The first thing I did was go to a store that I’ve read about on Sanzui, where they sell a Yiwu tea from a somewhat famous boutique producer. When I got there, however, there was only one storekeep there, and she said she’s really quite inexperienced — been on the job for about a month, and never dealt with tea before. She only has authorization for me to taste their crappiest Yiwu cake, which she said is from shortened tea trees that are about 100 years old. There was a more promising cake that is made up of arbor leaves of a few hundred years old, but she needs to clear it with her boss (no immediately available sample) and I didn’t want to bother. The Yiwu I tasted was… ok. Not great. Lacking a good aftertaste, a bit flat, not a lot of huigan, makes my throat dry. They want 200 RMB for it, I wouldn’t pay more than 50, even though it’s pleasant to drink…. but not great.
So I went out hunting for other things. Then I remembered seeing the Liji Guzhuang tea store, so I went in there to take a look. They only have one king of raw cake on sale. There are some other stuff they sell from other brands, none too appealing.
I tried the Liji stuff. It’s ok. Not great. Not very cheap, but I’m sure I can bargain it down. Then again, it’s not impressive, and I decided that since I am not going to do shotgun buying of everything… I will only buy things that I am impressed by. This one is not one of them. It tastes quite ordinary…. maybe a little better than ordinary, but not a lot better. Incidentally, the two storekeepers here are also young girls (18) with no tea industry experience. What’s with all these girls who know nothing about tea trying to sell me puerh??? There are lots of them. It’s a little sad seeing them stay in this place with no natural sunlight and no opportunity to go out, but I suppose this beats them staying in their villages or wherever they’re actually from. They are not going to college (probably can’t… for various reasons) and wasting their life away in a dark tea store…
So…. I left again.
I wandered around Chayuan a bit. I should’ve taken a picture of the interior there, but basically, it’s a grid system with something like 7-8 avenues and two or three crossstreets. It’s a little disorienting, especially if you don’t have a clear aim. My anchor point is the washroom, which is on one side of the mall. Otherwise, they all look pretty much the same.
I saw this other place afterwards… a place that sells direct from a Guoyan Factory, all puerh. So I went in there to see what they’ve got.
I ended up spending most of my afternoon there. It always turns out that way — I go to a few places, settle down in one and do some serious tasting.
At this place, I looked at almost all their raw cakes, most of which are just regular crap. Then, there was this 2004 cake that looked ok. I tasted it…. nothing to write home about…. although it probably will age into something ok. At $5 USD a piece, it’s not too bad. Then I tried a banzhang cake of theirs. Tastes like… a banzhang cake, quite strong, a bit bitter, and the cha qi was hitting me. I was getting a little dizzy again. It seems like banzhang tea does bad things to me. There was a bit of smoke at the beginning of this tea but then fades away. I wonder if this is a banzhang thing, or if I was just getting tea drunk. I thought about getting it… until I saw this brick.
The brick looks good. It looks loosely compressed (for a brick anyway), aged, shiny, smells nice… with a hint of that “wild” smell that I’ve been talking about, so I picked it up. They didn’t have a sample, but the guy eventually broke one open for me to taste. Nice, aged, well stored, still got a very strong “bite” while having a lot of aged puerh taste. Quite a good brick…. not the strongest qi or a very strong “throat aftertaste”, but… it’s cheap!
I ended up with four of them. I wanted to get more, but I decided to stop myself from getting more before I get a better taste of it. I think I will eventually snap up a few more though. It’s great for drink it now… I’ll be happy drinking this everyday as my “regular pu”
So I left the store with 4 bricks. Then, I thought I should drop by the store where I ordered those Yiwu cakes to make sure they’re on their way.
Bad news — they said the cakes are sold out! Crap.
I did get my deposit back, but I am bummed. I REALLY liked those cakes. I still think they’re easily the best new stuff I’ve tasted on Maliandao so far. Why???
I pressed the question. They said the guy who produced it said he doesn’t have any more cakes. But when we talked last week, it was fine, and his daughter talked to him herself. Did someone pay a higher price? I wonder. I looked around — that girl’s there, but she’s not saying anything to me. I looked on the shelf — that half-tasted cake is gone, nowhere to be found. I was hoping maybe I can at least buy that. Yes, I liked it that much.
So I walked out, dejected. They wanted to give me a mini-bing of cooked puerh for free as a sort of compensation. I refused. I was quite mad with them. I got the feeling that something’s not quite right, especially with the disappearance of the cake from the shelf.
Just when I was standing out there in the parking lot looking rather sad, that girl whose dad makes these cakes came up to me (she walked out earlier). Turns out the boss of the place got mad at them for selling stuff that isn’t hers, and I guess she is preventing the sale from happening. I can understand, in fact, I suspected as much. She didn’t look too pleased last week when I was there and didn’t buy a single thing of hers (and splurged on this rather expensive tong of stuff). None of her tea even comes close, so it makes sense for her to eliminate this competition from which she earns nothing.
So… now I am trying to work it out with this girl to pick up the tea, which apparently is already in town. We’re probably going to make the trade tomorrow. I’m rather happy 🙂
I walked around Chayuan a little more, and found a few Yichang Hao stuff that I want to try, but I am stuffed with tea, and I knew I couldn’t take anymore without feeling sick, so I left it at that, and headed home.
More on the brick in a few days, and hopefully, the new Yiwu 🙂