This gift from the boundlessly kind Keng rather snuck up on me: I didn't realise that it was a Xiaguan tuocha until I read the small print. As pictured below, it looks nothing like the usual Xiaguan productions, and carries none of the usual markings (such as the "Big G", etc.).
Mabei [mar-bay] means "Horseback", and is a phrase that I have since come to use to describe Xiaohu's favourite activity of sitting on my shoulders and travelling the world at a height of over six feet. He may not be standing on the shoulders of giants, but he is at least sitting on the shoulders of his father / xiaomaolu*.
The "Big G" is pressed into the shape of the tuocha itself. As we might expect, the leaves are small, healthy, and aromatic. The aroma of shicang [wet store] surprises me, and the correspondingly heavy orange of the soup looks a lot darker than one might anticipate.
In aroma and flavour, the potency of its raw state has been exchanged for the familiar sweet blackness of modern Xiaguan processing. It reminds me of that class of modern Xiaguan productions that are cleaned-up, tidy versions of Baoyan [sacred flame, a.k.a. ODB].
Very little kuwei remains, which is interesting, because this doesn't have the appearance of a tuocha that is intended for mainstream production - it has the "Pu'ercha heritage" aesthetic that usually indicates a target market of pu'ercha drinkers.
Nonetheless, it provides the usual array of granary Xiaguan characteristics that I have come to love over the years. I'm not holding out a lot of hope for its future, given the heavy processing, but it is an enjoyable tuocha to enjoy while waiting for everything else to age. Thanks once more to Keng for another treat.