Singaporean tea maestro and all-around nice guy, Keng, has very kindly sent me a bunch of solid, down-to-earth cakes that have aged a treat in Singapore's humid heat.
This first cake is the 2007 Yangpinhao "Yiwu Zaochun", meaning "early spring".
Shown below, this cake was produced on 18 July - substantially after zaochun! Let us assume for now that we should give Yangpinhao the benefit of the doubt, and that the leaves were harvested (much) earlier.
The cake itself is quite beautiful, and is a "tiebing" [iron cake], having been pressed by hydraulic power. Despite the high compression that occurs as a result, this has aged very well - presumably due to the magical effect of Singapore's environment. The aroma of the leaves is obviously aged.
Now six years old, the colour of the soup is in concordance with that which we might expect. Shown below, it has a heavy, orange colour.
Not pictured below is the sweet base of Yiwu that wakes me up. Also not pictured below is my considerable hangover, following a night listening to an unfathomably loud metal band (Soulfly) with some of my old chums. For those of you wondering what happened to Sepultura after Max Cavalera left, look no further. This Yiwu Zhaochun has the sweetness required to brush away the pulsating agonies of cheap nightclub beer, and gets to work quite promptly on restoring my body to full capacity.
The next day, I enjoyed a cake that has a really rather amusing name. We are accustomed by now, Gentle Reader, to the desire for cake producers to dedicate their cakes from everything to the 7th anniversary of their company to the opening of a new bank (I kid ye not). This cake celebrates one century since the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. You must really, really want to have seen the end of the Qing Dynasty to make a cake like this.
Nationalist jingoism aside, this is a very pleasant cake. Pictured below, the leaves are long and well-pressed, and have a solid, sweet fragrance that fills me with hope.
That this cake is still young probably accounts for the lack of obvious Singaporean darkness.
Unlike the Zaochun, this is a little more basic - but most enjoyable in its sweetness. There is some roughness around the edges, as befits a label such as Yangpinhao, but even a cake of this humble character will probably be rather delicious after further years spent in Singapore. As for this cake, aging in England, I can expect a slower trajectory, but hopefully one that is decent.
I cheekily took great pleasure in drinking this Xinhai cake from a Qing Dynasty cup, pictured above. I won't get onto the subject of Chinese politics, as the tea-table is never a good place to examine such things. I will instead thank my good friend Keng most sincerely for this very generous gift.