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Pu-erh Tea Packaging

Pu-erh tea is specially packaged for trade, identification, and storage. This packaging can assist tea drinkers and collectors in determining the authenticity of the pu-erh tea.

Individual Cakes

Typical contents of a wrapped Bingchá shown at right.

Pu-erh tea cakes, or Bingchá, are almost always sold with the following:

  • Wrapper: Made usually of thin cotton cloth or cotton paper; shows the tea company/factory, the year of production, the region/mountain of harvest, the plant type, and the recipe number. The wrapper can also contain decals, logos, and artwork. Occasionally, a pu-erh cake will have more than one wrapper.
  • Nèi fēi (內飛): A small ticket indicating the tea factory and brand; it was originally stuck on the tea cake but is now usually embedded into the cake during pressing. It is used as proof, or a possible sign, to the authenticity of the tea by some tea aficionados. Some higher-end pu-erh cakes have more than one nèi fēi embedded in the cake.
  • 180px-menghai-2006-7742-protection-ticket.jpgNèi piào (内票): A larger description ticket or flyer packaged loose under the wrapper. Both aid in assuring the identity of the cake. It usually indicates factory and brand. Also, many nèi piào contain a summary of the tea factories' history and any additional laudatory statements concerning the tea, from its taste and rarity, to its ability to cure diseases and affect weight loss.
  • Bĭng: The tea cake itself. Tea cakes or other compressed pu-erh can be made up of two or more grades of tea, typically with higher grade leaves on the outside of the cake and lower grades or broken leaves in the center. This is done to improve the appearance of the tea cake and improve its sale. Predicting the grade of tea used on the inside takes some effort and experience in selection. However, the area in and around the dimple of the tea cake can sometimes reveal the quality of the inner leaves.

Recently, nèi fēi have become more important in identifying and preventing counterfeits. Menghai Tea Factory in particular has begun microprinting and embossing nèi fēi to also include the vintage year and are production-specific to help identify the cake and prevent counterfeiting through a surfeit of different brand labels.

 

Wholesale

When bought in large quantities, pu-erh tea is generally sold in stacks, referred to as a tŏng (), which are wrapped in bamboo shoot husks, bamboo stem husks, or coarse paper. Some tongs of vintage pu-erh will contain a tŏng piào (筒票), or tong ticket, but it is less common to find them in productions past the year 2000. The number of bĭngchá in a tŏng varies depending on the weight of individual bĭngchá. For instance, one tŏng can contain either of these:

  • Seven 357g-500g bĭngchá
  • Five 250g mini-bĭngchá
  • Ten 100g mini-bĭngchá

Twelve tŏngs are referred to as being one jiàn (), although some producers/factories vary how many tŏng equal one jiàn. A jiàn of tea that is bound together in a loose bamboo basket will usually have a large batch ticket (大票; pinyin: dàpiào) affixed to its side that will indicate information such as the batch number of the tea in a season, the production quantities, tea type, and the factory where it was produced.

A tong of recipe 7742 tea cakes wrapped in bamboo shoot husks shown at right.