Mei Leaf / Chinalife - 1600 Year old Pu-erh
I have noticed the company Mei Leaf come to my attention on YouTube recently and they appear to have some very impressive pu-erh they sell.
I have searched Steepster and for both chinalife and mei leaf and found very little. Before I consider purchasing one of their cakes I just wondered what others thought about their teas. The tea I am most keen to try is their Tiger Spirit, a tea “made from truly ancient tea trees between 1000 and 1600 years old from Bing Dao semi-wild forests”. They even have a photograph of them picking from the 1600 year old tree.
Has anyone tried any of their pu-erh teas? What do you think?
Sacred Owl (Ba Da Shu) – Ripe pu-erh from 1000 year old tea trees and aged for over 5 years
Pip Killer (2016 Bang Pen) – Made from leaves plucked from at least 600 year old tea trees
Bloom Buster Gushu (Lao Ban Zhang) – made from leaves plucked from at least 300 year old tea trees
Cone Bandit (2016 He Kai) – Made from leaves plucked from at least 500 year old tea trees
I am skeptical about claims of 1600 year old trees. Unless I really trust the source I try to avoid such teas. He is selling it for a suspiciously low price at 149 pounds. I think that is around $300 for a bing. I recently bought two ancient tree shou puerhs from Purepuer, but the claims were not as grand and the price reflected the value of true ancient tree teas. So do you have a reason to trust the man. It seems unlikely that he found tea from 1600 year old trees and got it for such a cheap price. The ones I bought from Purepuer were a mere 500 to 800 years and I trust the source. I also paid a premium. The basic fact is if they are really 1600 year old trees the farmer could easily get five to ten times the amount of money that this guy had to pay to charge 150 pounds. There was a controversy on here a while back about Verdant Tea claiming one of their teas was from 1800 year old trees and it was pretty much debunked by Scott from Yunnan Sourcing. If the farmer could easily get ten times as much money from dozens of buyers why would he sell to this guy.
I have seen this guy’s videos. He is pretty convincing. But I don’t believe this one, just too cheap.
I notice from watching the video that he also says these are Bing Dao leaves. Bing Dao leaves are very expensive. Yunnan Sourcing produced a Spring Bing Dao this year that I bought. I believe it was only from 80 year old trees. It cost roughly $175. Scott said something about how ancient tree Bing Dao was just too expensive for a Yunnan Sourcing pressing. Being from Bing Dao this makes me even more suspicious of this tea. Bing Dao is basically second only to Lao Ban Zhang in price. I could easily imagine an Bing Dao ancient tree tea with only 500 year old leaves going for $600. Can’t even imagine how much a 1600 year old tree Bing Dao would go for at market prices.
Once bitten by a snake, one dreads (the sight of) a rope for a decade.
English equivalent: Once bitten, twice shy.
According to Google Translate DongBei thinks the man was cheated. But if the man was cheated he was cheated on a number of teas. Not only the 1600 year old tree tea, but the 1000 year old tree shou puerh and the very cheap Lao Ban Zhang. The simple number of improbable teas he has on his site lead me to believe that he is cheating people in general but I suppose he could have gotten cheated on the one tea and be cheating people on the others.
While I don’t believe the claim about 1600 year old trees it still could be good tea. In the end it is how good is the tea that is the important question. Is the tea good enough for the price tag of 150 pounds. It might be you never know until you actually drink it. If the man sells samples get one first.
Nope. Pretty much all of those claims and the price it’s sold at immediately disqualify the teas from being what they’re sold as.
I don’t know if he’s intending to deceive, but the Yunnan pu erh game can be a dirty one. I took any claims made about teas in Kunming with a pinch of salt and decided to buy if I liked the price/quality ratio and taste of the tea. I only bought pu erh maocha, loose cha tou and top grade dianhong since I felt the chances of deception were lower and because those are teas I can’t buy readily here in Hong Kong. I tried a lot of very mediocre tea at prices I felt were unacceptable for the quality. I left Kunming with a lot of appreciation for all of the guys who filter through the mess for us, because it sure as hell is a mess over there.
Next time I get back there, I’ll focus on factory teas, but even those are very commonly faked. It’s really a minefield.
