Warning! This is a long article. You may read it at your leisure. It may take you half an hour or more to read.
[Recital]: Finally, Cloud translated it. This Internet article was written in Chinese on 28 November 2003 and revised on 1 March 2008. The revised text was translated into English in August 2008. The English translation primarily stuck to the original Chinese text. Some of the information mentioned in this article reflected the Puerh Tea market of 2003. Please note that some of the prices mentioned were not the current prices of the Eight-eight Raw Tea Cake 7542.
Background       In 2003, Cloud noticed that there was a batch of perfectly dry stored tea cakes which had been carefully hoarded for many years being sold in one of the Hong Kong tea vendors' tea shop. That was the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake (88 Qingbing). It becomes a renowned tea in the market nowadays. At that time, in 2003, the selling price of such was only HK$672 (US$86) per tea cake after discount.
Because of its underestimated selling price in 2003 (please remember it had been already a tea cake aged for 15 years), Cloud wrote a Chinese Internet article and posted on 28 November 2003 at http://www.wwwart.com.tw/tea (unfortunately, major browsing functions of this website were closed on 18 May 2007, but still leaving the database online) titled "The History & Story of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake 7542" (click to view the original Chinese text recorded in 2003) to discuss this special and well stored tea cake.
Cloud recommended this tea to tea lovers and connoisseurs for their future consumption in the article. Cloud judged that it was the best purchasing price if tea lovers could spend less than HK$1,000 (US$128) per piece at that time. Now, it is the right time to make an update and review to this Internet article in relation to this special 7542.
In the early 2008, a disc of genuine Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake (88 Qingbing) sold by the same tea vendor mentioned above is HK$12,000 (US$1,538). Cloud did not make any typo. It was really selling at US$1,538 per disc. In 2003, the list price of such was only HK$960 (US$123) per disc. There is a 12-fold increase of the selling price. What happened? Unbelievable! One may ask,
- "What is the quality of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake (88 Qingbing)?"
- "Is its quality absolutely fantastic and marvelous so that it is worth such price?"
- "Is it worth for such outrageous price?"
Last year, Cloud had some new comments on this tea. By virtue of this opportunity, it is a good time to gather these comments in this updated article.
Since this up-to-date Internet article was revised based upon the original text wrote in 2003, you are advised to take a look of the original text (if you know Chinese), "The History & Story of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake 7542" (the pictures posted there, which were exactly the same as those Cloud posted here, were no longer valid.). Right after the revised article, Cloud added the latest views and comments of year 2008 to this special renowned tea cake (click here to jump to the 2008 comments).
-------- (01 March 2008 Revised in Chinese & Translated into English in August 2008 ) --------
In 2003, Hong Kong suffered from the SARS crisis. By the end of the same year, a series of discussions of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake commenced in a Chinese Internet tea discussion forum. The discussions were triggered by a blind guessing game. Cloud posted the brewed tea leaves and tea broth inviting members of that forum to guess. Some guessed it right and some guessed it wrong. People joined the discussions aiming at finding out more information about this tea cake because there were few people knowing about this tea cake as it had been hoarded in Hong Kong for many years without being known to the overseas tea lovers.
It became a popular topic as there were many tea lovers joined the discussion. Another reason for its popularity was because the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was often mentioned and highly appraised by a renowned Internet tea connoisseur, nicknamed "Blue-sky (藍天)", in that forum. Initially, people gave a common name to this tea, "1988 Raw Tea Cake", for an easy discussion.
It was not the first time for Cloud to encounter the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in 2003. In fact, Cloud had tasted this tea in 2001. In other words, Cloud had known and met this tea since 2001. However, no action was taken for 2 years because, by recalling Cloud's memory, the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in 2001 only aged into an embarrassing and mediocre stage, i.e. it was "not a must buy" item at that time. The tea cake was still young and not too outstanding in 2001 in accordance with the 2001 judging standard.
Besides, with limited resources and by comparing it with other aged tea cakes available in the 2001 market, it was obvious that Cloud should purchase other much aged tea cakes for my collections first, i.e., other older tea cakes had higher priority over the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake because of Cloud's limited cash flow at that time. Obviously, the purchasing plan of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake had to be postponed. And Cloud did not follow up this tea until 2003.
Even though the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was the prize for the 1st and 2nd runners-up given by "Blue-sky (藍天)" in a "Tea Guessing Game (2)" on 10 November 2003, Cloud did not pay much attention on this tea cake because the impression to the taste of this tea by Cloud was limited to a previous 2-year memory which indicated only as a "not a must buy" item.
