star of Bulang and will not be bringing it back. Support from all of our customers, and feedback like this is helping us to get larger quantities of pu'er at better prices, and continue to work with other tea companies and communities like Teachat, Steepster, Reddit, etc to grow the love of tea and tea culture.

Sincerely,
David

PS: If anyone has any ideas or compliments they want me to pass on to Mr. and Mrs. He in Laoshan when I visit them in late October, also feel free to write, or post. They came up with two new kinds of tea (Laoshan Black and Laoshan White) in five years, so they are really open to innovation.

Also- I just saw the comment from Chip about user names. I will go in and see if I can change from VerdantTea to David Duckler, or something like it. Didn't know about that one.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby MarshalN » Sep 25th, '12, 13:32

Mr. Duckler:

If your Star of Bulang has the closest flavour profile you can find to your Yiwu, then either your Yiwu is horribly wrong, or your Bulang is. More likely the former because Yiwu is much more expensive than Bulang, usually, but they are very dissimilar if they're the real McCoy. So, that rings an alarm bell or two.

Now, addressing the more pertinent problem being discussed here, I think the issue here is not whether or not you were taking artistic license, it is whether or not you are misleading your customers, willingly or otherwise. The use of words such as "edition" or "workshop" when they should in fact be "stock" and "factory" seems to me, at best, as a sleight-of-hand. I'm sure you are well aware of how others will perceive those words when you put them on your website, since you're quite keen on promoting your goods on various forums and social media sites. The difference between "edition" vs "stock" or "workshop" vs "factory" cannot possibly escape you. So, please, change those rather questionable terms, or people will keep thinking you are the sole supplier of 8 cakes of this or 3kg of that tea.

The same can be said about withholding the information on wrapper. Yes, wrappers can indeed be changed, etc, but there is no reason not to give that info, regardless. Also, while a wrapper is easily changed, a neifei on the cake is not. Some of the cakes you sell clearly have those as well, so why not show them? Moreover, anyone with some experience buying puerh can usually tell the difference between different productions by looking at the distribution of leaves, the shape and size of cakes, the way the cakes were pressed, etc. Showing full shots of the cakes will enable people to see that and compare for themselves. Withholding that information and only showing partial shots, or worse, just chunks of the cakes, is a disservice to consumers. While loose tea is just that, loose, in puerh there is vintage and packaging that are useful indicators, so why not show them? There's no reason whatsoever.

In addition, factories like Tiandiren or Yongming simply do not have anybody who would want to fake them, for simple economic reason - the effort spent is not worth it, when there are much more lucrative things to fake, such as Dayi. These things are low cost, low priced offerings of inferior quality. I understand you claim that yours are exceptional, and I have not tried them so I am not commenting on their quality. I can, however, say that if they are indeed exceptional and worthy of $150, they are the lone exceptions in a sea of mediocrity from these factories.

There's no reason why these conversations should be done in private, away from the public view. In fact, I think it's most healthy for such issues to be hashed out in the public forum, so everyone can be the judge. Thanks for reading.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby hster » Sep 26th, '12, 20:57

David,

I appreciate any efforts from pu-erh vendors to improve their transparency. We are still curious about the '06 Tiandiren Bulang which you state is too prohibitively expensive to import and is offered only through your Pu'er Reserve Project:

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=17766

I've known Tiandiren to be a large factory catering to the low-end of the Chinese market but I would welcome any clarification. Another pu-erh vendor who sells the 2006 Tiandiren Bulang confirms that it is a low end but satisfying beeng going for $11. A simple wrapper picture of your 06 Tiandiren Bulang can clear up any confusion.

Sincerely,
Hster
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby yanom » Sep 28th, '12, 03:40

A teeny point but: I think it may be wrong to make too big a deal out of this "workshop" for "factory". The English word "factory" gives a more limited range of impressions than the Chinese word, focussing on the mechanical rather than the natural. It's a bit like the word "propaganda" which in English has a limited and fairly negative usage, but in Chinese is more neutral. Or even the word "soup" for the Chinese 汤 which conjures up all kind of unpleasant non-tea ideas to an English speaker.
No comment on the broader points, I've no experience of the vendor.
EDIT: Oh, I've just seen "limited edition" and "artisan crafted" on the Verdant website!
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby Chip » Sep 30th, '12, 11:47

Pending review, I have locked this topic and the other current Verdant Tea related topic (please pardon the double posting). It will be unlocked shortly. Til then, the topic can still be viewed by members and guests.

