Nov 23, 2011

wondering what 7542 is like after 10 years?

Extra notes: Just because a tea has a wrapper that looks the same as this one, it does NOT necessarily mean it is the same tea. Due to the chaotic system of CNNP, I myself have quite a few teas of this same wrapper (such as the two mentioned here) and I'm sure you would see many more out there. They could be completely different.

Before I start, let me clarify that a lot of opinions in this post are my personal opinions. This doesn't mean these opinions are not shared by many people - in fact, they are confirmed by a lot of tea friends and tea professionals. But I do want to point out that in discussions of dry-stored vs. wet-stored puerh, there are always different opinions and different observations. The differences may not be about right or wrong, but rather due to individual tastes and from which angle the observation is made. The collecting and storage process of "88 sheng" is largely from the collector's own narration, so I would take it pretty much as a fact instead of opinion.

7542 is one of the most popular Dayi products. It's known for its solid quality, plain price (that's if Dayi doesn't keep inflating prices) and typical Meng Hai style (thick liquor texture and powerful sweet aftertaste). Although 7542 is intrinsically good, it's current reputation has a lot to do with the famous "88 sheng" (88青饼), which is 7542 product from approximately 1988 (most likely from 1989-1993), collected by a Hong Kong merchant Chen Guoyi in 1993, for about $2 a cake (now, everybody is jealous...). 10 years later, in 2003, when Mr. Chen released his collection to the market, it was sold out very fast at unprecedentedly high prices. The current market price for 88 sheng is more than $1500 or even $2000 a cake, that's if one can find an authentic and well-stored cake.

88 sheng is a very interesting phenomenon in a few ways.
1. It's a legend of 7542, an inexpensive tea to begin with. It demonstrates that the value of a tea doesn't entirely depend on original cost of tea leaves.

2. It's a legend of dry storage and relatively dry storage. The tea was stored in Yunnan (supposedly dry storage) for its first a few years, and then stored in non-humidified warehouse in Hong Kong, which was, at that time, very untypical for Hong Kong tea industry. Nowadays, more and more collectors in mainland China, Hong Kong (such as the famous Cloud) and Taiwan (such as the famous Shi Kunmu) favor dry (or relatively dry) storage. More or less, the confidence on dry storage originated from 88 sheng.

3. It's a legend that's Not replicable. Many legends are like this. Once it has happened, it won't easily happen again. Otherwise it's not a legend. Nowadays, 10-year-old 7542, although not extremely easy to obtain, is not rare. But if you see one, including the one in my collection that I am going to talk about, please do NOT think it must be comparable to 88 sheng. In my opinion, 88 sheng is not replicable for several reasons:

a. Although people say, big factory products like Dayi's have "stable formula", it's all relative. Tea, as a biology products, can't possibly have absolutely stable formula. Not 7542 products across all those years are of the "same formula". Besides, life of each batch of aged puerh is unique. Even when strictly controlled storage conditions are used (as nowadays more and more used in Guangdong, China and Malaysia), it's impossible to guarantee the same 10-year outcome.

b. 7542 production is larger and larger. Even for the same quality, probably no one should expect to make as great a fortune out of 7542 as Mr. Chan did. No one should... but "88 sheng" did ignite many people's dream of fortune :-p

c. When 7542 was first released to the market, it was one of the few, if not the only one, (relatively) dry-stored big factory routine product puerh over 10 years of age. It changed many people's view of puerh, especially people who supposed puerh all had damp taste and didn't think they liked puerh at all. So the legend of 88 sheng had its historical background. Later on, such style is more and more commonly seen, and is no longer deemed as so much of a unique style.

d. The early 2000s puerh madness also contributed to the legend of 88 sheng. Some people, after tasting 88 sheng, expressed slight disappointment. Usually it's not because they didn't think the tea was great, but because they had expected more "out-of-the-world" taste that they didn't eventually find in the tea. To my understanding, the problem is less likely of 88 sheng, but more likely of unrealistic expectation.  

