When buying a pu-erh tea cake in its original packaging, you may notice 4 numbers located on the front of the wrapper. In this article, we will clarify what these numbers mean and why they were initially used.
The 4 digits are referred to as a “Pu-erh Recipe”. These numbered recipes came around during the 1950s through 1990s when only a handful of pu-erh factories dominated the industry.
What Is A Pu-erh Recipe?
The recipe always follows a specific pattern. For example, let’s take a look at a tea cake with the recipe 7581.
The first two numbers:
These refer to the year that the tea recipe was first produced. In this case, it’s 1975.
The third number:
This one indicates the size of the raw tea leaves, or maocha. 0 being the smallest leaf and 9 being the largest.
The fourth number:
The last number represents the tea factory where the pu-erh was manufactured. 1 represents the Kunming tea factory, one of the most famous pu-erh producers in China.
Some Of The Most Famous Pu-erh Factories In China include:
1 — Kunming tea factory.
2 — Menghai Tea Factory in Xishuangbanna.
3 — Xiaguan Tea Factory in Dali.
4 — Pu-erh Tea Factory, Pu-erh.
5 — Lincang Tea Factory, Lincang.
Do Tea Factories Today Stick With These Recipes?
Tea factories today still produce pu-erh cakes based on these recipes which were developed 50 and 70 years ago.
For example, if 7581 was an exceptionally favored recipe, pu-erh producers will still make pu-erh based on that recipe today. Of course, many things come into play here. A 7581 pu-erh produced in recent years might taste good or might be entirely off. Nowadays we do not recommend investing in cakes solely off the recipe number. Many factories use the fame that these recipes once had to make consumers believe that the tea is worth the money.
Is All Pu-erh Made Using Recipes?
No, a pu-erh tea cake doesn’t have to be produced using a recipe and doesn’t need to have its own recipe either.
The Additional Three Digits
Sometimes there is also a three digit number standing after the original 4 digit recipe. The first digit represents the year it was produced, while the other two represent the production number within that year.
For example, 7581- 602, would indicate the second production in 2006 of pu-erh recipe 7581. Sometimes these numbers can say a lot about the cake since certain batches are made with higher quality maocha. The best way to know is by looking at the price — try not to buy the cheapest cake of a presumably good recipe, because it might be made with low-quality raw leaves. The next best way to know is by seeing what other people say about this cake through tea forums and reviews.