The first of many impressive impressions that the Guafengzhai impressed upon me was the artwork on the wrapper. Along with the artwork from the 2009 Nadacha "Naka", it ranks among my favourites.
It turns out that it was produced by Aaron Fisher, whom you will have encountered via the Art of Tea magazines and The Leaf on-line magazine. I should have guessed that it was the work of this artist, from his immediately-recognisable little teapot in the bottom-right corner of the design.
This is a xiaobing - just 200g, which you cannot really determine from the image above. I suspect that this will correspond to around 20 sessions or so, and so I resolve to go carefully, in order to make it last as long as I can. Nada has, quite reasonably, limited purchase of this cake to one per customer, given their short supply.
This is the first of Nada's samples that I tried, even though I have taken my time to publish it - primarily, because I was waiting for the actual cake to arrive so that I could show you the delightful wrapper.
As you can see above, the leaves are long, and whole. Guanfengzhai is a now-popular area of the Yiwu region from which to obtain good-quality tea. The potency of the aroma alone tells us that these are leaves with much to give: the scent of sweet leather is punchy and forthright.
As one would hope, the soup is a bright yellow, indicative of processing with the very lightest of human touches. As with many endeavours, I feel that the best processing of pu'ercha is that in which the presence of the producer is almost entirely invisible. I'd much rather be drinking the tea, than experiencing someone's processing. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that roasted wulong doesn't excite me to a great degree.
This is a remarkable tea, being smooth, full, and obviously cooling. It has a clean, buttery finish from its minimal processing, and carries a fruity, sweet flavour as beloved of Guafengzhai-area leaves.
Nada writes that the leaves came from a tree which is around 400 years of age. In the year 1611, four hundred years ago, one of my favourite plays, The Tempest, was being first revealed to the English audience. In the same year, my small college in the university here was founded by the Queen of the time ("a ginger monarch"). It's hard to imagine that this pu'er tree could have survived since the Elizabethan era.
Tip-top tea. I hope to make this cake last a few years, at least, but it won't be easy.