14 October, 2007

2005 Yiwu Manluo - Changdahao "Yiwu Zhengshan"


A wise man (Davelcorp) once said that the common thread linking the enjoyment of pu'er, cigars, and single-malt Scotch whisky is the appreciation of earth and dirt. These sagacious words were resounding in my mind from the minute that I had my first sip of this cake, at Xiaomei's shop in Maliandao.

If it's clear from the accompanying photographs, this cake looks like dirt, literally. It appears to be matt and somewhat, well, dirt-like. The aroma is dusty, and the flavour is very much like drinking earth with flints in it. Somehow, this unlikely series of characteristics make for a rather winning cake.

It's from the Manluo Tea Company, which is somewhere near Mengla mountain. I recall it costing something around the 200-300 RMB mark [£14-21, $28-42].




The leaves are chunky and dark, and the smell is pleasantly on its way to being aged. I've enjoyed this cake on a number of occasions since my return, but today I had the pleasure of sharing it with Lei, so that these notes can have the benefit of a second opinion (and one not biased by the fact that I paid for it).


The soup itself is very energetic, causing a lovely buzzing on the lips, and on the tongue - something I have come to associate with good tea of all ages. Soon, the inevitable: "This tastes like drinking soil. In a good way."

Combined with the immediate earthiness (which is very appealing, happily enough), it has a mineral, alkaline character at the back which Lei likens to that from Gorgonzola cheese. In concert with this, it is tangy, and gives a long, tantalising huigan.





It brews a rich amber colour, and has a very sweet aroma. This is the part where it most seems like a Yiwu, before departing for earth-and-flint territory.

The wet leaves can be seen to be large, but quite untidy - and there are plenty of sections of pure stalk mixed in, which rather reminds me of the modern Taiwanese cakes that we've been encountering. The leaves are healthy, and robust, at least.

Overall, it's a fine tea. It doesn't evolve much, however, staying well within its earthy, mineral limits - but that's fine by me, and, apparently, by Lei too. Good stuff.



Addendum
August, 2009

It's been a long time since I visited this cake. I've recently found it for sale on Taobao for approximately the same price as I bought in Maliandao, from a friend of MarshalN, two years ago, and so it's time to get reacquainted.


2003 Yiwu Manluo


The leaves are still dark and dusty - no surprise there, given that this is a solid shicang [SHER-TSANG, wet store] cake. The compression is fair, if a touch loose, and the leaves come away easily enough without being damaged.


2003 Yiwu Manluo


Pictured below, you can see how easily the leaves come away from the cake. The wrapper alone holds lots of shrapnel, some of which I take for my session, and the remainder of which goes into my "lucky dip" container of mixed-up leftover leaves, for drinking another day.


2003 Yiwu Manluo


This is a particularly interesting cake, because it's one of the biggest-leaf shicang examples that I have. As you can see below, there are some proper-sized leaves in this cake. Chopped blends can be fine, and I enjoy them as much as the next man, but there's a special place in my heart for good-looking, whole leaves.


2003 Yiwu Manluo


Drinking this tea, I am taken back to Maliandao, on the first storey of the mall that hold's Xiaomei's shop. It's a very warm day, and I'm taking the day away from lectures at Qinghua, a large university in the northwest of the city.

Sitting in Xiaomei's shop, I joined an old, retired lecturer in Buddhist Studies, Xiaomei and her sister, and the owner of the shop, visiting from another city with his girlfriend. When I arrived, they were all drinking this. When I left, I had a few cakes in my bag and a belly full of good tea.


2003 Yiwu Manluo


It has a vibrant body filled with sweet wood, which is thick and full. The huigan is very solid, and gives plenty of room for pause. The distant hints of shicang have, I believe, been somewhat attenuated following its two years of dryer storage in England.

This is falls into one of my favourite age-brackets for pu'er: that edgy territory between youth and maturity. It has a little of both genres, but belongs to neither, containing plenty of kuwei [pleasant bitter taste] from its youth, but also plenty of woodiness from its age. The high sweetness of Yiwu is very welcome.


2003 Yiwu Manluo


I originally wrote that this was like "drinking earth with flints in it", the latter being the mineral-like character that I use to describe some types of shicang. If anything, it has become sweeter, and more interesting.

If the Taobao cakes turn out to be even slightly similar to this one, I will consider myself a happy man.



Addendum
May, 2010

I've bought the same cake from several different vendors, with prices ranging around the RMB 200 mark ($29).


2005 Manluo Yiwu
Can you spot the odd-one-out?


Happily, all of these cakes seem to be very close to my original cakes, which is a relief.  This also means that I probably don't have to buy any more after this experiment, as I have a little more than a tong remaining.

The packaging was similarly good from all vendors, and the cakes arrived undamaged.


2005 Manluo Yiwu
It is an appealing cake


As before, the leaves are very decent - quite whole, and easily separated.  This is a reedy, yellow-wood tea that I enjoy very much.  The "earth with flints in it" feeling is also present in these recently-acquired cakes.