On 18 November 2003, an Internet tea lover from Hong Kong posted in the discussion forum, "I heard an astonishing news yesterday that the list price of a dry storage Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake 7542 has inflated to around HK$900 (US$115). The tea was only sold at its listed price around HK$400 (US$51) early this year (P.S. refers to 2003). If there was a discount, it could be less than HK$300 (US$38). It seems that there is a huge demand for dry storage tea cake." (Original Chinese text: the astonishing news in post No.57). Cloud was also shocked that it was unbelievable. Impossible! It was only a "not a must buy" item (as Cloud still had its previous taste in mind). By this reason, it should be the right time for me to go to the same tea shop again to re-taste the tea.
Aroma, Tea Broth & Texture
Unbelievable! Really unbelievable. After 2 years, the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake changed much better than Cloud expected. Its flavor was overwhelmingly good despite its young age. Cloud was wondering why there could be such a huge difference within 2 years. Perhaps, it was just over the magic 7-year multiples aging cycle. Believe it or not, Puerh tea cakes normally have a substantial change every 7 years.
At the time of tasting the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake, Cloud was impressed that even though the subject tea sample was from the center of the tea cake, it still had outstanding aged tea broth performance. It was amazing. Perhaps, it was due to its hard and high compression in the center.
When hot water was poured gently on the chipped off tea leaves in the tea bowl, the young but slightly aged plum fragrance was released immediately from the tea leaves. Cloud could notice such attractive and fantastic smell in the air. By smelling the center of the lid of tea bowl, that preliminary mellow sweet dry storage aroma together with the raw flavor and fascinating tea smell, it was so gorgeous that Cloud was unable to describe the sensation and feeling precisely by words unless you could taste it yourself. By smelling the brewed tea leaves, which started to unfurl, Cloud could feel the vivid and fresh aroma arising from the leaves. Was that really the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake Cloud met 2 years ago? Cloud could not believe that. However, the fact was that it was definitely the same batch of tea. Unbelievable!!
The color of tea broth was great with its clear and crystal-like amber color. By smelling from the surface of the tea broth, the slightly aged plum fragrance came again. That was an elegant flavor. In 2003, I remembered that the tea broth of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was still strong and astringent. However, I could feel the aging potential of this tea with its thick and gorgeous tea liquor.
By the information I was told in November 2003, it was a tea cake with "15 years" of age (however, later, I found out that it was a batch of tea cakes ranging from 1989 to 1991. The evidence showed the earliest possible batch was from its Batch Ticket(支飛) stamped with 7542_9xx). By judging from the taste of tea broth, being strong and astringent, it must be a tea stored in a very dry condition.
Most importantly, it still had a great aging potential for the next 10 years because of this perfect storage condition, the natural storage. The natural storage generally refers to the storage condition without artificially-generated high humidity. That means the storing environment should be kept in a relatively low humidity, but not too low. It can be a normal domestic environment or the Puerh tea warehouse of tea vendor with appropriate humidity and proper ventilation.
When Cloud appreciated the naturally stored Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in 2003, the slight plum fragrance (emphasis, it was a very special plum taste which was different from the slightly aged tea broth taste mentioned in the previous paragraphs) was quite similar to the plum fragrance from the aged and drily stored Masterpiece Puerh Vintage, the Blue Mark - Grade A or Blue Mark - Grade B. Cloud having such subjective impression was because Cloud often drank these fine 1960's aged Puerh vintages at that time. There were some similarities between them. To be concise, drily stored good tea, possibly, might share similar aging tracks and taste styles.
However, Cloud did not intend to indicate or imply that the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake would age and follow the taste of the Blue Mark. What Cloud would like to express was that the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake would develop its own taste which might be as popular as the Blue Mark in the next generation. In addition, it was very interesting that a raw Puerh tea would develop different tastes if it aged in different storing environments. All in all, that slight plum fragrance from the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake reminded Cloud of the Blue Mark. Perhaps, drily stored tea cakes shared similar taste characteristics.
With non-stop infusions, the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake could offer you far more than 10 infusions. It would not be a problem when it went up to the 20th infusion. Right after the 10th infusions, the slight wild astringent taste had gone and the sweet and clear tea broth replaced. Cloud would like to describe this by a Chinese word, "Shuang (爽)" (which is almost equivalent to an English word, "cool~!"). It was cool because the tea broth was vivid and crystal clear. Other kinds of wetly stored tea cakes from the same era did not give such performance.
