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Recent Tasting Notes
Yi Chang Hao is the flagship product line from the Changtai Tea Factory and contains teas made with raw material from mountains in the Yiwu area. With material from arbor trees reported to be 500-800 years old, the JingPin is a pleasing mellow aged tea with a full body and sweet overtones – very smooth. The tea is not just elegant, its power is easily felt. Moderate compression makes it easy to pick off leaves for brewing. Mix of whole leaves, pieces and a few stems. The aroma of the dry leaf is mild with the hint of nuttiness and wood but surprisingly in the mouth the tea is sweet and fruity with a hint of camphor. While the sweetness is clearly found in the sip, the fruit is more on the subtle side. Through my 6-7 infusions (with enough strength to support additional steepings) the flavor profile continues to mix fruit, honey, nuts, wood and camphor in a very rewarding way. Overall impressions – interesting mix of flavors; respectable Qi; enough power in the leaf to endure many infusions; lingering pleasant aftertaste. For those of you seeking the “heavy hitters”, this one might be of little interest but for all the other pu fans, this is a worthy tea from a factory with long established traditions – old processing techniques and stone pressing. Purchased this cake from The Chinese Tea Shop online store and you can purchase smaller amounts of this tea.
Working with another semi-aged Changtai YiChangHao today – the 2005 Yi Bang. The cake is full of dark brown healthy looking whole leaves with low and heavy fragrances. Clear dark orange tea soup. The first sips offer a woody flavor with a fruity-sweetness and a bit of spiciness thrown in. The sweetness is more pronounced, as the tea cools. Later steeps begin to reveal a mushroom taste to increase the brew’s complexity. The brew lightly coats the throat creating a nice mouthfeel. This Yi Bang is smooth and round with a noticeable aged character in its profile and a relaxing qi, not too strong, but definitely there. This is not a “powerhouse” tea but good for those of us who rather enjoy the subtleties of the profile rather than being hit over the head with it.
This is an “old school” Changtai cake. It was made at a time when careful production was offered by well known factories and higher quality material was used. Hobbes blog has helped me to appreciate the value of the Changtai cakes with 9-12 years of maturation. Changtai’s Yichanghao brand produces cakes of different grades – Ji Pin, Jing Pin, Zhen Pin, Zheng Pin. Zheng Pin is reported to be the highest grade in this group.
The cake offers the color and aroma of good aging and contains a mix of long whole leaves, stalks and the occasional tip. Full mouth-feel and flavor which quickly changes to sugar cane sweetness. It has a thick body and a comfortable tea energy feel. Overall, this is a solid blend of decent leaves; nicely aged and decent infusibility (8-10 times); solidly sweet, with a reasonably thick body. This is not a high energy cake nor is it terribly complex but it definitely offers a lovely cup which is solid, quite enjoyable and keeps the mouth watering throughout the session. I have become a fan of these aged Changtai offerings and I feel lucky to have found this one at The Chinese Tea Shop in Vancouver.
This is a very amazing tea for its age. It has the strong camphor shot of a tea twice its age.It is a bit earthy but the punch on this one is really good. Sorry for the short note as I will try to add to this on an evening that I have a bit more time. Reminiscent of a 9 year old loose maocha from a different seller. Definite aged tea in a good price range for those that enjoy the earth and camphor.
Flavors: Camphor, Earth, Musty
Just what I am hunting for these days – decent quality leaf; a bit of age; an enjoyable flavor profile – and it does not disappoint. Moderately compressed cake and easy to pick apart. The dry leaves appear fragmented, but decent, and full of dark brown colors. There are plenty of tips to be seen with a nice blend of large and small leaves. The aroma is really rather good – a bit sweet and leatherlike. The soup is definitely orange and is thick in texture. The flavor is up-front and quick in its presentation with plenty of honey sweetness. The wet leaves are chopped up quite a bit (characteristic of the 2005-06 Changtais I’ve tried) containing all grades with plenty of stalks – they cannot be called pretty leaves. I really enjoyed this tea – it is thick, sweet, and satisfying with a hint of true character. This cake currently sells for a reasonable $44 at Cha Wang Shop.
This was a very tasty somewhat sweet puerh with no off flavors and a moderate amount of fermentation flavor. It had significantly more fermentation flavor then my idea of how much a 2005 tea should have, but it was good. There were a variety of sweet notes including chocolate and plums or dates. This is an excellent offering from Dragon Tea House and not expensive either. The only drawback was a very slight tendency towards sour notes when the tea was very hot. I didn’t notice them once the tea had cooled a bit.
