Tea Notes: Dayi Guides, 2019 Drought & More
Tea notes is a series of resources and notes for delving deeper into the culture of tea.
Zi Da Yi Identification Guide
Zi Da Yi, also known literally as Purple Dayi, is a series of raw and ripe pu’er tea productions by the Menghai Tea Factory. The first production was released in 1996, and consisted of both a raw and ripe version. Production paused before continuing from 2001-2004. These productions were, to the best of my knowledge, made with Dayi’s 7542 recipe and 7572 recipe (for raw and ripe, respectively). In 2015, a production of raw pu’er cakes occurred in commemoration of the original line. This guide provides clear images of the wrappers of each release, and provides a rundown of the release history.
Dayi Price Lookup
This website makes it easy to search for the current market price of any Dayi tea. The prices are for multiple tongs, so purchasing individual cakes will always be more expensive. But it can be a useful point of reference to see if you’re getting a fair price. I don’t know enough about the market to really comment on the accuracy, and I would imagine the more rare a tea is, the more variance in price there would be.
The 2019 Drought
Yunnan and other pu’er producing regions make up a huge area with a variety of climates. That being said, many areas suffered from a drought in early spring. Some tea trees died (especially the younger ones). Vendors may tell you there was less tea but it was even better than usual because of the slow growth and higher nutrient concentration. Take that with a grain of salt - each tea will be different. And remember that they are trying to sell you something.
I saw someone post a comment online - the gist of it being that we shouldn’t pity tea-makers and farmers because they are too lazy to water their trees. I think this sort of response lacks both compassion and an understanding how many old-arbor gardens grow. Old-arbor gardens are often spread out and located some distance away from homes or processing plants. Even if water could be transported to the trees, imagine how much water they would need! It would literally be thousands of gallons of water. Most farmers work hard. It is absurd to suggest that they would ignore any obvious solutions to save their tea trees from death.
I think that as the tea industry grows, as the demand for old-arbor tea grows with it, and as more money is sent to these families, irrigation systems will be put in place to prevent this to some extent in the future. Climate change doesn’t care about tea trees! We either evolve with it or suffer the consequences.
CCL In Laos
CCL has a variety of programs that work to improve the livelihoods of people living in rural Laos. One the most exciting aspects of the tea industry, and specifically pu’er tea, is the emerging production areas in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. As the demand for good pu’er tea grows, their industries will grow with it. Tea from these areas is already being imported to China in huge quantities - the source of the tea is often obscured, however.
Now is the best opportunity vendors and importers will have to source tea from these areas before the focus shifts from Yunnan. The processing and experience may differ a bit given the specific circumstances, but I believe the best opportunity to source amazing tea and support smallholders lies in these regions. This photo-essay offers an incredible look at the promise these budding tea regions present.
Yeast In Raw Pu’er Tea
Someone at teaforum.org asked a question about the presence of baker’s yeast in raw pu’er. Yeast certainly lives on pu’er tea, but exactly which species is hard to say. My answer below:
“Microbial and fungal communities exist within pu'er tea, and they change over time depending on the specific storage conditions. This study - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4918958/ - found species of Ascomycota fungi, a division of the fungi kingdom that baker's yeast is also a part of, present in both fresh leaf and raw pu'er samples.
I am not an expert, but since Saccharomyces cerevisiae is found within China (see here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05106-7), I would imagine it's a strong possibility that it could be present in raw pu'er tea. If it would be present to any meaningful extent in your circumstances I couldn't say.”