The tea broth was sweet, soft, delectable and good with its aftertaste. The finish was comprehensive and full of richness, especially the areas under or both sides of the tongue. It was a delightful tasting experience.
Three Remarkable Market Phenomena
Two years ago (referring to 2001 because this article was first written in 2003), the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was only an ordinary tea cake without much attractiveness to Cloud. It did not develop into its special taste, i.e., it was still a tea cake undergoing its natural aging process, but with the great potential.
Without much experience, it would be difficult for one to discover its true power. Nevertheless, it had a positive and obvious change in 2003. This proved a traditional tea wisdom that a Puerh tea cake will have a great jump in its quality every 7 years. The Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake proved this.
After knowing more about this batch of tea cakes, it would be much easier for Cloud to find out the potential tea cakes for aging with these valuable experiences. Although the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake drew almost no attention in the past, the sudden positive change in quality led to 3 remarkable market phenomena that:-
- That's why the experienced and renowned Internet tea connoisseur, nicknamed "Blue-sky (藍天)", were very interested in buying and hoarding this batch of tea cakes;
- That's why the remaining more than 200 baskets (a traditional bamboo basket contains 84 tea cakes) were sold out in a very short period of time to other overseas tea vendors;
- That's why the list price of this tea cake could increase so much in a year. The reason was that the old selling price did not reflect the true internal value of the tea cake. It wasn't over-valued. Actually, it was undervalued. By comparing the c/p value (capability/price) of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake, it was always a worth buying tea because of its good storage and quality. The old price had long been underestimated. (P.S. in 2002, before the whole batch was acquired by overseas vendors, each tea cake only cost HK$400 (US$51) per disc in Hong Kong. However, in 2008, it cost at least HK$12,000 (US$1,538) per disc.)
Soon after Cloud was told the story of this tea by the tea house owner, Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House (a Hong Kong local tea shop doing the art of tea business), in November 2003, I understood the reasons why the price of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake increased so shape and so fast in 2003.
The Story of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake 7542
It was just a story told by the tea house owner, Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House. Cloud would advise that you may treat this as a story rather than a serious history. The information I was told in 2003 was a little bit deviating from the truth which I later found out. This led to a certain degree of confusion at the very beginning. However, for sure, the correct information I later found out is that the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cakes were 7542 tea cakes manufactured from 1989 to 1991. The Batch Ticket showing 7542_9xx indicates that the earliest batch was from 1989.
The Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was a batch of tea cakes manufactured from 1989 to 1991. The owner who had been hoarding them for more than 10 years in Hong Kong was Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House (a Hong Kong local tea shop doing the art of tea business). He acquired the whole batch of tea cakes from a tea wholesaler in 1993.
In 1993, the Puerh tea market in Hong Kong did not approve dry storage tea cakes. Tea drinkers were of the view that these raw and astringent drily stored tea cakes were too green and astringent to be appreciated. Thus, few people enquired for the whole batch of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake at that time. The tea wholesaler contacted Mr. Chan in 1993. He remembered that the tea had a very special fresh aroma which was very attractive to him. He then decided to purchase the entire batch from the tea wholesaler. That was a fortune to the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake because the main stream of handling raw tea cakes in the early 1990's was to store the tea cakes in a relatively high humid environment in order to enable tea cakes to have a quicker "aging" process. However, Mr. Chan loved tea and did not do so.
Repeating the History
Someone says, "History repeats, but only with different eras and people." Cloud agrees with these words. The story of this batch of tea cakes is similar to the story of the Red Mark happened in the 1950's as the Red Mark was too astringent to be sold in the market 60 years ago. The consumers in the 1950's and the 1960's did not accept such taste. Because of the fact that it was not a trend to store tea cakes by consumers in the old days, the tastes of tea cakes was very decisive at the time when a customer bought the tea cake. If the taste was too young, no consumer was willing to buy.
In 1993, there was no popular name of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. It was only called 7542, which was the regular tea cakes trading code from the Menghai Tea Factory at that time. It was very hard for a tea wholesaler to sell out the whole batch of this regular 7542 because of its astringency. Almost no retailers were interested in them.
