A Tea Addict's Journal

The Authentic Taste of Puer Tea and Transnational Interests

May 15, 2020 · 10 Comments

The title of this post is the title of the paper that I’m linking to. Written by Yu Shuenn-Der, the deputy director of the Institute of Ethnology at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, the paper is basically a very good critical summary of the recent history of the puerh fad. If you’ve read this blog with any regularity in the past, it should be of great interest to you.

You can find the rest of the issue for the journal here, which includes two other papers on contemporary tea culture.

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10 responses so far ↓

  • yunnancraft // May 15, 2020 at 9:32 pm | Reply

    hi, nice article, Ive enjoyed reading it. Just note you about “typo” , I think. p102″ e.g., the west or eat side of ” ..I believe should be “east side” . Thanks for sharing again!

  • Karl Drewke // May 16, 2020 at 8:07 am | Reply

    MarshalN: Great article and a very interesting read. Thank you for posting the link.

  • MattCha // May 16, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Reply


    To criticize constructively criticize the article…

    The article itself is Taiwan-centric. I understand that the point of the article was to look at how Taiwan has influenced puerh but I can’t believe that there was no mention of Malaysia. The relationship between Mainland China and Malaysia is significant and makes a greater argument for Mainland China influence.

    I also find it interesting that Korea is mentioned so much. I do quite agree with what has been said as that is true to my experience there at the time. I also understand Korea’s puerh influence from Taiwan is used to make a point but the amount of puerh imported there is insignificant compared to other countries (Maylasia, Singapore, Vietnam, maybe others like Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Russia, etc).


    • MarshalN // May 16, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Reply

      Eh… I’m not sure about the Malaysian angle. From my memory, Malaysia always served as a market more than anything else, and the folks who spearheaded the Malaysian market also had very close ties to Taiwan. Also, these things have word limits imposed by the journals, so you can’t talk about everything

    • Balthazar // May 21, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Reply

      I’m curious about what you mean when you write: “The relationship between Mainland China and Malaysia is significant and makes a greater argument for Mainland China influence.” If the article is Taiwan-centric, that’s probably because Taiwan was/is very much the centre of development in the story being told, the globalization of puer.

      My impression is that much of the puer that has ended up in Malaysia has come through Taiwan (although this is only based on anecdotal information). As a person with great affinity for – but neither the contacts or wallet for – HK stored puer, I am very happy about the increasing availability of puer stored in Malaysia… but as for which market has been more important as a trend-setter, can there really be any doubt that it’s Taiwan’s?

      Thanks for sharing this article, MarshalN. Lots of interesting tidbits I was not aware of.

      • MattCha // June 9, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Reply

        “The relationship between Mainland China and Malaysia is significant and makes a greater argument for Mainland China influence.”
        I have never read a book or paper on the history of puerh but I did live through the time period mentioned in the book drinking puerh in Korea. I remember one day around the tea table in Korea when the discussion was about Malaysia and puerh. I asked the question “Does Malaysia still get their puerh from Taiwan?” And the response was “Not anymore.” This was interesting to me because I thought that they were still mainly influenced by Taiwan at that time. It was a time when Korea was still getting puerh and being influenced by Taiwan but when there was some starting to travel to China.
        What I meant by the above was the quicker reliance away from Taiwan and more toward mainland Chinese influence by Malaysia (and likely many other counties) compared to Korea (which likely imported much less puerh and was more reliant on Taiwan for much longer). I think it would help explain the blurb in the article as the reason mainland China became more influential. Of course, the interest of Mainland China in puerh being the main reason for Mainland’s influence. Then again, it is coming from hearsay in Korea about what was going on in Malaysia so is really just that.
        I also tried looking up any research about countries importing/exporting puerh at the time but there doesn’t seem to be that information available as it was likely not tracked back then.
        I guess my point was that Korea is used as an example in the paper not because it was importing the most puerh, nor because it was the most influential, nor because it is the most representative of how puerh was globalized by Taiwan, but rather because it is the best example of how Taiwan globalized puerh. I don’t think me or anyone else could argue that Taiwan didn’t play the most important role of globalizing puerh.

        • Sue // January 8, 2021 at 7:18 am | Reply

          We do get our Pu fr Taiwan these days but in the past earlyvto mid 90s on, I think it was , it was the Taiwanese who came to Malaysia to buy up old cakes. Malaysia’s tea came mainly via HK in older days.

  • Mike Loeb // August 6, 2020 at 8:14 am | Reply

    Page 4: “Puer, on the other hand, was little known and often disliked due to its bracing earthiness, which was often described as stinky(choupu 臭脯). It took more than fifteen years for Taiwanese merchants to successfully promote this favorite Hong Kong tea in Taiwan, through organizing tasting parties, exhibitions and various forms of publications.”

    This must rank as one of the greatest marketing success stories of all time!

    Thanks for sharing the article.

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