I spent a year and half in China and Taiwan, and during that time, it seems like many online shops have opened that sell all sorts of tea, most of which were not even in existence when I left for Beijing. Being there, I obviously had no reason to buy anything from any of these shops. Now that I’m back, I thought I can give things a try.
The first one I decided to try my luck at is Puerh Shop, which, as I just noticed, has a sales going on right now (I wonder if I can get a retroactive discount?).
They shipped the tea very quickly, and within a few days it landed here, since they’re only one state over in Indiana… the tea I bought to try is a 2004 “Manzhuan Old Tree”. I bought the last one, so don’t bother looking for it 🙂 The reason I thought I should give that one a try is because I’ve found myself liking Manzhuan tea given past experiences. There’s also a bit of calculation at play here — Manzhuan, at least a few years ago, is something that you don’t really advertise. Unlike Yiwu, which is everywhere (and most of those are not really Yiwu), the likelihood of somebody falsely advertising a Manzhuan cake was much, much lower. So, given that this is a few years old, I thought my chances were pretty good at getting the real deal.
The cake looks unremarkable
And it smells and feel a little dry. I wonder what kind of storage these folks have. I used mostly the shavings from the cake that are already loose in the wrapper, plus some leaves that I pried off.
The tea brewed a darkish liquor
It’s quite thick and strong. There’s a hint of sourness in there somewhere, but it’s in the back end, reminding me of a bit of the Manzhuan fruity taste that I have experienced a few times. There’s definitely strength in this tea — I can feel it strongly in my mouth and body. The taste is not the most enjoyable, but it reminds me of the feeling I used to have (and don’t have as often these days) of puerh that feels very raw and strong when young. These days, a lot of the younger cakes taste more like a mixture of green tea and oolong, without that punch that I used to associate with young puerh. This tea had that, but not in a nasty Xiaguan way. I actually liked it… and rate it above yesterday’s tea, even though yesterday’s was surely more refined. I’m not even sure if yesterday’s tea was any better than this in terms of raw quality — there was something too refined about yesterday’s tea. I didn’t feel that coating of my mouth that I do today.
Of course, this might have to do with the fact that I used more shavings and thus stuff came out faster as I brewed, but it easily lasted 10+ infusions without significant drop off. If anything, it lasted longer than the tea yesterday…. probably not a good sign for the Xizihao.
As you can expect, the leaves look broken
Not a very pretty tea at all, but one that I think can keep well over some years. I’ll probably pull it out again in a year or two and check on its progress.