A thousand years ago, I bought some "Yiwu Manluo" cakes from Maliandao, at the suggestion of Xiaomei, the owner of a shop, and friend of MarshalN. I have since scoured Taobao to find more of the same, the results of which are tirelessly (and tiresomely) chronicled in this article on the 2005 cake.
Keng since provided us with a charming 2003 version, which was perhaps not quite as full as the flinty, chunky 2005. It was that cake that caused me to realise that Changdahao is a brand from the Yiwu Manluo factory.
Time and tide wait for no man, and pu'ercha even moreso. Changdahao have been churning out the cakes, and this is a more recent example, a sample of which was kindly provided by viking teachum, TD. In design, the wrapper is closer to the old 2003 version...
Notice, however, that this is a 125g xiaobing.
The leaves are medium-sized, as may be seen above, which is a departure from the large-leafed loveliness of the older recipes. They are also rather fragmented, but otherwise look healthy enough.
This is a difficult tea to drink. Its tight compression makes it easy to use too many leaves, causing it to overbrew. Lots of small fragments are released from the chunks placed into the pot, causing both my teapot (Zidu) and my filter to block. This stops me from pouring out the water at good speed, meaning that the leaves brew longer, which further increases the overbrewing.
Even when approximately proper brews may take place, the result is a heavy orange soup - in two years, this colour cannot arise from aging. It tastes like a sweet, pleasant Yiwu, but it has the flat acidity and limited scope of a plantation Yiwu that has been processed ("reddened"). Would it really be so bad to leave plantation leaves in their natural state?
This xiaobing sells for around £6 on Taobao, which is quite a lot for a mainland cake (by weight). It goes for around £5 at Red Lantern Tea, which, like many of the good eBay shops (Yunnan Sourcing, Dragon Teahouse, China Chadao), is often a good way to get decent tea at a reasonable price. The Taobao fees can mount up to make them more expensive, sometimes.
The 2010 version returns to the wrapper style of my old favourite, the 2005, and so perhaps I will pursue a sample of that when next ordering. Thanks again to TD for the generous sample, and an interesting tea session.