Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Changing Landscape of Tea and the 1996 Purple Dayi (Menghai Tea Factory)

 
The first production of the Purple Dayi series

The 1996 Purple Dayi is one of the most well known teacakes from the nineties and one that is heavily speculated upon. To pursue such a teacake is not cheap as the price has become steeply inflated over the years. That said it is a very good tea and the quality stands out from other Menghai TF productions from the same time period. Being the first production of the successful Purple Dayi series combined with possessing market recognition and demand makes this particular batch of teacake an attractive investment for those in the business of trading and selling tea.

As a studious tea drinker who enjoys pursuing unique and historical experiences with tea the 1996 Purple Dayi represents an important milestone in the development and direction of puerh tea. The history of puerh tea is very much stored in its teacakes. The key productions from each decade have unique stories that are representative of historical events and at times important changes that contributes to the rich history of puerh tea. Throughout the different eras of tea production and appreciation the evolution and changes in puerh tea continues to this day as tea enthusiasts and producers strive to best capture and benefit from the magic of the tea leaf.

The 1996 Purple Dayi heralds the beginning of a new era – Privatization. Since the 1950s under the rule of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, tea factories in China were owned and controlled by the government and operated under one company "China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import & Export Corporation - Yunnan Tea Branch" (CNNP). The government had allowed privatization to return in the late 1980s but the changes were slow and did not really become visible until the mid 1990s through products like the Purple Dayi. Private ownership allowed for greater freedom in the pursuit of capitalism. In poverty stricken China making money was seen as the way to alleviate and improve living conditions for yourself and your family. Such extreme hardship can cultivate extreme measures and acute outcomes. At this time tea companies were no longer under the strict authoritarian monitoring and control of the government and the market was about to experience the acuteness of both the good and bad aspects that come with the single minded pursuit of capitalism. In the years that follow the once universally used CNNP label and wrapper that was symbolic of government run productions would begin to diminish and fade into the background. Innovative marketing alongside greater product diversity came to the forefront and was employed to attract greater numbers of puerh tea enthusiasts which prompted immense growth and capital flow into the tea market. For better and for worse the reemergence of privatization has created and shaped the tea market we see today. - Read more on the China's Tea Market

Next: A Tea Session with the 1996 Purple Dayi

(L) Government issued CNNP wrapper used universally for puerh teacakes (R) Early Purple Dayi wrapper issued by the newly privatized Menghai TF in 1996. Ironically at the time of the product release the new wrapper was viewed with distrust and it took many years to be accepted (as people had become so accustomed to seeing and buying CNNP issued products).
 
The red color of the embedded inner ticket identifies the 1996 first batch production. Later reproductions from 2001 to 2004 would use a purple color Nei Fei.

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