The popularity of compressed tea


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

The popularity of compressed tea

Postby MEversbergII » May 12th, '13, 19:14

I've read through blogs, articles and misc. web-posts on pu'er over the last year, especially in the few short months that I have been a member here. I have noticed that on the larger pu'er blogs and websites available in English, the subjected tea is almost exclusively the compressed type. In fact, I cannot off hand recall a single English language post on loose leaf pu'er on any commonly mentioned tea-blog either here, or from what I've found on Google. I know they exist, but what I am saying is they are in such minority that I'd have to go looking.

Since joining here, I've noticed the large popularity of compressed puer, and decided to check it out. Prior to this, I had been (and remain) skeptical as to the reasoning for buying compressed cakes.

The foundations of my know-age are rooted in TeaGuardian's discussions, particularly this page: The Nature of Compressed Teas.

It all seems to make sense, which has always had me wondering why the big puer aficionados in the Angloblogosphere favored the compressed stuff so. It doesn't seem like they'd age as evenly or as well as something loose. The only reason I got my first tiny cake is because it looked neat - before that, I had only used small, pre-measured dose style blocks (c. 3.5g).

So, what's the draw?

M.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby wyardley » May 12th, '13, 19:24

I think there are some posts out there... just from a few quick searches:
http://ancientteahorseroad.blogspot.com ... shupu.html
http://www.thesiptip.com/2009/12/nadach ... puerh.html
http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/200 ... eedle.html
http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/200 ... puerh.html
http://www.marshaln.com/2010/04/wednesd ... l-28-2010/
http://houdeblog.com/?p=98
http://anotherteablog.blogspot.com/2008 ... n-cha.html
and so on

However, the consensus of what I've seen is that despite what you might think, most people seem to feel that compressed tea actually tends to age better than loose tea, for whatever reason. Also, that's just how most pu'er has been produced. Compression does also make the tea brew differently - not necessarily better, but differently (for example, including a good percentage of intact chunks will make the tea release a bit more slowly over time).

That said, there is something to be said for loose teas, not the least of which, they're often easier to buy in smaller quantities, which is useful for older / rarer teas, or if you're not confident enough about a particular tea to buy a whole piece. And there are some decent wet-stored loose raw pu'ers that are pretty good for the price. You'll also sometimes find compressed teas that have been loosened or broken up, and then blended.

Some of the loose ripe stuff is also quite good, especially the small (grade 1-3) leaf stuff like gong ting or white needle golden lotus.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby shah82 » May 12th, '13, 19:35

taste enough aged maocha, even a few years aged, and you'll get back to compressed cakes/bricks. By and large, it takes very good leaf to age okay in maocha form, and even then, if you have a cake version that has been pressed from the start, you'll find that the cake version is tastier and fuller.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby MarshalN » May 13th, '13, 06:09

Whoever wrote this tea guardian article is clearly completely new to pu'er, and has no inkling of what he's talking about.

The only real reason to prefer loose-leaf pu'er over compressed are the following:
1) convenience
2) cost

The whole section on quality in the teaguardian article is completely bogus - it's wrong. The whole idea that smaller compressed teas are better than larger sizes is also very misguided. The fact is, compressed tea do age better, for whatever reason. They don't go through the quality deterioration that he claims happen. On the other hand, loose leaf is actually very prone to environmental damage. They also lose flavour very easily.

I can find loose leaf pu here any day of the week. They're cheap and plentiful. But I can tell you now, and anyone who's spent any time drinking pu'er will tell you the same - they're not that interesting in comparison. For similarly aged tea, compressed tea will almost always be better, unless the disparity in original material quality is so vast. This is not an Anglosphere bias either. You will find the same in whatever language you choose to read.

Just because some website has some pretty graphics or even just because it's been up for a while and linked to from other places, doesn't mean it's good quality information. Teaguardian has just proven themselves to be completely wrong on pu'er and other compressed teas.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby MarshalN » May 13th, '13, 06:18

So I dug a little beyond the surface of who's running this site.

