Veterans of the PRC domestic consumer market will be familiar with the almost-but-not-quite branding of second-rate goods attempting to "pass off" as a premium brand. There are some charmingly naive reuses of material that most Chinese find to be the humourous copies that they are. Trying to work out where you've seen a certain label or brand before is quite a fun game.
Long-time readers may remember my first trip to Maliandao, some years ago now, where I picked up some delightful 2005 Yesheng, courtesy of a recommendation from His Grace, Dr. the Duke of N.
It's a fine tea, made by an outfit called the Yiwu Laojie Yisheng Tea Co.:
I also recently came across one of the first productions in the Douji label, made by their producing company, the Yiwu Zhengshan Tea Co., which I present below for your amusement, courtesy of Yunnan Sourcing:
The differences between the two are:
i. The central characters "yisheng" on the latter wrapper compare with the single "sheng" character on the former;
ii. The tea company's names differ after the "Yunnan Xishuangbanna Yiwu" part; and
iii. The latter wrapper has a stamp, to the right of the central section.
I would love to know the relationship between the two. All other things being equal, relying entirely on our a priori knowledge that the Douji company is (now) a big and successful venture while the Laojie Yisheng company remains unknown, we might tentatively conclude that the latter wrapper was copied by the former. Indeed, if this is correct, then perhaps the Yisheng Tea Co. took its name from the central pair of characters on the Douji wrapper.
I found similar minefields when scouring Taobao for the 2005-06 Yiwu Manluo cakes, pictured below, of which there are a dozen similar, but non-identical, variants from several companies:
Amusingly, I also found cakes that had re-used the wrapper of my simple-yet-charming friend, the 2006 Xingshunxiang:
Be careful out there... make sure that you're reading those wrappers carefully.
Life is like a tong of pu'ercha - you never know what you're gonna get.