Friday, March 7, 2014

A question about the 1999 '7542' Neifei

1999 '7542' CNNP/Menghai cake
1999 '7542' CNNP/Menghai Neifei
A reader asks a good question about the Neifei of my 1999 '7542' cake: It mentions the name of the China National Native Produce (CNNP) Corporation Yunnan Province Tea Branch. But it doesn't mention the Menghai Tea Factory as producer, as it does on the 1988 '8582' cake I showed earlier this week. So, is it evidence that this cake is fake?

This is a very legitimate concern when it comes to any famous or popular puerh. Imitations and forgeries are numerous, especially when it comes to older puerhs that can sell at high prices.

The paper that accompanies a puerh can be used to spot inconsistencies between a real and a fake puerh, provided the forger made a mistake. But it isn't sufficient evidence to prove that a cake is genuine, since paper (wrapper, neifei and neipiao) are actually easy to imitate.

So, why doesn't this 1999 Neifei mention Menghai Factory as it would have in the 80s? Then, in the 1980s, the CNNP still had a monopoly on all food products in China. Menghai factory belonged to the CNNP, which belonged to the state. The relationship was transparent as there was not conflict of interest.

It started to become more complicated during the transition period to full privatization and market liberalization. Menghai was privatized in 1996, the CNNP lost its selling monopoly in 1999 and private puerh factories emerged around 2002. As an independent firm, Menghai Factory couldn't use the CNNP brand/logo and used the DaYi brand it had developed. However, during these transition years, the CNNP was still an active seller and still had customers who ordered the same products as from the past. So, the CNNP would place an order to the factory who would best do the job. And in 1999, the only factory who had the skill and the facility to produce a good 7542 was Menghai Factory. But then, for obvious branding reasons, the CNNP would request a new Neifei that only emphasized their name.
1988 '8582' Menghai Neifei
1999 '7542' CNNP/Menghai leaves
This is the reason why there were still CNNP wrapped 7542 puerh cakes made in 1999 (along those sold under the Dayi brand). And they were made by Menghai, even though the Neifei didn't indicate it anymore.

The Neifei is therefore consistent with puerh history, but this still doesn't prove anything! Paper is easy to forge, but tea quality isn't. Old 7542s are mostly popular for their great taste and aging potential. So, the best way to check if it's real is to examine the cake and evaluate if it looks like it should look like. And then to taste it and evaluate if it tastes like a 7542 should taste.
1999 '7542' Chaxi
The 7542 recipe emphasizes smaller size leaves (than the 8582, for instance), so it's no mistake that we should see so many buds. The color of these buds is the best indicator to estimate the age of the leaves. They darken very slowly.

This large amount of buds and smaller leaves also impacts the aromas of the tea. It should be on a rather high and fresh note. The taste won't feel as thick and full body as a 8582, but still have a very long aftertaste. And, very important, the taste should feel very clean and comfortable. You should easily feel it's an above average puerh.
1999 '7542' brew

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