So the teaguardian site is run by this guy, Leo Kwan. His google+ page indicates that he works at TeaHong, which, incidentally, is the only banner ad I ever see on teaguardian, on the right side anyway (the bottom one seems to be a google ad banner). Checking out teahong, I noticed that their pu'er selection only consists of loose leaf tea and one mini-brick. No wonder he's talking down compressed teas - he doesn't sell any, and is trying to tell you that his selection is superior to everyone else's, even though it flies in the face of overwhelming evidence and is of a decidedly extremely minority opinion. I should also mention that his loose pu prices are really high. The kinds of loose pu'er he's selling are quite cheap when bought locally in Hong Kong, which is where he's based.

So much for the site's purported "independence" that it claims at the bottom.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby Evan Draper » May 13th, '13, 13:33

MarshalN Monday Morning SMACKDOWN!
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby lordsbm » May 13th, '13, 19:21

MarshalN wrote:Just because some website has some pretty graphics or even just because it's been up for a while and linked to from other places, doesn't mean it's good quality information.


Agreed with the statement :lol:

I still say a tea good or bad, you have to taste it. Same as compressed or loose. Although most said compressed tea taste better, it doesn't mean it has to be true to you. Tried both and come to your own conclusion.

Maybe you found something unique in loose tea that others can't taste it.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby puyuan » May 13th, '13, 22:04

You've been reading up on puer for a whole year and yet you are under the impression that compressed cakes are an "angloblogosphere" thing?
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby gingkoseto » May 13th, '13, 23:01

It seems the originally quoted article was not talking about puerh at all. If you compare compressed puerh with loose leaf green tea (it looks like the author was comparing fine loose leaf green tea with low grade hei cha, from his way of wording...), you would probably see more people who believe green tea is superior than people who think the other way (I guess, roughly 0.5 billion people from China would advocate for green tea :mrgreen: ). There is tea regionalism and personal preferences involved. Price wise top grade puerh is a lot cheaper than top grad green teas, averagely.
But how is this article related to puerh at all and why do the comparison? The only (potential) benefit of the comparison is puerh drinkers all feel they get good deals in terms of purchases. :mrgreen:
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby MarshalN » May 14th, '13, 01:48

gingkoseto wrote:It seems the originally quoted article was not talking about puerh at all. If you compare compressed puerh with loose leaf green tea (it looks like the author was comparing fine loose leaf green tea with low grade hei cha, from his way of wording...), you would probably see more people who believe green tea is superior than people who think the other way (I guess, roughly 0.5 billion people from China would advocate for green tea :mrgreen: ). There is tea regionalism and personal preferences involved. Price wise top grade puerh is a lot cheaper than top grad green teas, averagely.
But how is this article related to puerh at all and why do the comparison? The only (potential) benefit of the comparison is puerh drinkers all feel they get good deals in terms of purchases. :mrgreen:


Then I guess all those pictures of modern compressed pu are just for show?

If the comparison is between loose leaf green and compressed pu, then his comparison is really subtle.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby gasninja » May 14th, '13, 08:18

gingkoseto wrote: Price wise top grade puerh is a lot cheaper than top grad green teas

Not really. Most people would consider something like the red mark or song pin hao to be the TOP grade. I am not really sure what top grade long jing is going for. But I can't imagine its much more than a hundred dollars a gram.
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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby TIM » May 14th, '13, 11:54

gasninja wrote:
gingkoseto wrote: Price wise top grade puerh is a lot cheaper than top grad green teas

Not really. Most people would consider something like the red mark or song pin hao to be the TOP grade. I am not really sure what top grade long jing is going for. But I can't imagine its much more than a hundred dollars a gram.


A Specimen from the Original 18 Dragon Well trees on Shi Feng Mountain. Picked back in '03 from a visit to West Lake. In 2006 the price from these original trees are auction at $130 US per gram. Im not sure how much it could be today.

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Re: The popularity of compressed tea

Postby gingkoseto » May 14th, '13, 17:49

gasninja wrote:
gingkoseto wrote: Price wise top grade puerh is a lot cheaper than top grad green teas

Not really. Most people would consider something like the red mark or song pin hao to be the TOP grade. I am not really sure what top grade long jing is going for. But I can't imagine its much more than a hundred dollars a gram.

That's why I put "averagely" at the end of the sentence. Got to remember to use these little tricky words :mrgreen:
But sure it also depends on how you define top grade. And I didn't mean to do the comparison to begin with
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