These cakes are mid-to-late 1990’s productions that have been stored in Hong Kong and Taipei since they were initially produced in Yunnan. The tea was marketed as a larger leaf blend (8502) from 1995, but age and provenance claims of Pu’er tea under the “CNNP” (the state owned until 1996 China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import & Export Company) brand/label are difficult at best to prove definitively once the original cases of tea are broken up & sold in the secondary market. We feel that 1995-99 is a decent estimation of age, but it was chosen as something to be enjoyed now because it tastes good and makes us feel good, not because of reported age or factory/recipe. It was obviously stored very well in a good environment with adequate airflow and case rotation in Hong Kong, and it has aged further in Taipei into a very enjoyable tea to drink now since it is relatively mellow in the cup, very energetic, and delivers an outstanding aftertaste & feeling in the mouth. Further aging should mellow this tea even more and even out any of its very few remaining rough edges.
Sourcing quality aged Pu’er tea is dependent on access to trustworthy wholesalers who have been buying tea in bulk and storing it for years until it is deemed ready for sale and consumption, and we have been cultivating close relationships for many years that allow us access to an essentially unlimited selection of top quality aged teas from collections from all over Asia. Although we prefer to select this kind of tea in person in the field, this particular aged tea was chosen from a group of samples selected for us by a trusted long-term partner that were sent to us for evaluation during these crazy pandemic-induced times of not being able to travel safely.
Unlike selection criteria for other types of tea that are focused on fairly objective flavor and aroma evaluations, we choose to select old Pu’er tea based on how “clean” the tea smells and tastes after storage (with automatic rejection if any moldy, tainted, or otherwise “off” flavors/aromas are present) and on the much more subjective attributes of sensation/feeling in the mouth, aftertaste, and how it makes us feel.
Dry Leaves: very mild, clean aroma. Relatively large leaf material blend.
Infusion: crystal clear, dark, bronze/amber color.
Liquor: no funky wet/moldy flavors; woody; dark, clean tannins; notes of damp forest floor, leather, rubber, camphor, dark pipe tobacco; subtle dark raisin or red wine-like astringent sensation; awesome aftertaste with strong bittersweet feeling in throat and mouth