Now here is my own version of  13/14-year-old 7542.

I think it's a very powerful tea. The aroma is not as prominent as some other puerh of similar age. But it gives great warmth and strong sweet aftertaste. The tea is already quite drinkable. But it should have great potential for further aging. When it comes to sheng, I am more of an "aroma" person. I value the honey-like aroma in some sheng, and often fear that such aroma would disappear with aging. But the strength of this tea is not at its aroma, but at its rich texture and thick flavor. So to me, there is no fear of loss in aging :-)

Overall, this is one of the sheng puerh that I like very much. But there are a few other sheng that I like better. I don't think this tea is a legendary tea (otherwise I would become so rich haha...). But I think it's a great tea.

Nov 11, 2011

Hua Luogeng - a tea loving mathematician

Today is the 101st birthday of Hua Luogeng (华罗庚,1010-1985), one of the greatest contemporary Chinese mathematicians. He was an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and a foreign academician of United States National Academy of Sciences.

The picture above is today's Google logo on its Hong Kong website ( The 1+1 indicates Hua's significant contribution to solving Goldbach's Conjecture before its "1+1" stage. Up to now, Goldbach's Conjecture is not completely solved yet and deemed by many mathematicians as the most difficult mathematic problem ever.

In China, Hua Luogeng is best known for his innovative work on Integrated Approach, which was applied in many industries, as well as various other aspects of the society. In the google picture, the teapot and teacup indicate this achievement of Hua's. Hua was known to be a tea lover. His work of Integrated Approach germinated when he boiled water for tea and pondered what would be the most efficient plan to boil the water, rinse the tea ware and brew the tea.

Hua was not only a genius scientist, but also a very interesting person.

In 1930, at the age of 20, he was invited to work as an assistant professor in Tsinghua University, one of the best universities in China. By that time, he only had a middle school (equivalent to 10th grade in the States) diploma but was already one of the most promising young mathematicians in China.

Between 1936 and 1938, he was a visiting scholar in Cambridge University and published his influential work on Gaussian theories. At that time (and even today), a graduate degree in a world class university like Cambridge would guarantee one a tenured position in China. But Hua didn't apply for a degree diploma, because he didn't think it would make any difference for his life.  

In 1938, China was already dragged into war, and most provinces of the country were under Japanese military occupation. Some of the best universities and best scholars of China recessed to the Southwest. There, life was hard, people were short of everything, but they continued their academic lives, and drank tea every day! (I expressed my admiration of Kunming Era in this blog.) At that time, for many Chinese overseas, China was the home that they couldn't go back. But in the year of 1938, Hua left Cambridge for Kunming, joined his Tsinghua University colleagues in teaching and mathematics research.

In 1946, Hua was invited by Princeton University as a researcher. He worked there till 1948. In 1948, he was awarded a tenured position as a full professor in University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. But in 1950, he gave up his tenure and returned to China. In the next decades, throughout all the political storms in China, he wasn't treated fairly all the time. I am sure he and his family would have had a much more peaceful and comfortable life in the States. But by giving up that kind of life, Hua made significant contributions to mathematics research in China. In addition, a whole generation of Chinese mathematicians and computer scientists owed their enlightenment and mentorship to Hua Luogeng.

In 1985, Hua Luogeng died of heart attack in Tokyo, Japan, right after he finished an hour-long research lecture. He experienced a fast death at the podium. I think, this is one of the best and luckiest ways of dying.

So today we raise our cups to celebrate the life of Hua Luogeng.

Nov 2, 2011

blog sale: Petr Novák tea ware (2)

The last blog sale of Petr Novák tea ware generated a wave of excitement. I was contacted by quite a few people about each of the single-copy teapots and tea sets. This enthusiasm (mixed with my own selfish desire of having more of Petr's tea wares...) led to the decision that we should carry Petr's tea ware in our web store. So now we've got more teapots, tea sets and tea bowls!