After Mr. Chan showed his interest, the tea wholesaler asked for the deposit in order to secure the transaction. However, Mr. Chan said that, actually, he did want to acquire the whole batch of tea cakes as the long term stock for his tea shop. As he was only a retailer, only a small quantity of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was sold in the past 10 more years.
The reason why consumers were not keen on this cake was because the popular Puerh tea in the 1990's were the Red Mark, the Blue Mark - Grade A or Blue Mark Grade B or the Small Yellow Mark. These regular 7542 tea cakes were only the newly made young tea cakes in the early 1990's.
Except for the tea vendors, who might be interested in storing them in wet storage as their supplementary stocks, there were few people interested in purchasing them. After Mr. Chan had acquired them, most of the tea vendors forgot that there was such a batch of tea cakes being offered in the early 1990's. The only one who clearly knew where this batch of tea cakes was hoarded was Mr. Chan himself.
The reason why Mr. Chan named this tea as the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake even though it was not manufactured in 1988 was because he wanted to commemorate he started the Best Tea House in 1988. It was a general practice in the Puerh tea market in Hong Kong at that time that the information passed to the customers in relation to the year of production was only an approximate datum. That meant tea shop would only tell the customers that it was a tea aged for approximate 20 years, 15 years or 10 years without letting the consumers know the precise year of production. Tea vendors always used indistinct adjectives such as "Extra-fine", "Fine", "Old" to represent relative different years of aging. It was the custom of Puerh tea selling in the old days. Certainly, this does not work right now for tea cakes without the precise year of manufacture.
Time flies. It had been 15 years since 1988 (P.S. the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was in fact manufactured from 1989 to 1991. However, Cloud was so told in 2003. Cloud later found out the evidence that Batch Ticket was 7542_9xx). When one compared this late 1980's tea cake with other tea cakes from the middle of the 1980's , such as the Snow Mark or the 1980's Rough Paper Raw Tea Cake, the list price of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in early this year (P.S. referring to 2003) was obviously and seriously underestimated. It was only a half price of the other normal 1980's tea cakes.
Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House said that he had no notice that the tea had been aged into such a good condition. He only increased the selling price in accordance with the normal annual price adjustment. That's why the list price was unbelievably low and only cost around HK$300 (US$38) in the early 2003.
After the SARS crisis, the business was bad. Unexpectedly, when Mr. Chan wanted to sell the whole batch of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake after the crisis, this batch of tea cakes attracted several potential buyers who explicitly told that they wanted the whole batch of tea cakes without leaving a single piece to Mr. Chan. It seemed that these potential buyers knew well about the quality of this tea cake. They were very serious to the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. As a result, within a short period of time, more than 200 baskets Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake were sold (P.S. 84 tea cakes per basket) and sold out of Hong Kong and distributed globally.
By a rough calculation, the sold quantity was around 200 x 84 = 16,800 (pieces). This was a rough calculation because Mr. Chan sold more than that. Therefore, approximately 20,000 Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake started to circulate in the Puerh tea market globally. If they were sold to Mainland China and assume each tea lover purchased a single disc, it would be definitely a shortage of supply, not to mentioned some of the tea connoisseurs would hoard at least one stack to two stacks. Cloud understood why the potential buyers asked for as many as possible.
The Luck - A Small Quantity Left
As it was an entire acquisition, one may be wondering why Cloud could still purchase some Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake for my own use. It was because the tea warehouse of the Best Tea House was very large that a small quantity of tea cakes was separated from the main stock. After checking for the remaining stock, it was discovered that there were still some pieces for retail. However, there was definitely no more extra quantity for any late coming potential wholesale buyers.
Perhaps, several years later (after 2003), tea lovers would have to buy this tea in Mainland China (P.S. Unfortunately, after 5 years, in 2008, Cloud's prediction comes true that most of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake are in Mainland China.)
When the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was known to the potential overseas buyers, a tea vendor from Taiwan dropped by Hong Kong and asked Mr. Chan that he would like to acquire the remaining stocks for this Taiwan customers. Nevertheless, Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House had had enough cash flow already after selling most of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Mr. Chan rejected the request. However, that was not the end of story.
Although the potential Taiwan tea vendor was unable to acquire the rest of stocks, he informed his regular customers to purchase this tea cakes in Hong Kong by themselves because the tea was so good that it was definitely one of the collectible items at such a low price. As a result, some Taiwan tea lovers came to Hong Kong and had bought several stacks of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. It was amazing and they saved a lot.
