Sweet little Zhimingdu cakes, these are. China Chadao most generously sent me a lovely little bag of these babycakes: it started with the Laobanzhang, moved onto Hekai and Bingdao, before finishing with Bada, Mengsong, and Bulang. Babycakes are a great way to taste your way around the province. The Zhimingdu cakes, in particular, are pretty decent - they are "private" productions from the Taobao shop of the same name, resold to the west by the excellent China Chadao.
This little fellow is the last in my bag o'tricks. I had been saving it for a rainy day. It's now raining (a lot). It has been raining for weeks. The road that Xiaohu and I take to the nursery each morning is currently underwater. That's fairly normal for our city.
When will I learn to stop attempting to take photographs before the sun has risen?
Laoman'e is a village in the (really rather large) Bulangshan region, which is famous for being situated close to the mighty Laobanzhang (and, presumably, Xinbanzhang). I've had a small number of cakes from this village, and have been impressed by their mixture of "LBZ" finesse with the aggression of greater-Bulang cakes. You can't go wrong with a bit of aggression in your tea.
Happily, despite the fact that this cake is little, its scent is very definitely "big". I do so love a cake that has a strong aroma, because it tends to presage something in the way of potency and character in its body. Cakes without aroma, on the other hand, can be over quite quickly. Such is the conclusion of my most limited experience.
In fact, the body of this tea turns out to be entirely hardcore. For the first time in quite some time, I have to dilute the agonisingly strong soup in the gongdaobei by adding a little water. It has a long, leathery base that I associate with Banzhang-area cakes, and yet it has the massively caustic punch for which I was hoping.
Sometimes, early in the morning, you need a cake such as this to get you going. I could drink a refined "LBZ" all day, but, pre-dawn, it's all about the power.
Happily, it reminds me of the 2008 Hailanghao cake from the region, a tong of which is maturing very nicely on my shelves. Its hardcore power has swollen into a heavy, complex base that is becoming really rather pleasant. This little Zhimingdu cake reminds of the "HLH" production when it was young. I have kept the Zhimingdu cakes sealed in plastic since their arrival, and so their aging has been minimal.
This particular xiaobing is low and "sticky", rather like molasses, just like the Hailanghao cake. It has tons of "good" bitterness [kuwei], without any roughness [sewei]. While not grand in any way, it is a reliable taster of the region.
Hats off to Zhimingdu, and thanks again to China Chadao, for this most enjoyable morning session. Not one for the faint-hearted, methinks.