The last blog sale was very helpful for me to learn about American and Canadian tea drinkers' preferences. Besides, not all Petr Novák fans' wishes were fulfilled from the last blog sale. So before the new shipment of Petr's tea wares go to the web store, they are available in this blog sale, with a special discount. There are various factors to consider for the store prices and they are not finally determined yet. But it's guaranteed that prices in this blog sale are much lower than future in-store prices, and the prices are some of the best that one can get in North America. Those of you who participated in the last blog sale may notice that prices of this sale are even better. For this we thank Petr for coordinating this bulk order!

US domestic shipping for each piece is $7 (insurance included). $2 shipping for each additional piece. 

Shipping to Canada by first class mail is $9. $2 for each additional piece (no insurance, shipment number is available but online tracking is usually unavailable until after the package is delivered... yeah it's silly...). Shipping to Canada by priority mail is$20. $2 for each additional piece (with partial and dwindled insurance, a better online tracking, but sometimes slower than first class mail... it's puzzling...)

People in Europe or on other continents may consider contacting Petr directly through his blog, his website, or by email (which can be found in his blog). It's much better to get it directly him to avoid multiple times of international shipping, save the costs and painful waiting. But of course you are welcome to get it from me if you are so thirsty for a specific piece of work!

Following photos are from Petr's google album. You can find much more photos of his other tea wares in that album. Just watching the album is a lot of fun, especially if you love window shopping ;-)

Sizes are measured with a ruler, precise to + - 5%. 

Volumes are directly from Petr. I didn't re-measure them, but by experience, they all look quite precise to me. I've realized that recently there is the trend of measuring volumes with chemistry lab accuracy :-p So if you feel you really really need the specific volume (I am talking to you science and engineering geeks...), please let me know how you would like it to be measured (e.g., to the rim, room temperature, by weight of water replacement or graduated cylinder...) 

If interested, please email gingkoheight at gmail dot com in 1 week. First come, first serve. All questions are welcome! If I can't answer them, Petr himself will!

Items will be shipped in 1 week but sooner if possible. 

Some complementary "gifts with purchase" are at the bottom of the list.


1. White Shiboridashi Set, with one shiboridashi and one tea bowl. 
There are 5 sets of them. All similar but with small color, pattern and size (+ - 3%) variation. 
Volume: 110ml. Diameter of the shiboridashi is 3.75"

2. Black clay teapot.
Volume is 130ml. White glazed surface inside.

3. Shiboridashi set with one shiboridashi and one bowl.
Volume is 140ml. Diameter of the shiboridashi is 4".

4. Black Shiboridashi Set with one shibo and one bowl.
Volume is 110. Diameter of the shiboridashi is 3.75"

5. Snakeskin Shiboridashi Set with one shibo and one bowl. (This style has quite a few fans on teachat!)
Volume: 140ml. Diameter of the shiboridashi: 3.75"

Oh they are all so handsome! I want to keep them all! :-D

I am not sure if it's a little too devil to add to the temptation... but here are some complementary "gifts with purchase". Buyers please choose one :-D

These are some teas in my personal collection that's not available in market, at least not before I secure more of them :-)

1. Tie Guan Yin red tea, 2 small packs with 5-7g each. Well I guess you can find some TGY red tea in market, but not this one, because it's made by my friend :-D

2. 1960s Phoenix Dan Cong, 8g. Haha, I know...

3. 1996 Menghai Tuo, 10g. Somewhat similar to the 1996 Xiaguan Butterfly Spring Tuo, with a deeper tone. 

4. 2011 Wild Oolong and 2010 Wild Oolong, 10g each. 

5. Tong Cheng Small Orchid old tree cultivar, 15g. Similar to the Tong Cheng Small Orchid in the web store but from old trees. 

Besides, an option of teacup -
6. Korean celadon small teacup. It holds about 60-75ml. Diameter is 2.75". (I think I only have 2 or 3 of these, so first come, first serve.)