Saturday, September 16, 2006

“Simplified Characters” vs “Traditional Characters” (simple comparison)

Ocpuerh had the following comments under topic "This is my first Puerh Tea Post in my Blog" on 12 September 2006.

Dear Cloud...Thank for the info...WHat would make one Royal...Was there different series of that cake produced with different grade leaves, or aren't they all the same recipe each year, making only one production type. And what do you say is the dirrerence between the Simplified CHaracter and the Traditional Character (like the 8653)..Or is it just a different wrapper? Thanks for your blogspace..OCP

I am now writing on the second issue, that is, the differences between Zhongcha Brand Simplified Chinese Characters Seven-sons Tea Cake (hereinafter called “Simplified Characters”) and Zhongcha Brand Traditional Chinese Characters Seven-sons Tea Cake (hereinafter called “Traditional Characters”).

As I said in my previous preliminary post that there are differences in a few areas such as tea leaves used, tea cake moulds, aging years, wrapping papers.

I would like to discuss these two tea cakes in the following different aspects in a summary way:-

Aging years
First of all, the market in the Chinese puerh community has a general mutual understanding that the “Simplified Characters” were produced in the middle of 1970s to early 1980s while the “Traditional Characters” were produced since 1986 (because of the Tea Code: 8653) to early of 1990s.

In other words, the genuine 1970s or early 1980s “Simplified Characters” was ceased to be produced since the middle of 1980s. Therefore, we can make a conclusion that the genuine “Simplified Characters” definitely have at least 20 years plus aging years now.

On the other hand, because the “Traditional Characters” had been producing since 1986 to early 1990s, the aging time for the “Traditional Characters” are just ranging from 10 years to 20 years. We can say that “Traditional Characters” is certainly a younger tea than the “Simplified Characters”.

Unfortunately, the issue of the “Traditional Characters” were complicated by re-manufacturing with similar wrapping papers since around 1998 from Xiaguan Tea Factory. Therefore, it is the same in the Chinese puerh community that people newly entered into the puerh world are easily confused by the late 1990s “Traditional Characters”.

Keep it simple at this stage if you are a beginner by remembering the following information:-
“Simplified Characters” = 1970s to 1980s middle
“Traditional Characters” = 1986 to 1990s early
Forget those exceptions at this stage. There are always exceptions in the markets.

It is believed that both the “Simplified Characters” and the “Traditional Characters” were producd by Xiaguan Tea Factory.

This is the general principle only. It is believe that there is an exception for one of the series of “Simplified Characters” which were produced by a tea factory other than Xiaguan Tea Factory. Please read on to see which tea factory it is.

Wrapping papers
The common warpping characteristics of both the ““Simplified Characters” and the “Traditional Characters” were that they do not have any inside tickets (“neifei”) nor any description tickets (“neipiao”). Therefore, even though some “Simplified Characters” and the “Traditional Characters” are very good tea, people are not willing to buy because they do not have any significant identifications. When people buy these two series of tea cake, they can just make reference to the tea cake itself only.

If the wrapping paper is still original without being opened, you can still identify between them because the printings of the wrapping paper are obviously different.

However, if the tea cake is bare (I mean without any wrapping paper), it is difficult for people to identify .

In general, there are differences between the printing on the wrapping papers. Please making reference to the cicules in the photos and compare.

Tea Leaves used
Since I was not the producer of these tea cakes, I am unable to figure out the original tea leave production areas in Yunnan by simply drinking the tea. However, by an old puerh tea collector’s sense, what I can tell is that “Simplified Characters” tea leaves seems to be compressed with those tea leaves similar to the masterpieces like “Blue Print Round Tea Cake” (hereinafter called “Blue Print”). When I brew and compare with “Simplified Characters” and “Blue Print Round Tea Cake” at the same time, I found that they are similar in taste by brewing them in a stronger way. The obvious differences between the “Simplified Characters” and the “Blue Print” are that “Blue Print” had a strong tea “qi” and tasted richer in a old tea sense.