They’ll gladly sell you the Brooklyn Bridge over there for a very good price if you’re interested ;)
It’s possible that both him and Verdant bought into the hype from the very friendly tea dealers they met over there and are just repeating what they were told. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. The tea might still be very good, but as Allan said, the price is too low for the tea to be what it is claimed to be.
I agree 100%. I too am skeptical of such claims of tea from millennial trees, especially at those prices, but I don’t think they intend to deceive. They just took their puerh salesperson’s word for it.
I follow the Mei Leaf channel on Youtube (great stuff btw) and he seems like an honest person. But even he has admitted that Chinese tea dealers sometimes have pulled a fast one on him. There’s really has no way to verify these claims unless you cut down the tree to count its rings.
Let’s cut that sucker down and get answers… to the tree!
I’m joking. Please don’t cut down any old trees.
One always has to take the claim of ancient trees with a grain of salt. I recently bought two ancient tree ripes from www.purepuer.com. Neither were claiming to be anywhere near 1600 year old trees but were claiming to be in a range from 500 to 800 year old trees. Presumably a lot more 500 year old trees than 800. And the price tag was steep. A 1kg brick from 2009 cost $550 and a 400g cake from 2006 something like $375. I also trust the seller having dealt with Larry before and he has only sold me exceptional tea, never has he sold me a cake that was low quality. But his claims were much less grand than this one and his prices notably higher. But mainly I have dealt with the man before and I trust him. Both teas turned out to be spectacular teas that could be brewed twenty times.
mmmm…. 200 younger than 1800 years old ;-)
I think this focus on the age of trees is especially popular in the West, people rarely mention it in Yunnan, at least not by citing specific ages.
What makes the price of a tea is not the age of the trees, but the renown of the mountain, and that’s two different things. I can tell you the 40 years old plantation tea in the South of Bulang Shan cost more than hundred-years-old tea gardens material in some parts of Jinggu or Wuliang Shan. Older tree age doesn’t mean it must taste better. Wild tea supposedly comes from very old tall trees, yet, its price is lower than standard gushu from cultivated gardens, simply because it doesn’t taste as good and is not as sought-after.
Anyway, it is impossible to know the age of the trees. Trunk diameter is not correlated to tree age in the case of tea (this could be related in the case of trees that form a closed canopy and are coded to grow at the same rate).
The age of the plantations is possible to estimate with more accuracy through the study of ancient texts and possibly carbon 14 dating of old tea fragments.
For me, the age of the tree, from 100 years old upwards, is just not a relevant information to consider when buying tea.
I totally agree William. It’s really about the tea and how it tastes and how complex it is more than the age of the tree. I have found the best teas tend to come from 50-300 year old trees. I don’t think I have ever tasted any tea or mao cha from older than 800 year old trees.
It is interesting that you say the age of the trees is rarely mentioned in the East. I thought true ancient tree tea was considered much more valuable and that a seller who could document his tea came from 800 or 1000 year old trees could get a much higher price.
The leaf in the cup is the final word on any tea. If it is good age doesn’t matter as much. If it is young and engaging then I am happy with that.
Thanks for your support Scott.
I would love to see what a tea tree age certification looks like, I have never seen such thing so far. It’s true that in last years, there has been a new demand for single trees “Dan Zhu 单株” productions. That means picking only one or a couple of exceptionally big trees for a very small production. In this case, the price is negotiated between the farmer and the customer and can go well above the average gushu price in the area.
It would be safer for the vendors to talk about big trees rather than old trees, at least that would be easier to verify.
Hi William and Scott, i had a discussion with Don the last days about it and with my other tea friends, we found out that there are 2 different varieties of very old gushus trees in yunnan. Taliensis and Assamica. The old Taliensis trees are up to 10 times more valuable, and especially in the west next to myanmar taliensis can be found. it can only be found in the west of yunnan, not anywhere else in china at all. the tree don’s tiger spirit cake has its leaves from has a diameter of roughly 110cm. (100-117cm). 115cm is about he diameter of a 1000 year old tea tree according to some documents, i got a link here and posted it to don already. he also got a link to a document online. from what i read out of his answer, he is not sure if its a taliensis oder assamica tree and told me he would read more about that topic the next time, therefore i guess he got leaves from an old and relatively inexpensive assamica tree that are found a lot more often than real ancient taliensis tres (i think the ratio was about 1:10 in the west of yunnan). so if you can buy a cake from a 1000 year old taliensis tree for 2000 usd, then his leaves from a probably assamica cultivar are worth 200 usd, and thats the price he is selling it for. we were so sceptical all the time, but with the taliensis cs assamica discussion in mind and the diameter of 110 cm, it really seems to be a very old assamica tree. exact measurements could only be done by cutting the tree i guess, so this is not going to happen. he has government paperwork stating that there ARE tea treas older than 1000 years in this area (lincang) and the only document that can be found to roughly tell the age states that 1000 year old tress are about 115cm in diameter, what would fit his 100-117 cm tree. maybe the 1600 is estimated too high, but from the facts we have, the tree is probably about 1000 years old and an affordable assamica variant.
apart from all the theory i’ve been to don’s tea store and tested the tiger spirit cake 1.5 weeks ago. it was great, tasted old, but i couldnt tell a difference to normal old gushu like 300-500 years old. the quality of it was very high, no bad flavours, no smoke, no small particles, clear and golden yellow soup, good old gushu taste (not that intense like 100 year old sheng) but i think this is a very high quality product for an old tree and i really enjoyed it and even got slightly buzzed and tea drunk from about 9grams after 8 brews. very good quality for that price and i don’t think don is really trying to fool anyone here. maybe the 1600 years are a bit too high, but 1000 years and assamica are just right for the price and the quality is very high for that price. i quite enjoyed it. – Ralph
here is a link http://bmcevolbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2148-12-92
@X-Ray The measurements of a single tree don’t really prove anything. It takes dozens of trees to get enough leaf for a decent sized production batch. The idea that he found three dozen 1600 year old trees for a production batch seems unlikely. One tree alone would only provide the raw materials for perhaps 2 or three cakes at most. Scott related a story about a village that picked a very old tree that belonged to the village. As I recall they got enough raw material for one 499g cake. I think that was the story.
I’d actually like to know more about this as well, since I was also under the impression taliensis was worth considerably less, being as it’s not “tea” by the strictest definition.
There was quite a wide margin between taliensis and assamica teas on YS in years past. I think the gap has narrowed considerably but yeah
I agree that a tea’s claims should be taken lightly, but when it is used to determine the price I want to have at least some confidence in the vendor.
I have never bought from him so don’t know anything about his teas. I expect some Steepster members from the UK may have bought from him.
Have you asked anyone from the UK if they have bought from this seller, I know of a few others on Steepster from the UK.
So who’s going to bite the bullet and buy some? :)
After watching this video and reading his comments, I’m not entirely sure if I trust the guy’s story.
He is very good at his videos. He lies about his teas with a straight face. Of course it’s just possible that he’s not lying. Maybe he was sold the story by some con artist and actually believes his tea is from 1600 year old trees. This has been known to happen too.
In the comments, he says he personally went out to a village near Bingdao, saw a tree with a huge trunk and farmers harvesting from it and he bought a small amount of tea, farmer direct, for a good deal since he knew people who were related to the farmers. I suppose it IS possible he got hooked up. No samples available of the Tiger Spirit or I’d buy one and check it out.
Scammer or not he has a slick website and retail store and he’s probably making a packet selling Chinese tea to the people of London. The YouTube videos are very educational and probably a great tool for sales.
Also the woman in his videos, Celine (?) is gorgeous!
Here’s what he says in the comments about how he checks the age of the trees:
“We understand your point completely. We have been importing herbs from China for over 40 years and tea for over 15 years so we have had LOTS of experience of vendors making up tall stories to sell their goods! We are not a Western vendor who dips into the market and buys whatever goods and stories come our way from 3rd parties. We visit and spend time with our producers and have built up a network of friends in China and beyond over decades who share our vision for tea and medicine. We always check on information being given by vendors by cross referencing our friends and available information on and offline.
That is not to say that we are not susceptible to being duped but we do everything we can to ensure the accuracy of our statements. So for this tea, this is what we have done:
1. We visually saw the trees and witnessed them picking and processing the leaves.
2. We read instructions on how to roughly age trees according to the circumference of the trunk and measured these trees.
3. We confirmed with local government that trees in this area have been aged as over 1000-1600 years.
4. We spoke to independent farmers who confirmed that the age range was about right for these trees.
5. We confirmed and reconfirmed with our producer that the age was accurate (in our experience you have to ask at least 3-5 times before you get a more honest answer!).
