Thanks to KC for buying this pair of cakes for me by proxy in HK. One is gancang [dry storage], the other shicang [wet storage], making for an interesting comparison. KC settled on the 2004 Zhengpin after comparative sessions with Yichanghao from other years. Good Yichanghao can be very impressive, and I am very grateful to KC for giving me the opportunity to extend my experience with Changtai's famous brand.
The cakes, shown below, look sumptuous. The compression is loose, which suffered somewhat from being packed in nothing more than an envelope (!), but they're mostly fine. The leaves are dark, and perhaps already a touch red. They have the aroma of a little age, in correspondence with their 5-year maturity.
Pictured below, in a white-balance nightmare, the gancang cake (lowermost of the two cakes below) can be seen to be darker and richer than the shicang cake (uppermost of the two cakes below), while the latter is almost grey.
What sets these cakes apart is, apparently, the presence of the little blue stamp on the neifei:
KC notes that these cakes are made from 2002 and 2003 maocha. As may be seen below, many of the leaves are long and whole. Both cakes are very desirable, it must be said.
Following the dry aroma, the soup is a solid orange in both cases. Unsurprisingly, the shicang version is a darker, deeper orange. Both have an aroma of sweet, woody, vanilla, but this is more advanced in the shicang version - and, of course, the shicang version has plenty of wet flintiness about it, which I rather like anyway. With my eclectic pu'er tastes, I'm just as happy in the gancang areas of Beijing and Kunming, or the shicang-favouring Hong Kong.
Interestingly enough, the shicang cake is almost a text-book comparison with the gancang cake: the wet version is heavier and "more aged", and yet it runs out much faster. The dry version is sweeter, a touch thinner, but marches on for many more infusions.
I enjoyed both of these cakes tremendously - thanks again to KC for finding them for me. I have since found equivalents for an excellent price on Taobao, and look forward to stocking up the shelves a little.
Buy more Yichanghao, pu'er fans of the world!