2005 Manluo Yiwu
A reassuring warm yellow colour in keeping with its five years of age


Presumably, these cakes have been in various types of storage, scattered around Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong, but they all taste rather similar.  I can thoroughly recommend them.  Yet again, Xiaomei proves that she can pick mighty fine tea.



Addendum
August, 2011

  Many thanks to Apache for this addition to the family: a 2005 Changdahao.


2005 Changdahao


This is a beautiful cake.  I am very happy with its price, compared with its quality.  Perhaps it is one of the cakes that plays to my idiosyncrasies, but I thoroughly enjoy it.

Breaking open the cake reveals a quiet shicang [wet store] aroma, which is to say that it is the scent of humid air - I'm sure this hasn't actually been in a dedicated wet-storehouse.  The leaves look very clean, as shown below.  A little shicang goes a long way, and I rather approve of a touch of humidity in the storage.


2005 Changdahao



The leaves come away easily enough, and I am pleased by their aging appearance...


2005 Changdahao


The soup is a clean, rusty-orange fluid, and it carries the aroma of humidity from its leaves.  As with my own version of this cake, it has a pleasing metallic flavour - low and broad, and then penetrating under the tongue.


2005 Changdahao


Slightly tangy, pleasantly solid in its body - I am reminded why I have had such enduring feelings for this simple, yet lovely, little tea ever since buying some from Xiaomei.  Thanks again to Apache.

16 comments:

Olivia said...

cool, I love tea!

Davelcorp said...

I'm happy to take credit for the words of wisdom, but since I don't remember making such a statement, nor do I smoke cigars, I wonder if some other wiser being is responsible for the observation?

However, I do love me some good soil. Sounds and looks like a nice tea. What do you know about its storage history? Looks a bit more red/brown than normal for a four year old.

xdustinx said...

I concur with Davelcorp. The liquor looks a bit dark. Maybe some wet storage? A little wet storage is fine by me...

謏 約翰 said...

Looks like a nice young tea, be interesting to review in a few years. john

Hobbes said...

It is a smidge on the dark side, I'll grant you that. I didn't get too much in the way of the usual dampness, though. A conundrum! A tasty conundrum, mind you.

As John says, a few years would be wise - but I suspect it won't last that long. :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

MarshalN said...

Xiaomei is weird that way, she will drink the wettest stored shu, but anytime I bring a wet stored tea over she'll spit it out and worry about the health concerns -- insisting on teas that are "clean".

Yet she has these random cakes she sells (this, Yisheng, etc) that are clearly at least stored in wetter climates than Beijing. I think I tried this once, and deemed it a little off.... but that was a while ago.

speakfreely said...

Dirt worship. That MUST be the common thread! As one who makes a regular practice of meeting the smells of the compost heap with curiosity rather than revulsion, I couldn't agree more. Of course, thoroughly composted earth, the forest floor, smells sweet and delicious. The best thing about our sense of smell is that we can explore the 'taste' of things we'd never put in our mouths.

Hobbes said...

I like compost heaps, too - and pig farms. :)

(Then again, I'm from the countryside...)

Maitre_Tea said...

I actually spot two odd ones out: one on the lower left that doesn't have a red chop, and the one at the very top that seems to have a much darker chop than the rest of them...could you tell that there was a difference between these "grades"

I saw these myself, and was curious about them...glad to know that all the different cakes taste like the original.

Hobbes said...

Dear Maitre-Tea,

The one with a dark red version of the "Imperial Tribute" chop is an older cake, from 2003. The one without a chop is, according to the vendor, from the same year, and he charges the same for it. It could be that the material is a grade lower in quality, but my (very rough and ready) initial session found it to be very similar.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

fallen leaf said...

Hi Hobbes,

Looks like this tea is exactly my piece of cake. Could you recommend any Taobao seller(s) who sells this one?....
I also understand that one needs an intermediate to buy from Taobao (also any recommendations there maybe?)
I would love to drink this one.

Thank you for your writings on tea.
Kind regards,
Fallen Leaf
The Netherlands

Hobbes said...

Dear Fallen Leaf,

I'll dig up some links for you later today. In terms of intermediates, try Taobaonow, Taobao Focus, or (if you can read Chinese) Panli.


Best wishes,

Hobbes

fallen leaf said...

Dear Hobbes,

Did you find some links of recommended sellers on Taobao?

I would really love to order some.

Kind regards,
Fallen Leaf

Hobbes said...

Voila!


http://item.taobao.com/auction/item_detail-0db1-1fb4a771d6e60b5b9c9b0360869e6cd8.jhtml?cm_cat=50003862

http://item.taobao.com/auction/item_detail-0db2-a865422e93b7fad1f9f947c13d4b27d3.jhtml?cm_cat=50003862

fallen leaf said...

Hi Hobbes,

Thank you for the info!
I've placed an order with taobaonow,
let's wait now untill the cakes arrive.

I can't wait!
Kind regards,
Fallen Leaf

Hobbes said...

Good job, Fallen Leaf! Please let us know how you get on.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes