Changdahao and I go way back - back to when they were also called Yiwu Manluo. I love one particular Yiwuzhengshan cake from 2003 and 2005, and have scoured Taobaowang high and low to recover a decent quantity of them.
This is another 2005 Changdahao, although entirely different as may be seen from the wrapper above. This is their "Mansa" cake, making it good ol' fashioned 'Banna tea.
The sample was kindly provided by Chawangshop, where the 40g cake sells for a little over $40. This is part of a "six famous tea mountains" set produced by Changdahao in 2005, and Honza, the owner of Chawangshop, selected this cake as being one of the best from that run.
Stop press: they also appear to sell my beloved 2003 and 2005 versions of the Yiwuzhengshan. Can Chawangpu read my mind?!
I am now totally in the mood for Changdahao cakes. Simple, strong, aging wonderfully - what's not to like?
The leaves are typical Changdahao: not pretty, but strong and healthy.
Brewing it results in the heavy orange soup pictured below, with the distinct character of damp molasses. I mean that in a nice way. There is a very welcome sweetness of warm honey, and a light cooling sensation. My dear Xiaohu joined me for several cups. He was a little unwell last night, and so I spent the night curled up at his bedside, waking with no feeling in my numb legs. He is now pushing a noisy police car around and appears to be back to firing on all cylinders.
The Mansa cake reminds me of the Yiwuzhengshan cakes that I have loved so very much in the past. It has the same rich flintiness, and the same sweet-straw nature. The two regions are fairly close, but I suspect that much of the commonality comes from the processing.
Enduring, sharp, dense - it has virtually no roughness. Perhaps it is a little below the par of my original favourites, but I can imagine it improving a little further. The low molasses ceiling hints that any improvements will be minor, however - it feels as if it has very little room to manoeuvre.
For $40, I am tempted.
For $40, I am tempted.
Equally cheap-and-cheerful, this 2012 "Yiwu Qiaomu" xiaobing is $12.50 for a 200g xiaobing (i.e., $25 for a real amount).
I appreciate Chawangpu, the brand made by Honza, in that it provides solid thrills with a highly honourable price-tag.
The leaves are from (i) Sanhe laozhai [old-village], quite near to Yiwu town, and (ii) from three different families in Zhangjiawan xinzhai [new-village]. Chawangshop made a "Zhangjiawan" cake from the latter, too (more on which later), making this "Yiwu" cake the more general denomination.
The yellow soup has a fresh, sweet scent - maybe a tad empty in the centre. It is a tangy, sweet Yiwu with a cooling finish and long, gentle shengjin [mouth-watering characteristic]. The aftertaste, unusually, is the dominant sensation; that which comes before is neither one thing nor the other. Could this be the result of attempting to blend four different types of maocha?
I enjoy the quality of the leaves: cooling, shengjin, and rather heavy in caffeine / chaqi. While this tea is good for the (very low) price, it is difficult for me to enjoy too much: the pleasant kuwei [good bitterness] exists alongside a brown-green flavour that seems at times almost sour.
The Changdahao was definitely the winner today.