Jim Marks said

Identifying an imported bing

There is a tea shop here in Houston that mostly sells cups/pots of brewed tea as well as some light food offerings, milk tea and iced tea. They sell a lot of the typical sort of Ten Ren teas in tins and bags and some ceramic gonfu sets and other small tea sets. Point being, they don’t sell anything especially esoteric.

They also have a small selection of pu-erh bing. About 9 or 10 inches in diameter, and completely flat on both sides, like a coin — about an inch thick, maybe. None of them have prices and none of them have a single word written in English on the paper cloth wrappers. The only thing I can read is a date, well I can read the year (2009) stamped in red on the bottom.

Most of them have brown writing, but there was one with green. It occurred to me maybe that one’s sheng and the brown ones are shu. I asked one of the staff about them and she didn’t know anything about them. She asked the others and none of them did, either. But they were able to confirm the green one did say “sheng” on it somewhere. It also didn’t have a price on it and none of them knew what to charge me, so I couldn’t buy it.

The only obvious identifying mark on the wrapper was an image of a tiger, in the same green ink as all the writing.

Given the nature of everything else they sell, I am assuming this is a fairly common variety of bing, nothing extremely rare or exciting.

(a) does anyone know what it is?

(b) does anyone know what a 2009 vintage of this particular variety is worth, retail?

22 Replies


dO YOU KNOW how many grams it is??

Jim Marks said

No, but the exact size is hardly the most pressing (ha ha) detail if we can’t figure anything else out about it, know what I mean?

My guess is somewhere between 400-500g given that it’s about 10 inch diameter and fairly thick.

Will said

357g is the most common. It may give the weight on the wrapper somewhere.

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This discussion could be misconstrued. BEWARE of Bing…shu or sheng. I think you are correct with the marking; depicting aged pu-erhs.

I recall seeing this at Asian’s market but gave it not much thought but I see what you mean.

Will said

I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say here…

Jim Marks said

Not quite sure? I can’t begin to understand.

There was someone who commented on Touchas and they seemed most knowledgeable on the markings of red and green. Might you try reviewing the question/answer discussion thread for this post, as it was a question asked a while back. Sorry not much help. Good luck.


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Will said

It is probably going to be hard to authoritatively identify the cake based on your description alone – is it possible to take a picture to post here? If the store will let you try the tea, the best thing to do is to taste the tea and see if you like it or not.

Since the privatization of the state-owned pu’er factories, there are many manufacturers and brand names, and there aren’t any hard and fast rules that will let you identify whether the tea is sheng or shu I am guessing you’re right that this tea isn’t worth a lot of money. If you can find the factory name in Chinese, you could search on Taobao or other online sites to try and find the going market rate. But unless you can get them to let you try the tea or buy it at a very attractive price (< $15), you are probably better off buying online from a vendor that specializes in pu’er and can provide some more information.

You will see the character ‘生’ used on wrappers in other contexts, but if you see ’生茶‘ by itself, usually in smaller letters and often in parenthesis, you can assume that the tea is probably sheng.

Unfortunately, some of the image links are now dead, but this thread has some analysis that might be helpful to some people.

Jim Marks said

I was going out on a limb and hoping there were some “common” brands that were frequently sold in these kinds of unremarkable shops and so someone would know more about this item.

This shop is quite a distance from my neighborhood, so going back just for a photo isn’t particularly reasonable, unfortunately.

There’s no chance of trying it. They only have the one bing and I can’t imagine they’d unwrap it and begin breaking it up unless I was definitely going to buy it.

I’ll just have to hope the manager (whom I’ve met before) is present the next time I go. He’ll know about the item. I was actually really disappointed to discover that his staff knew so little — including the price.

Although it is fantastic to have access to such a huge array of amazing teas via the internet, it is frustrating to buy so many things sight unseen and the abstraction it creates to forging a relationship with the vendors. Part of the hope is that if this turns out to be a reasonable purchase it could be the beginning of something more long term that leads to more interesting opportunities.

Given the size of the bing, I have to imagine this is at least 400g. Less than $15 seems unlikely unless this is borders on not worth drinking.

Will said

For a pu’er from 2009, there is plenty of stuff on the market in the range of $12-20, assuming it’s the unremarkable tea you’re speculating it is. Raw pu’er historically is not as expensive gram for gram as other teas. Also, in terms of taste, you will likely not notice much / any difference between a 2009 tea that’s been dry-stored compared to a tea from 2011.

While you may not be able to get something drinkable for that price from your local vendor, there’s certainly drinkable pu’er from that time period in that price range. Of course, old tree / semi-wild pu’er will be more expensive; if genuine, probably in the range of $35-120/cake, depending on the region it’s from. Since the local shop doesn’t seem knowledgeable and you can’t try the tea, why not try some tea from an online vendor like Yunnan Sourcing instead? I think you will get a better value this way, whether you spend $15/cake or $60, and on top of that, you can order samples to try.

It may, in fact, be a recognizable brand, but it’s not one that I recognize just from that description (someone else might recognize it).

Is the store itself connected to Ten Ren / Ten Fu?

Jim Marks said

I appreciate the information and the advice.

But the point was not “I’m trying to buy sheng, from where should I be getting it and what should I be paying”.

The point was “I stumbled across an opportunity, does it make any sense to pursue it”. So far we continue to be in “not enough information” mode. Which is fine. There’s no rush or hurry to buy this bing or any other bing, per se.

We’ve had very different experiences with pricing, but that’s neither here nor there.

Will said

I get what you’re saying. But being able to look at (and try) the tea in person is one usual advantage of buying the tea from a local shop. Another is being able to talk to a knowledgeable sales person. I totally get the general novelty of being able to buy something locally, but given that these two things don’t seem to be the case, and given that you believe the tea is likely to be unremarkable (and I think your guess is likely to be correct), I think “from where should I be getting it and what should I be paying” is exactly the point, because no matter what this tea is, you can probably get a better value (and more information) from another vendor.

When you say that we’ve had different experiences with pricing, do you mean that you don’t find new sheng pu’er in the $12-15/cake price range (whether from large producers or from smaller outfits) drinkable? Brand new Menghai / Dayi 7542 or 8582 is probably not highest on my list of things to drink, and if you’re buying young sheng to drink as-is (rather than aging it), buying old-tree / semi-wild pu’er is definitely a good idea, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “undrinkable”. Assuming it’s no-name factory plantation tea, I don’t think paying more than $20 would be a good idea, because again, there are cheaper, and likely better, options in that category already. So, one idea is to just say to the shop “I don’t know what this is; you don’t know what it is; I’ll give you $15 for it”, and see what they say.

You could try doing a Google images search for ‘普洱’ (pu’er) and ‘虎’ (tiger) and see if anything matches. I didn’t see anything that seemed to exactly match your description. But posting a picture is definitely going to be the thing that is most likely way to get at least the basic information about the producer, etc.

Jim Marks said

Will, we’re talking past each other. Thanks for your help.

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I thought I had Yunnan Sourcing bookmarked, not sure if I do, but here’s the link Jim.


Hope this helps!

Jim Marks said

Insofar as I was able to go through all 350+ images they have for pu-erh and not find it, it was helpful.

It confirms I need to be in the shop when the manager is on hand to discuss the item directly or else I’m not going to learn anything.

If I had realized google was going to fail me, I’d have taken a photo while I was in the shop. It never occurred to me it would be this hard to track down.

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Without a picture, there’s no answer to (a). Regarding (b), you’re looking at anything from US$3 to US$150 or more, with not much correlation between price and quality given retail shenanigans in China.

If the shop carries only one of each cake, and given that the staff have no information, the shop likely displays the cakes for visual interest and nothing more.

Jim Marks said

Not to be an ass, but this response doesn’t actually communicate anything. Your answer amounts to “I don’t know, and it could cost almost anything”.

Why bother to post it?

What it communicates is that you haven’t given adequate information to answer your first question and that there’s no “average” pricing in terms of this type of tea to answer your second question.

And yes, your glib response was unappreciated. Brush up on your forum etiquette before posting again, would you?

“I don’t know, and it could cost almost anything”. For people who didn’t realize this applies to most puerh in the market, I think this is exactly valuable information to learn. Unfortunately (or interestingly) puerh market is a mess. There are few ways to tell quality besides sampling and tasting. There is almost no way to tell when there is no picture or information from the seller.

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Louise said

a) no
b) $1-$300

PeteG said

@Louise…simple & effective.

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I was shopping at my local market this week, and perusing the teas, the owner set out two pu’erhs with tigers on the wrappers… since 2010 was the Year of the Tiger, I have seen lots of different styles, but most printed in red ink. I remembered your post and took note of the one with green printing and green tigers. Also, it had 2009 date in red. Perhaps a match? I looked it up when I got home, but only found one on ebay listed as: 2010 Lucky Tigers Present Auspicious Raw Pu’er Tea 357g. It is the first animal sign commemorative Pu-erh Cake in Yunnan Menghai Dayi Tea Factory. On ebay it is about $40 plus shipping. In my local store it was selling for $60.
Even if it was not the tea you were looking for, I learned a bit and enjoyed the exercise looking! Please let us know when you do get the information from the shop owner… :)

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