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Xia Guan Cooked Brick 80? 90?

Pu-erh Historian time again !!!

The 80/90 Xia Guan cooked bricks – used to be quite available, but not anymore – have at least 5 different versions. Its production spanned from the early 80’s to the mid 90’s. Knowing the intricate differences among the wrappers – as is quite often the case for pu-erhs! – is the key to narrowing down the potential vintage of the brick.

The two major groups are distinguished by the print on the wrapper “Net Weight 250g” and “Net Content 250g”:

“Net Weight” version – it appears as two characters “Jin Zhong”, and is generally considered to be the 80’s vintage:

“Net Content” version – it appears as three characters “Jin Han Lian”, and is generally considered later than the “Net Weight” – late 80’s to mid 90’s. Depending on the print of the simplified “Factory 厂” character, this group can be further divided into two periods:

The short “Factory” version (as shown below) is considered to be the earlier one (late 80 ~ 90’s) in the Net Content group:

The long “Factory” version (as shown below) is considered to be the later ones (mid 90’s):

The XG brick we are offering match the features of the Lot 348 brick in the 2018 L&H Auction:

(1) Net Content

(2) the paper is thin and has a horizontal texture

(3) the simplified “factory 厂 “ character is short.

There was a very informative discussion on T4U:

T4U discussion on the Xia Guan cooked cake vintage

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1999 Da Du Gang

A customer sent me the link to the offering of 99 Da Du Gang from SunSIng and asked my opinion about this tea. It is undoubtedly, to me, one of the finest 99 among all the mighty 99 celebrities (Green Big Tree, Yi Chan Hao, etc.) However, I was puzzled by this offering as there appears to have no nei-fei and no nei-piao?

According to the Yearbook, there were two batches of the 99 Da Du Gang. You can easily tell them apart by the larger nei-piao (one in full Chinese, and the other in two languages) and the smaller nei-fei (one typical Chung Cha, and the other in all red letters). In general, the all-Chinese nei-piao one is considered the first ever batch.

If you like to dig deeper about this pu-erh, CloudTea has a wonderful article about the history of it.

I have never seen a batch without any nei-fei or nei-piao. Obviously, SunSing is a well-established tea house. So let me just say – I am not aware of such a batch.

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97/99 Pre-XZH Cakes Sourced by Mr. Chen

“San He Tang” was established by Mr. Chen in Tainan, Taiwan in 1998 as a place to share and sell yixing teapots and aged pu-erhs. “Xi-Zhi Hao” was started in 2004 and the first XZH production was in 2005.

So the two 1997 and 1997 cakes were definitely not “XZH”, and were most likely acquired by Mr. Chen in the early year of San He Tang. Exactly who was the producer is a mystery to me. We acquired these two cakes along with our purchase of 2005 XZH (those good old days ….) They were, and still are, unwrapped. Mr. Chen prepared some XZH wrappers for me just in case I like them wrapped. On one wrapper, he wrote “1997 Yu Wu Zhen Shan Yeh Sheng (Wild) Cha”, and on the other wrapper “1999 Meng Sa Da Shu (Big Tree) Cha”. MengSa was one of the Six Famous Tea Mountains around YiWu, and MengSa as a town was once a very important center along the tea-horse trade route.

It was not uncommon in the late 90’s, the time when Taiwanese producers started to visit Yunnan and initiated the hype of “Pu-erh”, to have pu-erh cakes imported to Taiwan unwrapped. One good example is the famous Zhen-Chun-Ya Hao as shown below. Please note I have no confirmation of any link between 97/99 Mr. Chen cakes to the Zhen-Chun-Ya.

We have only the last 2 and 3/4 of the 97 cakes left. We will offer samples of the 97 cakes, but not the whole piece. We still have a few 99 cakes to offer. The 97 cakes to me were the “dream” of what great aged YiWu cakes should be. The 99 ones are close but still have a bit more complexity to develop.

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Opening a tong of 2000 Kumming Lan Yin Iron Cakes

Opening a complete Tong of pu-erhs has become a rarer and rarer experience to have – especially if the tong is of the very traditional style. It’s almost like a sin to break open one of these. However, to keep Hou De running we sometimes have to do so ; )

Here is a complete tong of 2000 Kumming Tea Factory Lan Yin Iron Cakes. Rocky (our German shepherd mix) was curious to witness the whole criminal activity. I still feel upset every time to see the silverfish gang had trashed the wrappers – although it is not unexpected. But … Luckily, after I opened one cake with the worst wrapper condition, the cake inside, after dusting off with a soft brush, looked in good condition.

That’s a trade-off: leaving the cakes inside their original tong (especially the traditional bamboo sheath) usually results in better and more complex aging. However, they are also more vulnerable to the damage caused by the Silverfish gang.

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Houston Winter Storm and Power/Water Outage

Dear Hou De Friends,

Like many Houstonians, the winter storm had caused power and water outages to my family for a couple of days. Things are looking better now – I will keep my finger crossed, as so many are still suffering and another freezing night is forecasted to come. Once everything is back to normal, we will process your orders and reply to your emails asap.

