The other sample I received from iwii is this thing. It’s surface is pretty. The inside is less pretty
It’s also one of those cakes that have leaves that are layered on top of each other… when I peeled, it peeled right off, and didn’t offer much resistance.
I used a healthy amount of leaves today, and this was the result
A rather golden coloured brew. The tea is quite thick, actually, and has good body. It feels like you could chew on it. There’s a certain floral character to it, and there’s also an underlying bitterness there, although it wasn’t something that was in the foreground. The bitterness also turns into something else – that kind of minty feeling you get with some teas. It did get rough on the tongue after a few infusions, and doesn’t really right itself until very late. The tea has a clean taste — perhaps this has something to do with the organic claim? Although I really don’t know how seriously to take the organic claim of any tea factory in China, especially when it’s not certified by a body outside of the country.
I also don’t take old tree claims very seriously these days. This tea feels like it has genuine old trees mixed in, but for the most part, the number of cakes that claim old tree status probably far exceed the total amount of leaves that can be harvested from real old trees in Yunnan. I even think that were we to cut down all the old trees they still would not be able to produce all those “old tree” cakes out there.
Most of them, as far as I know, are mixed. Some have more, some have less, but even if it’s 10%, they’ll say it’s old tree. How many people can actually tell if it’s a half and half mix (or a 3/4 and 1/4 mix)? There’s also the question of what’s really old. I’ve had teas that are sold as “small arbor tree” that are about 60-80 years old. The guy who was selling it was saying this is not true old tree (normally defined as over 100 years old) but often sold as such because they fetch higher prices, and because they do look/feel somewhat similar. Prices for their maocha, however, differ greatly, and I remember the “small arbor tree” price was about 1/3 of the old tree cakes.
Unfortunately, unless there’s some sort of appelation control, this is never going to be fixed. One way some people defend against this is simply to only buy stuff that are labeled as plantation or from lesser regions — nobody sane would fake these. I know somebody who a few years ago insisted on buying Bulang cakes and not Banzhang (which is a small part of Bulang), because Banzhang prices were going up while Bulang was dirt cheap. That’s no longer true, but there’s still a huge difference between Bulang and Banzhang, and nobody sane would use Banzhang leaves to make a Bulang cake.
Is this cake made of pure old tree material? I think the answer depends on how you define old tree. It probably has some, but I doubt it is all of it.
The tea, early on, also has a bit of “watery” taste. It’s not that it’s weak, but there’s something people call “water flavour”. It’s not a good thing, and is generally indicative of potentially problematic processing, etc
Still, it’s a fair cake, and I was glad to have given it a spin since I was a bit curious. The price isn’t high for what it’s worth these days.