I tried the SE Asia trade fair cake today, the sample of which came from Hou De. This tea is also made by Chen Guang He Tang, the same company (really, same guy) who made the two Yiwus I tried a few days ago.
I got the center of the cake, with a neifei to boot. The piece is literally the centerpiece…
I added a moderate amount of tea to the gaiwan and brewed. The first two infusions were a little strange… there was a strange metallic note to the tea, and also a sort of vegetal taste that I don’t usually find in younger puerhs. In fact, I felt like I was drinking vegetable water at one point. The tea is not very thick, although not too thin either. It’s bitter, and remains so throughout. The vegetable taste goes away after a while, turning into a more traditional Menghai area tea taste. There’s always some huigan to the tea, and the level of huigan is somewhere between the Yiwu Yecha and the Yiwu Chawang.
Sweetness doesn’t really show up until at least 7-8 infusions in. The tea starts showing some sweet notes then on the tongue. Bitterness persists though. The tea was never too rough on the tongue — quite smooth, in fact, despite the bitterness.
Overall I think this is an above average cake, but not a whole lot better than that. One of those teas that is only enjoyable after some years of aging, I think. Right now it’s really too bitter to be a pleasure to drink. If the bitterness is obvious to me, then it must be even more obvious to those who don’t drink this sort of thing regularly, since I generally find myself rather insensitive to tea-related bitterness these days when compared to other people.
One thing I’ve noticed about these Chen Guang He Tang teas is that they consist of leaves that are more broken than usual.
In the whole gaiwan I couldn’t really find any leaves that were intact. These were the best looking ones
I suspect this has to do with the level of rolling they went through during processing. I suspect these teas are more heavily rolled than the usual ones we see in the market these days. Heavy rolling, according to what I’ve read, also contributes to the higher level of bitterness apparent in his teas. If this is true that heavy rolling is involved, then obviously Mr. Chen thinks that heavy rolling is good for aging. Is it? Only time will tell, I suppose.
On the other hand, I find that a lot of the leaves of his teas are actually quite thin and fragile to handle when wet. They seem to break more easily. Maybe it’s just a question of the general quality of the leaves… and that the stuff he uses are somehow thinner? Not sure.