Guang ; )

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We decided to maximize our social distance by driving 8 hours away from Houston to the Caprock Canyon State Park in Texas to celebrate Christmas in a remote style. Big open space and big open sky!

Your support to the re-started Hou De has been strong! Thanks to all of you. With the coming of 2021, we already planned the introduction of several Heavy-weight 20-year vintages pu-erhs and some very aged oolongs. So check back Hou De soon, stay safe, and wish for a much better 2021!

Irene, Guang, Renee and Rianna – human group

Biscuit and Rocky – dog group

Sky, Coco and Bluebell – Serama chicks group

(I know… we are a biiig family …. )

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Shuang Jiang Meng Ku Rong Xi Tea Co.

After I posted the Mother Tree’s Tea on Hou De, I did a bit more research on the tea producer – full name is Shuang Jiang Meng Ku Rong Xi Tea Co. “Shuang Jiang Meng Ku” is the location of the tea company, “Rong Xi” is the last name of the owner’s family. I have always liked their offerings – and honestly think the CP-value of their teas is (should probably say “was”) very good.

Meng Ku Ring Xi official website:

I searched for the Bing Dao Village on Google Earth, and soon realized the village is just upstream of the Meng Ku Tea Co. on the Meng Ku River:

Their information on BaiDu says (here is the link):



The predecessor of Mengku Rong’s Tea Factory was the Mengku Tea Preparation Factory, which was founded in 1993. In 1999, the factory acquired the state-owned enterprise “Shuangjiang County Tea Factory”, which was auctioned and auctioned. The company has developed into a fixed asset of 30 million yuan and annual production An exquisite tea processing enterprise with an output of 700-900 tons, a delivery room of 20,000 square meters, and an area of ​​63 acres. It has registered three major brand trademarks: “Mengku”, “Qinggang” and “Mannbo”. The main tea area is Mengku Big Snow Mountain and Banpo Bing Dao Mountain.

I don’t know about you … but I notice the last sentence: “the main tea area is MengKu Big Snow Mountain and Banpo Bing Dao Mountain”! Before Bing Dao became very famous, Big Snow Mountain already gained popularity. Xi-Zhi Hao’s 2007 Dian Gu used raw tea leaves from this region – and after Lao Ban Zhan, 2007 Dian Gu is my most favorite XZH pu-erh!

Guess that’s why I’ve always liked Meng Ku offerings. Premium quality, premium CP-value. I know the Mother Tree’s Tea has become kind of expensive – and unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to buy more in 2006. Other Meng Ku’s offerings are still more reasonable than big names like Meng Hai Tea Co, or Xia Guan Tea Co.

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US$ 85 a Pot of New Bing Dao Pu-erh! White Tea!?

As I was posting the 2005 Meng Ku 1st-generation Mother Tree’s Tea, Youtube somehow picked up my interest and randomly suggested some videos. Now this is an interesting one from a Taiwan tea merchant Mr. Chang who travelled to Bing Dao:

@ 3:01 of the video, they showed the pale green liquor of the tea .. OMG, I can feel my stomach hurt just by looking at such pale green pu-erh liquor:

How much did it cost to brew one pot of Bing Dao tea? US$ 85 @ 3:47:

I remember when I was still buying pu-erhs before 2012, the liquor from a new pu-erh was never this light pale green. I had noticed, however, the liquor and taste had gradually become more green-tea like – one of the reasons I lost interest in buying any pu-erhs since then.

This white tea-like Bing Dao pu-erh is simply … eye-opeing.

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Old Hou De Sample Packs

Yesterday when I was digging through a box simply labeled as “Puerh Black Tea Samples”. It’s a box full of tea samples, either we received from tea producers like XZH or Chen Guang He Tang, or Hou De sample packs that were not sold. Most samples are pre-2012 – that was about the time when we stopped buying any pu-erhs at all.

I found one sample pack that still has our previous house & Hou De Asian Art address on it – and it is a 2005 XZH Lao Ban Zhan sample pack, still sealed! Since we no longer live in that house, I masked the house address. If you still have sample packs with this old address (zip code 77077), then you are really a long-time customer of Hou De : ) We rented a PO Box later (I think around 2006) to represent Hou De.

Imagine a time when we were offering samples of XZH (1) Lao Ban Zhan (2) You Le Remote Mountain and (3) Nan Nuo Purple Tips …

The XZH Lao Ban Zhan sample has been sealed since 2005. After I cut away the heat-sealed line and opened the zip, a very concentrated ripe fruity aroma rushed to my nose. Of course, I could not wait to make a tea out of it. It was surprisingly young – I guess due to the fact it has not had fresh air and always kept indoor – but very concentrated in fruity aroma and camphor-like spiciness. What was most interesting was the whole body sensation out of the tea – normally I don’t like to describe cha qi, as it is a very personal feeling and can be misleading. But there was a sensation “climbing” all the way from stomach to my head and left a tingling feeling in the scalp! So very strange and interesting.