Since the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cakes were sold to the rest of the world, it was not easy to buy some in Hong Kong after 2003. Perhaps, there are still genuine stocks in Mainland China because the buyer sold a lot of the tea cakes to Mainland China.
Some Hong Kong's tea lovers have a strong believe that Yunnan Puerh tea is the product of China. They decide to buy Puerh in Mainland. However, they do not know that the aged tea, in fact, was acquired from Hong Kong to Mainland China and re-sell to them. Certainly, by adding the transportation fee and handling fee, the selling price of aged tea in Mainland is higher than that in Hong Kong. Anyway, some tea lovers are happy with that.
The Hong Kong local Internet tea lover who discovered the inflation of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake disclosed the price in the discussion forum. Cloud was of the view that he was not speculating the tea cake, but just wanted to share with other tea lovers that there was such a tea cake available in the market with such price. He said,
Thread: "Aged Puerh Tea In Taiwan (Chinese: 台灣的陳年普洱茶)"
Author：xxx 2003/11/18 PM 12:17:25
I heard an astonishing news yesterday that the list price of a dry storage Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake 7542 has inflated to around HK$900 (US$115). The tea was only sold at its listed price around HK$400 (US$51) early this year (P.S. refers to 2003). If there was a discount, it could be less than HK$300 (US$38). It seems that there is a huge demand for dry storage tea cake.
After learning the news of inflation, Cloud went to Mr. Chan's tea shop to have a further enquiry. Mr. Chan explained that the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake had long been undervalued without his notice. He did not expect that the tea had aged into such a good appreciative value.
- Cloud asked, "Why was there a substantial inflation of the list price from HK$400 (US$51) to HK$900 (US$115)?"
- Mr. Chan replied, "Oh! Don't you know how good this tea is? Last week when I tasted it with my art of tea students, I was shocked that how good it was. At first, it was hard for me to believe it was the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake I bought long time ago. It was really stunning."
- He continued, "Young man. I should let you know that this is the tea I stored for many years in my company's Puerh warehouse. I have been monitoring how it grows every several years. Those buyers who had bought a lot of pieces were smart guys. They are not stupid. The wholesale price I gave was not unacceptably low but they were still very keen on purchasing this tea. This indicates that they knew how good the tea was when they came to me."
- Mr. Chan added further, "Although I knew that the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was good, I did not expect it could be so good that it was out of my expectation. Unfortunately, I sold too many at that time because I did not know its latest taste when I agreed the wholesale price. Otherwise, I would have only sold 150 baskets."
- Mr. Chan went on to say, "Well, I have only got not too many pieces left. If you purchase a stack (7 pieces), the overall average price is only HK$672 (US$86) per piece, which is inexpensive. You should consider to buy some. After the Chinese New Year (referring to the 2004 one), I will increase the price again because I do not have many stocks left. I wholesaled most of the stocks."
After a quick calculation, even though Cloud had a tight budget at that time, Cloud still purchased some to be part of the collectible items of Cloud's Tea Collection. I have the reasons explained in the later paragraphs, please see "Why did Cloud still buy at HK$672 (US$86)". (Click to GO!)
Cloud was of the view that huge demand was not the true reason for the fierce inflation. The real reason for the new list price was that it reflected the genuine internal value of the tea. It had long been underestimated. In short, the list price HK$400 (US$51) at the early 2003 was a generous offer of the tea shop owner, Mr. Chan. Unfortunately, only the buyers knew about the true value of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Because of the outrageous inflation, consumers thought that it was pricey.
The value of a good tea would increase eventually       Certainly, an article writing in this way would lead some people to think that this was a speculative article for pushing up the price of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. However, Cloud had a lot of experience that many good Puerh teas (especially those Masterpiece Puerh Vintages) without any recommendation by anybody still had substantial increases in their prices when they aged into their good tastes. Unfortunately, many discussion forums did have such voices to blame these recommendation articles. As it was a best buy tea, Cloud disregarded the risk for being blamed and would like to introduce this tea cake to Hong Kong local collectors to hoard this tea at its acceptable (depending on personal incomes) and inexpensive price in 2003.
One of the Cloud's experiences was that, in around 2000, Cloud was still in the learning zone of aged tea. Cloud posted a post in a forum to ask if anybody could tell me what a "Seventy-three Raw Tea Cake (七三青餅)" was. [The hyper-link links to the original Chinese post on 29 November 2000]. It was sorry that nobody replied. If Cloud had enough pocket money, I would not have asked the question. Simple! WENT to the tea shop and BOUGHT the tea cake, one would know how good the taste was. Fortunately, Cloud still have got two pieces of this Seventy-three Raw Tea Cake. As there was no reply, Cloud bought them for my own research.
