Hong Tai Chang Pu-erh Empire (鸿泰昌圆茶) | TEA SIDE
18 Aug 2018

Round Tea Hong Tai Chang (鸿泰昌圆茶)

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The tea company “Hong Chang” was founded in 1888 by Kunming resident Ma Hongchang on the tea mountain of Ibang. In the early 1930s a representative of the next generation of Ma Shaochang family opened a branch in Bangkok called “Hong Tai”, while its products were labeled with the “Hong Tai Chang” brand. This is how the history of the exclusive brand, which stood at the forefront of Pu-erh export, began.

China, Great Wall, 1880s.

Great Wall, 1880s

Later, agent companies have been opened in Hong Kong and all regions of South-East Asia. You can say, it was the first real "Pu-erh Empire" in the history of Puer tea.

Thai brand “Hong Tai Chang” gradually grew up with the support of the head brand “Hong Chang”. When “Hong Chang” appeared on the mountains of Ibang, the main goal for it was the production of the highest quality pu-erhs. The cakes of this brand that have survived to this day have age of more than 70-80 years, and are close in quality to the best samples of extra-class pu-erhs from any variety of large-leaf material.

'50s Hong Tai Chang raw pu’erh cake Nei fei

Nei fei of Hong Tai Chang raw pu’erh cake of the 50s

Following the gradual expansion of “Hong Chang”, as well as the continuous growth of the “Hong Tai Chang” itself, the latter began to create its own history. For the production of a large amount of tea, It used raw materials from the tea regions of Thailand - Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Following the rapid growth of the brand in overseas markets, its popularity was also widely spread in the Chinese puer world.

Then the Second World War broke out, and with it, the quiet life of “Hong Tai Chang” came to an end, and a period of further stumbling began. The Japanese army launched military operations on the southern borders of China, and the paths for exporting Yunnan tea to the south were closed.

Japanese troops enter Hong Kong via the Shenzhen River, Dec 1941

Japanese troops enter Hong Kong via the Shenzhen River in December 1941

At the same time, the communication between “Hong Tai Chang” with its parent company from Ibang was rupted. Then came the time of the founding of the PRC (People's Republic of China), the private enterprise of the “Hong Chang” company was terminated, and a form of cooperation came to replace it. Eventually, the formation of people's communes completely nullified the existence of the old tea brand. The headquarters of the “Hong Chang” Tea House, located directly on the mountains of Iban, closed after the start of their activities.

Communist meeting, 1949

Communist meeting, 1949

From that moment, “Hong Tai Chang” finally separated from the mother's brand and independently entered an entirely new stage of its development. Having passed this period, the thai company has become well tempered and capable to withstand all difficulties.

For its pu-erhs it collected raw materials from all corners of the north of Indochina (Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos). Finally, a new large kingdom arose in the foreign pu-erh tea market. Founded in its time by the Chinese, this kingdom still exists outside of China, symbolizing the true spirit of pu-erh tea.

It is believed that, compared to the long-suffering brand of imperial Fulu teas (福禄 贡 茶), the fate of “Hong Tai Chang” is much more successful. The beginning of the last century was an unsettling time of continuous changes, and due to the instability of the political situation inside the country, tea producers one after another turned to exports.

Passing through adversity, the current “Hong Tai Chang” has developed its sales market in Hong Kong, Macau, and all other countries of South-East Asia. And now the pu-erhs of this brand have become an indispensable product for all tea-drinking Chinese living in emigration.

Tong of Hong Tai Chang raw pu’erh of the 50s

Tong of Hong Tai Chang raw pu’erh of the 50s, is kept by a collector in Hong Kong

In Pu-erh Tea Museum’s showcase of the extra-class pu-erhs, the early period “Hong Tai Chang” cake occupies an honorable place. There is a possibility that this cake is included in the honorary list mainly because it embodies the die-hard spirit of the Chinese who have found themselves in a foreign land. Somewhere abroad there is still a pu-erh empire founded by the Chinese, is this not a cause for pride? Generation by generation, “Hong Tai Chang” accompanies of Chinese wanderers, and when they are yearning for the homeland, they can be comforted by the fact that there are their compatriots who make Puer tea in a foreign country. Perhaps, this is the essence of the brand.

2006 Hong Tai Chang 0802 raw pu’erh tea

The Hong Tai Chang tradition is still alive. Thai raw pu’erh HTC 2006.

We can say that the “Hong Tai Chang” cakes are ones of the exclusive representatives of the pu-erh tradition - a bright flourish in the history of pu-erh tea.


Translation from Chinese - Sergei Kosheverov

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