My erstwhile chum, Yichanghao. Yet perhaps not entirely erst, for you keep on delivering solid, reliable treats at a very decent price.
Ladies and mentlegen, I give you the 2005 Zhengpin.
As far as Yichanghao goes, Jipin < Zhenpin < Jingpin < Zhengpin. Despite drinking "YCH" whenever my grubby, clammy hands can grab a sample, I haven't had a great deal of Zhengpin, the flagship product. By the time of the 2009 version, the recipe was taking a turn for the red, and yet cakes from ages past seem to rely less on cheeky pre-oxidation and more on a solid blend of decent leaves.
As shown above, the leaves are fragmented and dark - although certainly less fragmented than in the lesser recipes. I am surprised by a distinct lack of aroma in the dry leaves.
This character, oddly enough, continues in the cup. It cannot be said to have a significant density of flavour, and yet it does have a big, fat body and a dominant presence in the mouth. It is a fascinating thing: light in character (being mainly pinewood), and yet thick, sweet, and satisfying.
This sample was generously provided by Daniel, of The Chinese Teashop of Vancouver. In months past, I mentioned that I had queued up a half-dozen samples or so, only to find that the postage was a huge amount; this has since been remedied, and the store looks entirely appealing in its range and pricing (certainly on the Western scale).
This cake currently sells for an entirely reasonable $45. There isn't a huge amount that one can find of any quality from 2005 for less than that price, and this does a very good job of keeping my attention throughout the session.
Caveat emptor: I am a confessed Yichanghao fanboy. If you like their products to a lesser degree, then temper my enthusiasm at the appropriate heat.