However, Cloud was not a millionaire. Cloud was only a law student at that time. Cloud could have save some money for a better tea (I did not imply that Seventy-three Raw Tea Cake was not a good tea) if some senior collectors could have told Cloud what the good Puerh teas were for future aging and consumption. Cloud would hoard a stack (7 pieces) or more pieces if I had been told that was a good tea.
At least, Cloud would have had enough well aged Masterpiece Puerh Vintages to appreciate because the prices of these well aged Puerh vintages were relatively low, only several hundred Hong Kong dollars (around US$100 to US$200, it was inexpensive if that was the only amount paid for a genuine old tea cake). Unfortunately, the chances had gone and never come back.
In fact, the prices of good teas will increase according to the market supply and demand without any recommended or discussion. When it has been aged for a certain period of time and the good taste starts to appear, the price will go up automatically because the market will demand for that.
A good tea is always a good tea. Even though you do not buy it or ask others not to buy it, the price of it will still inflate such as the Red Mark Round Tea Cake. The price of such increases from time to time without any downward adjustment. If Cloud was not told by a local Internet tea lover by a public post, Cloud would not have noticed the inflation of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake.
Cloud believes that the prices of tea cakes adjusting with the years of aging is a normal practice. Cloud also believes that the price of a tea cake will not adjust or fluctuate in a very short period of time even though somebody has recommended that unless the value of the tea cake had already been seriously underestimated. Therefore, this is the reason why Cloud still wrote an Internet article to recommend the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Cloud was of the view that the current price (referring to 2003's price at HK$672 / US$86) was still acceptable. For details, please read "Why did Cloud still buy at HK$672 (US$86)". (Click to GO!)
Long before the emergence of any Internet tea discussion forum, the Red Mark Round Tea Cake, the Blue Mark Round Tea Cake and the Small Yellow Mark, etc. still inflated annually. Whether a specific tea cake was posted in the Internet or not did not make a huge difference.
Cloud believe that the purpose of having an Internet tea discussion forum was to provide a platform for sharing, discussion and exchanging information on Puerh tea. If there was such a good tea (the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake) which was suitable for aging and quick appreciation in the meantime while pending aging, it would be a good idea to let tea lovers, who were still able to accept the current price (referring to 2003's price at HK$672 / US$86), know that there was such a good tea still available in the market. Whether the tea is affordable or not really depended on the financial abilities of tea lovers. For the same product, somebody said it was expensive while some other people may regard its price was acceptable. For example, some tea drinkers even complained that the Puerh tea selling at HK$78 (US$10) per 600g was expensive because those people were normally drinking HK$16 (US$2) per 600g in their everyday life. It was only a matter of comparison.
Besides, even though there were some other Puerh tea cakes from the same era, some of them were not as good as the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Thus, informing the beginners that the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was a good tea cake was a direct and efficient way to guide novices to identify good teas.
The Wrapping Paper, Description Ticket and Trademark Ticket
In order to let tea lovers have a better understanding and identification of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake, it was necessary to state and introduce the characteristics of this tea.
The majority Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was the thin wrapping paper edition (See A0405). However, there were few Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake wrapped by rough wrapping paper (See A0693). Generally speaking, both editions had comparatively larger tea cake sizes.
Regarding the trademark ticket, some had, but some did not have. But for sure, there must be a description ticket enclosed between the wrapping paper and the tea cake. It was very hard for Cloud to collect the rough wrapping paper edition as it was a rare edition. Cloud has got only one piece as a sample.
In relation to the color of Zhong characters in the Eight-zhong Trademark Logo (you may refer to P.104 and P.138 of A Glossary of Chinese Puerh Tea) printed on the trademark ticket, it was the brick-red edition (you may refer to P.104 of the Glossary). Basically, if the criteria of taste, aroma, blending and shape of the tea cake fit the characteristics and as long as the tea cake was drily stored, no matter whether it was from the warehouse of Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House or from somewhere else, it should be within the definition of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Although there were a little bit confusions regarding the wrapping characteristics of this tea, this indicated that the tea was truly manufacturing from the early 1990's because of the transitional wrapping styles in the early 1990's.
