If you look carefully, there are four teas here. From left to right
1) My 2003 Bulang that I love a lot. This tea is mostly buds — very small leaves, young, and fresh. I think the reason why the tea is so punchy in terms of caffeine is because of the heavy proportion of buds in the leaves. You can probably tell from the wet leaves that they are small, especially in comparison to….
2) A 2005 Manzhuan which is no longer available anywhere, not even Taobao. I like Manzhuan teas. Large leafed, but not old. Very few “woody” stems in the cake, which is supposedly a good thing. I like this cake a lot, and I think aging wise, it has real potential. I can’t say that about…
3) A 12 Gentlemen Jinggu from 2006. I’ve never liked Jinggu teas, thinking that they are poor candidates for aging, and this basically confirms that suspicion — the tea was thin, bland, and gave me a stomach ache for some reason. It didn’t go down well at all, and I dumped it after a few infusions. 12 Gentlemen’s makers got some publicity back when they first started in 2006, and although I was never impressed enough with them to buy anything (other than a few samples, of which this is one) their other offerings were at least better than this. There’s probably a reason why, after the explosion of young puerh a few years ago, you no longer see Jinggu teas showing up very much these days.
4) The last is a sample from Lew of babelcarp that I have kept for a few years now. It’s from the 101 Plantation (not sure if they still sell tea). The tea was quite expensive back then. I used the remaining sample, and am happy to report that the tea is actually holding up quite well. It’s got good body and flavour, and should continue to evolve over time. Lew, how are the cakes doing?