I brewed this four times in a 207ml Taiwan Clay Teapot with 7.7g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 10 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, and 20 sec. The tea had many more steepings in it but I have had enough tea as I have to get up tomorrow morning.
Flavors: Chocolate, Plums
As of now, this tea is wretchedly terrible. Sure it was $8, but either the cake or the maocha was stored improperly. I haven’t given up on it yet, as I’m hoping the burnt-tire, rotting vegetable material scent and flavor will dissipate with time. But this cake may be heading for the compost pile in the future.
This cake belongs to the Yi Chang Hao range of Changtai cakes.
This one was produced back in 2005 using material from the Bulang mountain in Menghai county, eastern Xishuangbanna. The additional name Lao Chen de Cha simply means Old Mr. Chen’s tea referring to Changtai’s chairman. Some research i did on this cake indicates it’s a blend of wild arbor and semi-wild arbor material.
The leafs are yellowish brown in color and appear to be of nice quality. The leafs are small to medium small sized and many are covered with nice down.
It yields a brown-yellow colored liquid which carries a thick and dense aroma. The basic character is dry and woody but there’s also some sweet juiciness which I associate with younger sheng pu’er. It leaves an aftertaste reminiscent of tobacco floating on the palate.
The qi is not very noticeable and in total i don’t find this is a particularly memorable tea. However, it is of decent quality and i can therefore still recommend it to friends of robust tasting teas.
Review with pictures can be found here: (in finnish)
The tea has a warm orange color in the bowl. The strong camphor reminds me of some of the older cakes from Changtai which i’ve reviewed recently. This for me is a good sign since I’ve rather enjoyed those cakes. However, i find that it’s taste is a bit thinner, drier and woodier than i was expecting. The balance is still very good overall. The Qi is clearly noticeable though it’s not particularly strong.
Overall I find this a solid cake with a true pu’er spirit. It manages to convey some of what i consider to be the most fascinating aspect of sheng pu’er – it is wild. Tasting this tea i can feel the mood of the wild mountain environment where the leaves that make up this cake have been harvested.
It’s balanced even up to the point that I find myself doubting this is a cake for long-term storage. Its time is now or in the near future which is not really a bad thing considering the agreeable price it’s selling at.
Full review with pictures (in finnish) can be found here:
I’ve been recently tasting sheng pu’er from the Changtai factory mostly due to the positive mention by half-dipper. His review of this very tea can be found here:
Today it was the turn of 2004 Yi Chang Hao series cake Yi Wu Zhengpin. As the name suggests the cake has been produced from leaf material from the famous Yi Wu mountain.
The cake itself is tidy with clear separation of leafs. In general we don’t want the leafs to be pressed so tight that they fuse together making it impossible to separate leafs without breaking them. The tightness also has it’s influence on how the cake ages. Very firm cakes age slower but we don’t want the cake to be too loose either since that will expose the leafs too quickly and this can cause the taste to become thin.
Leaf material appears fairly diverse with a decent amount of furry buds and young leafs still covered by youthful hair as well as mature dark leafs and some leaf stalks.
The fragrance is very alluring. It manages to convey a similar balance between dark woodiness and lighter rhyme as do some good roasted Tie Guanyins. It seems to be leaning more to the woody, tobacco side of the spectrum but very deliciously so carrying a nice camphor rhyme.
The woodiness becomes stronger in the second infusion and is amplified by my carelessness in letting it infuse a bit too long. When i sip it i get a very clear image of a strong bittered lager. The soft and sweet rhyme has now moved to the aftertaste. I hope she will return before the end.
The liquid is thick and clear in the bowl. It forms waves the same way i’ve witnessed many high quality teas do when i shake the bowl softly. The qi is not among the strongest i’ve felt but definitely very noticeable. It makes me pay attention to the drifting clouds on the sky and the ancient chinese music i have on.
The tea seems to be most pleasant in infusions 5-8. The strongest woodiness has then subsided a bit and sweetness has returned. I continue to infuse it over 10 times and it continues to peform well. Investigating the infused leafs i find that they are elastic and mostly whole. It seems to me that elastic and strong leafs make high quality tea.
