This cute little mini-cake is 100 g, the same weight as a standard “bird’s nest” or tuo cha, and about 250 grams smaller than your average pu-erh bing. As the attractive wrapper (I love the texture and slight transparency of the paper) says, this tea was produced by Chang Tai factory to commemorate (Ji Nian) of the 2006 tea culture expo in Taipei, Taiwan. The Chang Tai blender reportedly blended this cake from the best of 150 loose pu-erh leaves provided by the factory, and the aim was to reproduce the characteristics of the legendary “Hun Tie” (iron cakes) from the 1950’s. While it’s difficult to imagine how a blender could know (much less reproduce) how the 1950’s cakes tasted and smelled when they were young, there’s no question that this is high-quality pu-erh.

It’s evident from viewing the exposed cake that it’s very well-compressed, which happens to be one of the defining characteristics of “iron” cakes. There’s a healthy proportion of buds on the surface, and also plenty of dark, juicy-looking leaves. One of the more difficult things about iron cakes and machine-molded cakes in general is that it’s more difficult to break into the cake for brewing without breaking or damaging all of the leaves. The fact that this is a mini cake compounds this difficulty, since it’s thinner and smaller than your average bing. Using a small pick meant for tuo chas with care, though, I was able to break the cake into relatively whole and manageable pieces, using an intact specimen for tasting. This pu-erh is so well-made that it’s a shame it’s only available in mini cake size; I’d love to own large cakes of this tea.

The aroma itself is a complex puzzle, shifting between thick, date-like fruit smells to intoxicating wet flowery notes. There’s no smokiness and no off or dirty smells, and the shifting nature of the aroma is a really good sign. I found the elements of the aroma variously popped up in the liquor, which complemented them with a hearty but subdued bitterness, a smooth finish, and a nice thick, viscous mouth feel. This isn’t arbor pu-erh, but it’s about as good as plantation pu-erh can hope to be. The only real drawback is the mini-cake form, which isn’t really necessarily a drawback; the small cakes are extremely affordable, especially for someone who’s interested in experimenting with aging pu-erh but doesn’t want to break the bank. The unfurled leaves are in pretty nice shape (provided you can get them free without breaking them)–some large examples for full body as well as healthy buds and fledgling leaves for light sweetness. As far as Chang Tai leaves are concerned, they’re much better than the average.

As with all of our pu-erhs, we’re offering this tea in 1 oz samples as well as in whole cakes, and both are 15% off through the end of November, making this cake an even better deal.