Why did Cloud still buy at HK$672 (US$86)
In the blind Tea Guessing Game (2), the renowned Internet tea connoisseur, nicknamed "Blue-sky (藍天)", mentioned his purchasing price:
Author: Blue-sky 2003/10/10 PM 09:47:25
This 1987-88 tea cake was a good tea....
It was absolutely gorgeous that it was drily stored with its shiny and clean tea cake body.... Amazing!
This was the tea cake I collected this year with the purchasing price over NT$2,000 (US$64) per piece.
But it is worth that price... and I would like to give 2 pieces of such as gifts for the winners.
At first, Cloud did not understand why the renowned Internet tea connoisseur "Blue-sky (藍天)" was willing to purchase such tea cakes at such a "high" price (based upon Cloud's last memory). I though, maybe, he was rich. However, after sipping by myself, I finally understood that the price was not pricey comparing to the good tastes offered by this tea. It was the best buy. Mr. "Blue-sky (藍天)" knew that clearly.
Therefore, although the price had been gone up, Cloud still decided to purchase some for my own use. It was because the new list price was still within the best buy budget because of its good and potential quality.
From the action of the Taiwan tea vendor mentioned above, who informing his regular customers to purchase this tea, one would note that the tea was really good. In fact, the tea is gorgeous.
Besides, Mr. Chan of the Best Tea House should be given credit because without his capital and effort to keep the tea drily stored throughout the years, we would not have had such tea to enjoy today as many old Hong Kong tea vendors would love to store Puerh tea in wet warehouse. Without Mr. Chan's effort, this batch of tea cake would have been wetly stored. This was a good news to tea connoisseurs.
Thus, Cloud was of the view that purchasing a stack (7 pieces) would get a 30% off discount (HK$672/US$86 per disc) was still a very attractive price in 2003. Since it is a good tea, it is certain that the price of it would go up to a thousand Hong Kong dollars (US$128) or even over 2 thousand Hong Kong dollars (US$256) in the future. Then, why didn't Cloud buy some at this stage (referring to 2003). (P.S The price of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in 2008 is extremely outrageous, which is about 20-fold. Fortunately, Cloud bought this tea in 2003, I can still appreciate this vintage whenever I like and I saved my money.)
In 2003, Cloud expected that the price of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake would inflate in large extent with its good and gorgeous tea tastes. That was the reason why Cloud wrote this article in 2003 to recommend tea lovers to purchase some for their own use. Certainly, as I expected, this tea is pricey in 2008. Cloud was not asking tea lovers to speculate and make money on the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. It was my intention to tell people that the tea is undervalue and should buy some for self-consumption purpose.
Certainly, if the selling price of this tea cake in 2003, HK$672 (US$86) per disc, was already out of your personal budget of buying tea, there is no reason for a tea lover to purchase this tea at any price over US$86. However, it was the personal opinion of Cloud that HK$672 (US$86) per disc was still a very attractive and acceptable price.
Without a doubt, Cloud also made reference to the decision of Mr. "Blue-sky (藍天)" when confirming whether buying this tea or not right after the list price of such just rose. In fact, the reason why tea connoisseurs and collectors have so many good tea is that they are willing to pay when they know that the tea is worth buying.
28 November 2003 wrote in Chinese
------------------(New Comments in 2008)------------------
The Wrapping Characteristics and Tea Cake Shape of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake       All the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake must bear a Description Ticket. However, some do not have such a Description Ticket but still are the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Therefore, we can conclude as follows:-
- Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake:
With Trademark Ticket + Description Ticket (Edition)
- Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake:
Without Trademark Ticket + Description Ticket (Edition)
Cloud would like to add more here that some tea cakes manufactured in the early 1990's right after the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake share similar tea cake shape and appearance. However, when tea connoisseurs look at these later tea cakes carefully, differences can still be noticed.
Early this month, Cloud found a slightly wet stored 1992 tea cake which neither had trademark ticket nor description ticket. It must not be the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake. Although it looked similar to the tea cake shape of the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake (See A0563 & A0785), however, most Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake have a flat compressed center and its larger tea cake size.
With these 2 characteristics, it could be an Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake
Without these 2 characteristics, it possibly could not be an Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake
The Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake & the Eighty-nine Raw Tea Cake
In 2001, the name of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was not well-known by tea lovers and its celebrity was limited to only one of the Hong Kong tea shop. Actually, the name, Eighty-nine Raw Tea Cake was used earlier than the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake.