However, the tea leaves used in “Traditional Characters” were not as good as the material used in “Simplified Characters”. That may explain the reason why the selling price of “Traditional Characers” is always half of the “Simplified Characters”.

Raw and Ripe (Sheng and Shou)
[I am sorry that I do not agree with the translation “cooked” because I think there is nothing to do with cooking when producing Shou puerh tea. Actually, I would prefer saying that it is a process of “Artificial Fermentation” (“Wodui”), however, I don’t want make it complicated at this stage, just “Ripe Puerh” is appropriate.]

To keep it simple, I would like to say as follows:-
1. “Simplified Characters” - must be Raw because there is no discovery of any Ripe “Simplified Characters”.
2. “Traditional Characters” – may be Raw or Ripe because some early 1990s “Traditional Characters” was found to be Ripe tea.

Tea Cake Appearances from different Moulds
Since both “Simplified Characters” and the “Traditional Characters” were compressed by machines, the compression force was too strong that the tea cakes right now are still very hard. Therefore, people also called these two series of aged tea cake as “Discus Tea Cake” which means very hard. Some people called it as an “Iron Cake” or “Iron Tea Cake”. I have expressed my view on this issue in my comment in this community. There is nothing to do with “IRON” except extracting its meaning of “HARD”. Therefore, I think “Discus” can make people imagine that the tea cake is actually is hard, strong, heave and having a round disk shape.


Once you learn that the both “Simplified Characters” and “Traditional Characters” can be called as “Discus Tea Cake”, then, how do we distinguish between them?
This is a very practical issue.

Actually, it is not easy and quit hard because (if the tea cake is bare without any wrapping papers) their appearance shape are quit similar. We have to distinguish them by view and pay attention to the the formula of tea leaves from the surface and back of the bare tea cake. This needs a long time practice and experience.

The discussion up to the present moment can be more complicated by telling you that both “Simplified Characters” and “Traditional Characters” has two different appearance shapes. In short, “Simplified Characters” has two different shapes from different moulds while “Traditional Characters” has the same situation.

In the series of “Discus Tea Cake”, the shape of the tea cake moulds can be divided into two categories:-

1. traditional shape with a dome-shape hollow. [A0037 in my Private Photo Album]
2. disk shape without any dome-shape hollow but with some nails from the back. [A0036 in my Private Photo Album]

Reading till here, tired? A lot of information?
OK, then, I would like to advise that the aforesaid exception of manufacturer of “Simplified Characters” is “Kunming Tea Factory”. The market believes an exception that the “Simplified Characters” wrapping up with a disk shape tea cake without any dome-shape hollow but with some nails from the back was actually produced by “Kunming Tea Factory”. Why? Because there a sample left in Yunnan tea importing and exporting company on which it was written that the sample tea was “Kunming Tea Factory”.

Well, today, I just give the general ideas of some simple differences between “Simplified Characters” and “Traditional Characters”. Even in our Chinese discussion forum, we can argue and discuss on this issue for several hundred posts. Therefore, please feel fee it ask further questions in order to let me know what kind of area you would like to know. I think the most effective way to learn and enhance knowledge of yourself is by Q&A.

Cloud (Hong Kong)


At September 17, 2006 10:04 pm, Blogger ocpuerh said...

Dear CLouds-Thank you for your full response. The aging and dating really helped a lot. So when they are called Iron cakes, this is really meaning that all the molds that made these cakes are metal, right? I imagine it would be hard to differentiate the years without the wrapper. It seems in your pictures you have these in their original outer wrappers alo. Thanks again. You mentioned the blue stamp which tastes similiar. I wondered if that issue also came out in the 60's or 70's. ALso, in ENglish it is blue stamp, but is it actually a blue green hand stamped mark on the wrapper? I appreciate your insights..OCP


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