Trading and Batch Codes
During China’s period of nationalized industry, the three tea factories that produced Pu-Erh tea were the Menghai Tea Factory, the Kunming Tea Factory, and the Xiaguan Tea Factory.
Sometime in the 1970’s the government decided that the factories needed to have codes to identify the different teas being produced by the three factories. The trading and batch code system was the result of this decision.
The codes consist of 4 digits for the trading code and a 3 digit suffix for the batch code (ex: 8582-802).
The first two digits in the trading code stand for the year that the recipe for that product was developed, e.g. 85 for 1985. The third digit represents the grade of the leaf used, and the last digit stands for the factory that produced the cake. If the 4th digit is a 1, it came from Kunming Tea Factory, if it is a 2 the tea was produced at the Menghai Tea Factory, and a 3 came from Xiaguan.
The batch code is pretty simple. The first digit in the code is the year of production, and the last two digits correspond to the batches of this recipe for that year.
So, 8582-802 would mean that the recipe for the tea was developed in 1985 using grade 8 leaves at the Menghai Tea factory, and it was batch 2 of this recipe produced in 2008.
Since the tea industry was de-nationalized in 1996, many more tea factories have opened than the three national factories. Most of these new factories use their own internal system of codes on their wrapper, which makes most of what you just read and tried to understand basically useless in today’s Pu-Erh marketplace, unless you are dealing in the very confusing world of vintage teas.