I came close to running out of samples to drink. This would probably have been a healthy circumstance, as it would have turned my attention back upon my own tea-shelves. However, my appetite for trying new tea knows no bounds, and so the arrival of a generous package of samples from Teavivre was most welcome.
I don't think that I would ever have bought this cake, were it not for being sent a sample by the company. This is, more or less, the only shengpu cake that Teavivre sells, and so my eye usually skips over such things. However, I was in for quite a surprise.
The samples arrived in an array of glossy, silver-coloured packets, as pictured above.
Fengqing is a venerable enterprise, having been founded before the People's Republic. There are few established companies that survived the tumult of the decades between then and now, and so Fengqing demands respect.
It was, incidentally, the first factory to produce dianhong, the now-popular Yunnanese hongcha (where "dian" is the single-character reference to Yunnan). The company is based in the town of the same name, within Lincang diqu.
I usually accord the productions of Fengqing with even greater respect, because Lincang teas are generally "my thing", with their rustic, grain-like sweetness that can deliver a hefty punch, as well as taste delicious. On checking my "tasting notes" page, I see that the only cake I have actually written about is the 2007 Fengqing "Jiulong Tianxiang", a gift from a cousin, which was unfortunately ruined from its storage. This "Daohuaxiang" [rice-flower scent] cake, therefore, offers the opportunity to redress the balance in Fengqing's favour.
Edit: silly me, this is actually from Fengqing Sunning, rather than Fengqing proper.
Boom: the first infusion is precisely that for which I was hoping. It is potent, punchy, heavy on the kuwei [good bitterness in the throat], and absent sewei [roughness and astringency]. Underneath the enjoyable sweetness is the longed-for base of granary characteristics. Its small, fragmented leaves (shown above) deliver a smooth entry, but a long-lasting and most rewarding sensation that dominates the senses.
Even its scent is fine: the aroma cup is filled with fat, robust sweetness of a kind reminscent of heavy molasses. Better yet, these characteristics last for infusion after infusion, and, while I can drink no more after some dozen or so brews, the tea shows no sign of cracking.
It also reminds me of... Mainland tea. It has the welcome feeling of a traditional cake, of the kind that I tend to encounter only in Mainland China. The hand-selected, single-mountain varieties with which we are now familiar are a very different type of pu'ercha. Here, with the Fengqing, the emphasis is on fatness, boldness, and... something indefinable that really just takes me back to peaceful afternoons sat here and there in Maliandao. I will endeavour to collect my thoughts on the subject to come up with something coherent; in the meantime, I note that this is somehow "traditional" and "classical" in its feeling.
It is not an elegant, precision pu'ercha experience, but Lincang cakes seldom seem to be. Instead, they are present, real, and very enjoyable. I found myself actually loving this cake, much to my surprise.
Looking at the company's web-page, I see that this little fellow sells for a very reasonable $35, and I resolve to aquire some promptly. If you like Lincang, you might well feel the same way about this cake as I do.
Thanks again to Teavivre for the genuine surprise.