As you can see, I have two cakes of this tea. One, the left, I bought very recently — about a few weeks ago. The one on the right, on the other hand, is from about 5 years ago when the tea first came out. I’ve had it in my collection ever since then and it’s been mostly sitting on the shelf.
I obviously cannot convey smell and sight, but it is very obvious, when you have the cakes in hand, that the one on the left is of a duller complexion, while the one on the right has much shinier leaves. The smell is also very obvious – the left one smells of a slightly moldy storage, just like any traditionally stored tea would. The one on the right was also traditionally stored a little before I bought it, but it does not smell of the storage at all. Instead, it smells fragrant, like a youngish puerh would. On the other hand, if you rely on the stains on the wrapper and neifei, you might think the right hand cake has been traditionally stored, but you would be wrong.
The reason I bought another cake of this is purely for comparison purposes. I wanted to see how different my cake is compared to what has been stored at the merchant’s all these years. Also, I want to compare a cake that has been through the “tuicang”, or “removing storage” process, versus one that is more or less fresh out of the storage. By smell and sight alone, the difference is already enormous.
I had thought that the difference in colour for the brewed tea would be very different too, but I was wrong on that. The colours are, surprisingly, more or less the same, and remained so with the second infusion (both 3 minutes long). The tastes, however, are quite different. The left one is duller, rounder, less bitter, smells/tastes more of the storage. The one on the right is very much sharper, more bitter, but also retains more of the “high” fragrant notes and lingers a bit more. The one on the left is closer to consumption, but in the process, has lost something. The one on the right is still pretty feisty. There’s slight evidence of traditional storage, but that’s only if you know what you’re looking for in the wet leaves and what not. Otherwise, it’s really not that obvious.
The second brew yields something that’s more differentiable in that the home stored tea is a little more interesting still, whereas the merchant stored one yields more of the same – the traditionally stored taste with a bit of green edge in the end.
The next step in this comparison would be to let the recently purchased cake to air out for half a year or a year, and then revisit and see how different they are now. By then, it should’ve lost the storage taste and develop something more fragrant, but it will most certainly be a fragrance that’s different from the home stored one.