This is a very nice tea. I recommend it only with the reservation that if you can’t stand woody dryness in your tea, perhaps you should skip this one.
The sample piece I had of this sheng cake looked rather tidy with the appearance that it consists mostly of whole leafs. Given this it was a surprise that my first two infusions (30 and 20 seconds respectively) poured onto my bowl with a lot of leaf debris. I don’t know where the small pieces came from but I decided at this point to flush the leafs well by just pouring hot water in to the gaiwan and pouringit out with a large gap between the lid and cup. This somewhat reduced the amount of leaf pieces i got into my bowl with later infusions. I don’t actually mind having some leaf pieces in my bowl but they tend to disrupt the balance of the tea if there’s too much of them.
This tea started up mild and smooth. I was expecting that it would open up as a sweet and juicy young sheng pu’er but this turned out to be quite far from what actually happened. The tea reaches it’s peak at perhaps fourth or fifth infusion. It is a rather dry tea. It reminds me of wet newspaper. I get an image to my mind of the space under my family’s summer cottage where the firewood is stored. This place is somewhat damp but not wet. The damp firewood and the ground has a kind of ….well, woody aroma that actually feels dry to the nose. The profile is rather unusual, not unpleasant or pleasant. While it did become milder and smoother as I continued observing it approaching tenth infusion, the characteristic dry profile stayed the same. The aftertaste is fresh and there is also some amount of ‘afterfeel’ on the tongue which I think is a positive thing.
Overall I’d say this tea is interesting and the quality is acceptable. I expect my teas to impress me and unfortunately this tea failed here. I can still recommend it to those who wish to explore the taste space of tea as this tea occupies one of the more quiet corners of that wonderful place.
The camphor aroma slips to the air already when pouring the tea to the cup. This doesn’t come as a surprise as this is a fairly young sheng pu’er. I like my teas to have character and the camphor floating in the air is a good sign. After the first infusion of 30 seconds the tea starts to open up. It is woody with some tobacco. At the same time it has this character i would call juiciness. With this i mean that it has sweetness coupled with sourness, rather like in orange juice. The sweetness is pleasant and the sourness gives a nice edge to it. A lot goes in this tea. It still retains it’s youthfulness and so there are some rough edges, slight tingling in the back and tip of the tongue. I think there are two sides to this roughness. It’s not the most elegant tea, but on the other hand, the edges give the tea an interesting aftertaste and though i am not that experienced with pu’er, i get the feeling these rough edges could round out themselfs with a couple years more aging and make this into a better tea. The best thing about this tea is that it’s not too round and boring. It’s a good tea but does fall short of being excellent.
I infused using 5 grams of leafs in gaiwan using 100ml water each infusion. Still after 8 infusions the leafs carry a nice camphor aroma.
This is the bingcha that’s been in my collection the longest and I’m frequently pulling it out, but little writing about it. There must be something enticing, the smokiness or the age, because despite the fact that critically, I think this tea is weak, purposefully softened, and not that good, I keep drinking it. It’s got some really weird leaves in it, in my opinion. Completely brown, oddly twisted, light leaves.
I was pleased by the spicy smoke character that reminded me immediately of an Episcopalian Easter Vigil service bedecked with a thurifer belching clouds of frankincense. I was also pleased to find, that unlike the multitude of sheng pu’er samples I’ve fought with, the leaves released themselves from this cake willingly. After a rinse and a lightning quick first steep, the spicy, resinous pine-like smoke aroma jumped out of the cup. Unfortunately, that was the last time I was impressed by this tea.
In the cup was an overly subtle, simple, and rather limp soup. The texture was not satisfying, there was nary much kuwei and I kept digging for complexity and brightness. Instead, this tea proved safe. The orangeness was not detracting in that the tea had a cooked or hongcha-like flavor, it just yielded a mild, safe blend without much punch or power. Briefly, I considered that a 4 year old cake may exhibit signs of softening or slight age-induced oxidation to produce the orange-edge, but upon inspection of the leaves, that proved to be a faulty suspicion.
The flavors were not bad or offensive, never any cigarette and only the faintest hint of sourness six or seven steeps in. Instead, it just didn’t have any capturing essence, any piquant uniqueness that made me want to love it and revisit it. I took the steeps out into the tens of minutes, but ended up with an overly thin and grassy cup, proving a lack of endurance.
Blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=45