As a way to get started — I thought I’ll try a cake that I have actually never tried before.
I bought this cake more or less randomly in Beijing early during my travels — within the first few months of me having arrived there. It was insanely cheap – if memory serves, it was somewhere in the vicinity of 15RMB, which, at the time, was about $2. The cake, like so many others, claims to be thousand year old wild trees from Jiangcheng area, but a lot of cakes claim that and such names are essentially meaningless.
The leaves actually don’t look terrible.
I remember when I bought this cake, the woman who sold it to me looked like a single mother trying to raise her son and running this corner shop in Maliandao eking out a living. She had at least a dozen cakes, and I just randomly plucked one and bought it on the premise and the theory that very cheap things may age well if given time — and it’s worth the experiment given the exceptionally cheap price of the tea. Now, as you can imagine, my expectation for this cake is low. I don’t really expect much of anything out of it, and if it turns into anything drinkable, that’s already a good outcome.
When I brewed this tea the taste that I got is a familiar one — it tastes like some of the other cheap cakes I’ve bought off taobao before. Not having tried it may be a bit of a mistake, in that I don’t know where it started, but I can more or less guess, having tried teas that are similar. What it essentially comes down to is that the tea has now acquired a slightly medicinal, but not entirely pleasant taste, while having lost much of that “young puerh” flavour. I think teas like this will not age well in the long run, and turn out to be quite thin and boring.
Just looking at the pictures though, they look quite ok. In fact, if you smelled the cake in person right now, you’ll think it’s quite ok. It’s only when you drink it does it become obvious that the tea is not particularly good. Maybe I’ll try this again in ten five years and see what happens to it then.