There are lots of cakes out there made by famous personages, most of whom are from Taiwan. The quality of these things vary from very good to very poor, especially when factoring in the price involved, which is almost always high, because there is usually a substantial premium charged for these things, precisely due to the fame of the person who made them. This cake, the Zipin hao from 2003, was made by Zhou Yu of Wistaria House.
I distinctly remember seeing this at Wistaria the first time I visited in 2005. Back then, my thought was “my god, this thing is expensive”, which it was. I can’t quite remember how much it was, but it was heads and shoulders above what a normal cake sold for back in the day, and being a poor graduate student, I balked and never bought it. Nor did I try it at the time, because instead I spent my money drinking some loose Tongqing hao from Wistaria instead. It was good, and the Zipin was forgotten.
I had picked up a cake of their 2007 Hongyin last time I visited, and this time I went back to Wistaria again during my most recent trip to Taipei, and remembered this cake. When I inquired how much, the price was shocking – shocking low, relatively speaking anyway for something approaching 10 years and made by a famous tea master. At 4200 NTD, it’s not cheap for a single cake, but compared to a lot of new stuff, its price is more than reasonable. I bought one.
The dry leaves really don’t look too good. The cake’s front looks like someone stomped on it. Six Famous Tea Mountains’ pressing skill was never great, and it’s evident here too. But then, we don’t judge teas by their looks.
How does it taste? One word – good. It’s got this nice, long lasting aftertaste. It has qi. It has body. I brewed it pretty light, because these days I’m trying to limit my caffeine intake, but the tea still delivered. It’s no longer youthful, and exhibits a taste that is typical of something that’s been around for its age and stored in a wettish climate. The wet leaves look good too.
At this point, one must wonder – why bother buying new cakes of teas that are the same price as this, when there’s something like this to be had? At the same price, you can have something from a reputable tea master aged 10 years, or you can buy some new cake of supposed old tree material (a sometimes questionable claim) and chance it ten years from now. To me, the choice seems pretty obvious.