Of course it is possible that the Yunnan farmers and officials are conspiring to inflate the age of the tea trees. We cannot dismiss this possibility but we have spent over 15 years buying PuErh from different mountains and different farmers and the visual ageing of tea trees is relatively consistent so you can quite quickly see the differences between a 50-100 year old vs a 500 year old vs 1000 year old trees.
As for price, the market is ridiculously inflated (especially from the more famous mountains) but the farmers are MUCH more generous than the 3rd party wholesalers and if they are cousins of very close friends (as in this case) then we can get a very good deal. As you probably know, using price to judge the quality of a tea assumes like-for-like trading channels. Because we do not buy from wholesalers or even from larger producers in China, our prices cannot be compared with many other vendors online.
You are absolutely right that when it comes to it, this is all semantics. All that matters is the taste and feeling and if it is worth the price for you personally."
My guess is they probably got duped. There are huge red flags on many of their products. I mean ripe pu’erh from 1000 year old trees… It doesn’t take a genius to tell that it’s total BS.
I think this is a case of confirmation bias where he heard or read enough things to confirm what he wanted to believe, that these were 1000+ year old trees, so he has plausible deniability to advertise as 1000+ year old trees.
it appears he contradicts himself in the comments of the video unless I read it wrongly:
Gill Rivera 7 months ago said: +chinalife Tea House U should show ur customers the government paperwork regarding the trees age of 1700years old
Mei Leaf 7 months ago said: Yes we have requested copies of the paperwork that we saw and we are waiting for the Chinese local government to send to us. If we get it we will post it in the product page of our website.
Anhalonium 2 months ago said: Any news on the paperwork? Have you received copies?
Mei Leaf 2 months ago said: We have confirmation of the tree trunk measurements to reference against tea ageing. No official local government documents on individual trees.
I do not think you can tell a trees age by trunk measurements. I believe it is possible to take a small core sample without adversely effecting the tree. Then you can count the growth rings. I could be wrong about this but I don’t think trunk measurements count because a tree that saw a lot of good years will have a wider trunk.
Forestry graduate here; Allan is correct in that the size of the tree has nothing to do with how old it is. Size is determined by local growing conditions (access to water, soil type, amount of sunlight, etc) and under ideal conditions you can end up with huge trees that aren’t very old. The opposite is true as well and some of the world’s oldest trees are actually quite small.
Coring the tree is a much more accurate means of dating the tree and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s fast, easy and does little harm to the tree.
I found this video which shows the use of a corer aka increment borer https://youtu.be/tvubQHxTwXw
If Mei Leaf had used one of those and counted 1600 rings it would be completely believable. But they did not use the truly scientific method in ageing any trees.
They have a photo of their team picking from the 1600 year old tree. Can you verify this Allan?
I didn’t see the photo but trunk measurements are not a valid way to date a tree, just as Jillian pointed out. I don’t doubt they have photographs of an old tree but proving it is 1600 years old you need to take a core sample and count the growth rings.
Also, just because they have some pictures of them with a very old tree doesn’t mean that that tree is in the production. Also, I have it on good authority that one such old tree would provide no more than a kg of leaves per season, no where near enough for their production run of Tiger Spirit. They would need at least twenty or thirty such old trees for 1600 year old tree tea to be a noticeable part of the blend. And I don’t think there are any groves in China where there are multitudes of such old trees. Such trees are incredibly rare.
It looks like Celine is up in that 1600 year old tree. TeaLife.HK – can you verify this?
Yes, Celine, his wife! Let’s wait and see what the tea is really like when it hits our esteemed forum members’ teapots and gaiwans!
Nothing at all verified really—just that she’s been up in a tea tree. We don’t know how old that tree is or if the tea is really from that tree, or even where that tree is
It’s a shame they don’t sell samples of the Tiger Spirit.
His videos are really good. I didn’t realise letting the water boil could spoil the taste. https://youtu.be/iUgMW3Ivi-U
The not boiling the water thing is debatable. I did that for a while (on and off for years), then went back to boiling all the way. No real difference. Try it!
EDIT: it is a good practice with some waters. Many spring/mineral waters leave calcium carbonate crystals behind when boiled, which can irritate the throat and make you cough. If you keep these waters below boiling, this doesn’t happen. This is a non-issue with my local tap water though!