Thank you for understanding,
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby Chip » Oct 1st, '12, 11:22

Another double post. 8)

I have received a request from Verdant Tea to post a rebuttal with intent to fully comply with TeaChat rules regarding this action. So stay tuned to here and the other running topic regarding Verdant Tea.
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby Chip » Oct 1st, '12, 11:35

I am hereby reopening the two Verdant Tea topics.

This is an unusual situation in that I have only ever received two official requests to respond to postings on TeaChat from the vendors in question. This is the way the forum's rules are worded, thus we have freedoms to speak. Now it is our turn to listen. :mrgreen:

I would advise everyone to be on the lookout for Verdant Tea's official posting(s). AND I would ask that any ensuing discussion be civil. I also remind everyone as I have in the past that livelihoods are at stake along with reputations.

I am not trying to lecture here, but this is an unusual situation and I feel as Moderator of the worlds' "greatest" English language tea forum that we have some responsibilities here to listen first, then discuss if needed.

I feel this is what sets TeaChat apart from the rest ...

In tea,
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Re: Verdant Tea Offerings?

Postby Geoffrey_Reiff » Oct 1st, '12, 15:09

Introductory Statement

Hello. My name is Geoffrey Reiff and I am the Business Development Manager for Verdant Tea. The moderator of TeaChat has granted me permission to post a formal refutation in this forum against speculative claims made by the bloggers Hster and MarshalN that our business is applying an unreasonable level of markup on pu'er teas we have offered, which in various places has been speculated to be a 900%-1000%+ level of markup.

I have been aware of these claims since Hster made her orignal blog post about our pu'er some months ago. It has recently come to my attention that people have begun talking about these speculative claims, here on TeaChat and elsewhere, as if they are fact.

Quote:
"Marshall is aksing 2x cost while verdant is asking 10-15x cost."
http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=17766&start=15#p228840

Seeing this, I am very concerned about the damage brought to our business by rumors being misconstrued as facts. From the beginning, David has maintained that the example pu’er cakes being cited from Taobao by the bloggers Hster and MarshalN are not the same as the ones we have offered in the past or at present. Having direct knowledge of our accounting and inventory, I know what we have paid at base cost for all the teas we’ve imported, and what I intend to do here is set the record straight in a clear and respectful manner for everyone to see and make their own assessment.

We have to this point refrained from fully arguing our case against these speculative claims about markup because the mentioned bloggers originating this claim did not give us an indication, after David’s first response to them some months ago, that they were willing to give us the benefit of the doubt or simply take our word for it. In the refutation being presented, I will address Hster and MarshalN directly. With intent to humanize this discussion, I want to address MarshalN as Professor Zhang, as I understand that his identity is public knowledge and I prefer to talk about these matters in my own name, while offering him the respect that is due to another human being. If there is any objection to this, I will revert to addressing him by the handle MarshalN in any future communications. I do not know of any other name for the blogger Hster, and I respect any interest she may have in maintaining her privacy, so I will just continue to address her as Hster. In responses that anyone may have to this post, I kindly request that you address me as Mr. Reiff.

As the refutation I have to present is thorough and long, the Tea Chat moderator has suggested that I segment my post into a few distinct posts, rather than post it all as one continuous post. I have followed his suggestion by segmenting my post in the manner below.

I would like to start by making clear that I am only interested in addressing one point here, the most critical and damaging point in this discussion, being the speculative claim Hster and Professor Zhang have collaborated to suggest that our business has sold pu’er cakes at a 900%-1000%+ level of markup. David has already addressed the other points that have been discussed in these threads; I have no interest in rehashing any discussion of those points myself, and I do not intend to. So on the relevant point of price comparison, I have recently done some further research on Taobao regarding the pu’er cakes in question, both the examples that Hster and Professor Zhang have cited, and the cakes we actually have had in our inventory. I am now going to outline evidence to refute the markup claims presented for the two different pu'er cakes that have been brought into question here.
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