This 400 gram cake is one of the older cakes we offer at Miro, and tasting it soon after tasting 2007 and 2006 cakes makes its slight aging very apparent. Chang Tai used to be a pretty small factory but upgraded to a substantially larger “Manufacturing Group” in 2005. Still, its product rivals and often bests many of the huge, well-known pu-erh factories like Menghai and Xiaguan, especially in the “wild leaves” department. This cake makes no claims about being exclusively old growth, but it does contain a healthy proportion of semi-wild “old plantation” leaves from Yi Wu mountain (hence the name, “Yi Wu Original Peak”).

Like the 2006 Chen Guang-Ho Tang cake, this cake is stone-molded. Here, though, it’s even more apparent; as you can see in the picture, the edges of the cake are pretty loose, and leaves are already coming off without any effort. Smelling and visually observing the cake, the four years of aging are very apparent to me–more so than the liquor will eventually reveal. I can already smell that “forest floor” camphor and earthy musk that is evidenced so well by well-aged pu-erhs, which means this cake is on the right track for some future delicious aged sheng pu-erh. You can also notice the slight changes that have taken place in the leaves’ appearance; they’re a bit darker, and many of the buds have changed to a slightly more golden hue.

Taste-wise, this tea reveals its age less. The liquor is a dark gold, though, and its aroma is full of rich, woody, earthy pu-erh character. With a sip from the first infusion, it’s apparent that the tea exhibited a slight smokiness when it was newborn, but it’s swiftly retreating and is absent from later infusions–good news that this tea won’t be one that still tastes like smoke when it’s over 10 years old! There is still a formidable bitterness in this tea’s finish, but the aftertaste develops sweetness with every breath. There’s a lot of debate about which ages better–strong pu-erh or subtle, complex pu-erh–and if you’re of the “strong” persuasion, this one is certainly a contender for a good aging choice. I’m of the belief that both types of tea have plenty of potential, though they’ll very likely produce aged pu-erhs with very different temperaments. Surely, though, abundance and strength of flavor in a young pu-erh is unlikely to disappear over the years and result in a weak aged pu-erh. Either way, this tea fulfills a couple important criteria for pu-erh aging potential: 1) It’s complex enough to be appreciated now, despite its acceptable “young” characteristics, so it will likely be complex as an aged tea. 2) It already shows signs of aging, which means that it should continue on the promising path it’s on if properly stored.

The brewed leaves of this tea reveal something about Chang Tai’s method that seems to happen with many of their teas–many of the leaves are fragmented or broken, with sometimes tattered edges. This may partially account for the tea’s powerful taste, and time may prove that the aged flavor of these cakes will be enhanced by the added strength this imparts. Next up in the tasting note series is another Chang Tai offering.