Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. For those of us looking for aged puerh teas, I think we all wish we have the gift of seeing into the future, to learn how a tea will age over time and whether or not it will become great. Some will, many won’t. It might be useful to remember that not all teas will age well – the ones that are commanding high prices today may have done so, but there were more, probably far more, that were produced, consumed, and in some cases, tossed out. We know for a fact that not every cake will turn out great. Figuring that out is the difficult part.

A couple years ago I retasted a cake that I bought when I lived in Beijing. At that time I thought the cake was ok – not great, but not horrible. I did note, however, that it was a bit thin. I drank it at the time brewing gongfu style, probably adjusting my brewing parameters as I went along. After that retasting, it went back into the storage and hasn’t been seen since.

Well, I’m on a trip now, and I pulled out a cake randomly to take with me on this trip to drink. This was the lucky draw. Drinking the tea grandpa style, I have to say the tea is not very good. It has that thin, metallic taste indicative of lower quality tea. It’s aged, yes, but not in a particularly pleasant way. The overall outcome, I think, is wanting. I have a lot of tea better than this, and there really isn’t a single reason why I would want to drink this now, or ever. If given a choice, a black tea from any decent coffee shop will trump this one in terms of pleasure it can deliver. My previous evaluation was too generous – I think I was giving it a chance, and this tea has blown that chance.

I’m sure I have many cakes like this one. We all do. I’m wondering what I should do with these – throw them away? Drink them? Keeping them is sort of silly, because they are really not going to improve at this point. Drinking them – well, they’re not really great and there are so many other, better things to drink. Since my consumption of tea is finite, drinking one of these necessarily means I’m not drinking one of my better teas. Throwing them away seems like the most logical and rational choice, even though it’s hard to get myself to do that. Perhaps I will thank myself later when I move and have less tea to carry.


Hindsight — 12 Comments

  1. Oh, dear…Red Lantern wants $200 for this tea.

    Personally, I think Changtai is a waste of time, outside of explicitly celebrated cakes.

  2. I’d be interesting in a sample… If nothing else then just to get an idea of what you consider “that thin, metallic taste indicative of lower quality tea”. I would describe some of my teas the same way, although in my case I’d put the reason down to bad storage conditions more than anything else… I’d of course pay the shipping fee and would be more than happy to throw in a few HKD extra for the effort of posting it.

  3. Interesting. I have some Changtai cakes, a mountain-by-mountain selection from 2005. I don’t know how the different cakes can manage to be so alike in their ordinariness. They don’t taste bad or cheap or the same as each other…just sound but ordinary. Drinkable, but I have never understood the fuss or high price.

    On the other hand, a mushroom from the same year and factory is a beastly beauty. Should have bought more of those.

      • It’s the 2005 jincha or mushroom. Looks like the Xiaguan mushie, maybe meant for the same market. Not at all fancy-pants like the mountain cakes. Just a tasty ‘shroom…what you want!

          • Yes, sorry, it was the Changtai Hao mushroom. Four of them came wrapped in palm leaf, should not have cleared Aussie customs, but they got through. After that I learned to ask vendors not to sell me anything but tea by way of organic matter. They had nothing in common with the insipid cakes, which seemed to contain fairly good material under loose compression. The mushrooms were rock hard with a big flavour, some of that fruity-smoky soupiness you get with XG, but different to XG. Nice.

          • I remember now that Changtai ‘shrooms could be branded as Yichang Hao, but there were two types of Changtai ‘shroom at slightly different prices at the time of my purchase. I can’t remember which one I chose! (I just checked and saw a Changtai “Bulang Daughter’s Tea” 2005 on Aliexpress. That name rings a bell…but maybe it’s the ‘shroom I didn’t buy. Helpful, aren’t I?)

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