The photo description of A0595 from the Photo Archives has the words, "Around the early 1990's, the Puerh tea cakes acquired by Hong Kong tea merchants were mainly 7542 from the Menghai Tea Factory. Importing these 7542 tea cakes was for the wet storage purpose. Since these batches of tea cakes clearly showed their trading codes 7542_9xx on the batch tickets, tea merchants used to name these wet-stored raw tea cakes as "Eighty-nine Raw Tea Cake", which was a jargon between tea vendors. Because of the low selling prices of raw tea cakes in the early 1990's, tea merchants would not deliberately mark and separate different batches. It was possible that all the 7542 and 7532 from different years of the early 1990's were put together for aging. In the early 1990's, what tea merchants concerned about was the differences between raw tea cakes (which could be not sold in a short period of time) and ripe tea cakes (which could be sold after a few years). Cloud has collected some 1992 raw tea cakes which were also marked as "Eighty-nine Raw Tea Cake". In fact, it does not really matter for appreciation because all the raw tea cakes having been stored wetly shares similar smooth and earthy tastes."
Comments on the 2008 market price of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake
Since it was the recommended tea cake by Cloud in 2003, it is necessary for Cloud to make it clear the views of Cloud to this tea in 2008.
Many Chinese Internet tea lovers knew that Cloud had recommended the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake on 28 November 2003. At that time, Cloud felt that it would be hard for tea lovers to collect good teas at such a low market price.
In addition, Cloud had experienced the inflation of Masterpiece Puerh Vintages when Cloud was still a college student. A Seventy-three Raw Tea Cake was only HK$600 (US$77) per disc. However, a college student did not have enough money to buy.
Therefore, when Cloud encountered the genuine good tea, the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in 2003, I recommended it to tea lovers. The main point was the low market price in 2003, HK$672 (US$86) per disc. That was an unbelievably low price in terms of its aging years. In relation to this point, I think time proves that I was right.
If there had not been any speculation on aged Puerh tea, a normally aged Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake (which is a 20 years tea) would have cost around HK$2,200 to HK$2,800 (US$282 to US$359) according to its normal rate of inflation. Therefore, if tea lovers took action and bought some at HK$672 (US$86), Cloud did not see any reason for stupidity (certainly, if the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake was not a cup of your tea, that was another case.) Today, Cloud ABSOLUTELY DO NOT advise tea lovers to pursue the Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake with such a high and outrageous price. Cloud approves and affirms its quality, but not its extremely expensive price today. It is heard that it costs US$1,923 per disc in 2008. Unbelievable!
In the Chinese tea magazine, Puerh Teapot, Issue no. 22, I released an article titled, "Enormous Fluctuation of Recent Puerh Prices - Take It Easy" (Chinese). In the article, I mentioned that how to judge the internal value of a tea cake in the recent fluctuating market, that is, how much should we pay for a tea cake? Is it worth?
Anyway, the one who bought some Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake at that time can enjoy the appreciation freely without much financial pressure as it was acquired at such a low price. Unless you are so rich, it is not worth buying a piece of Eighty-eight Raw Tea Cake in 2008 with such outrageous price.
In 2003, Cloud recommending this tea cake does not mean that Cloud still recommends the same tea cake in 2008. Please refer to "Why did Cloud still buy at HK$672 (US$86) (Click to GO!). At that time, Cloud only expected the tea cake would have only inflated to around HK$2,000 (US$256) per disc. Thus, the current market price of it was obviously overpriced. Cloud reinstates once again that Cloud approves and affirms its quality, but not its extremely expensive price today.
After reading this very long article, the next question tea lovers would like to ask possibly is, "What is the best buy tea now?" Cloud is of the view that there must be some good tea in the market, just whether it has been well known to people or not. There are 2 good tea cakes worth considering,(An Internet article will be written in the near future).
- 1999 Zhongcha Brand Traditional Chinese Characters Discus Tea Cake; and
- Shuangjiang Mengku Tea Cake labeled with "Original Aroma from Wild"
You may have a further reading on these Internet articles.
------------------ (The END) ------------------
28 November 2003 wrote in Chinese
28 March 2008 revised the Chinese edition
21 August 2008 finally translated into English
Quality Rating (The Highest, 5 Stars):
Price Rating (The Highest, 5 Stars):
(Comments made in 2008): This tea is overpriced (HKD$1,923). Realization is recommended.
Cloud (Hong Kong)
[Cloud's Tea Collection - Internet Articles]
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