2003 Yiwu Zhengshan 500g brick

// Published May 5, 2019 by mgualt

During my trip to Taiwan last month, one of my favourite tea shop experiences was at the 二壺軒 store on Yongkang St. The shopkeeper here will likely not have much time for casual tourists or narcissistic self-professed experts, but if you’ve done your homework and know how to keep your mouth shut and listen, she will gladly pore over the catalogues with you to answer whatever obscure question you may have about an old puerh.

I tasted a few teas at this shop, but I was particularly interested in two teas that I knew were in stock. One is a 2001 Dayi which I’ll discuss in a future review, but another is a more modest series of 500g Yiwu Zhengshan bricks which were made in various years including 1998, 2001, and 2003. These do not have a reputation for subtlety or intricacy; they are considered to be full-bodied, strong, with characteristic Yiwu sweetness and old-fashioned processing.

She brewed this brick, with about 6g in a 100ml gaiwan with filtered Taipei tap water. Thankfully, she let the tea speak for itself, telling me no stories about it and not prompting me about taste, aroma, or energy. Even more thankfully, she let the tea speak fully, brewing it out for more than 12 brews.

I was satisfied with the price and very satisfied with the performance, so I bought a brick along with some other things, and now that I am trying it in Toronto, I notice something different. Bait and switch?

I don’t believe so. The tea is almost exactly as before – oily, concentrated woody incense, incense ash, strong energy but not uncomfortably so, aftertaste sweetness and even a bit of juiciness acidity. The profile is unmistakable. But there is a layer of geosmin (beets – earth flavour) which dampens the overall taste. Especially in the first two steeps, it seems as if it may be a traditionally stored tea.

After the first two steeps, however, the geosmin reduces dramatically. My guess is that that this is on the humid side of Taiwan storage and the brick I tasted in the shop had been aired out for some time. To test this, I’ll break some off my brick and air it out, keeping the rest sealed, to see how it evolves.


  1. Emil
    May 5, 2019 @ 11:59 pm

    Please let us know how the experiment goes Marco. I really feel like I need to experiment too here in Sweden to know how to enjoy tea as much back home as when you’re in a hot & humid climate.

  2. kruchre
    May 7, 2019 @ 1:59 pm

    I bought a 2005 7542 in the same shop in Yonkang St half year ago and had a comparable experience like you. The cake I took home had seen a significant higher amount of humidity in its lifetime than the one I tasted in the shop. Unfortunately, my cake has a strong geosmin taste which is present over the entire session. I already took a cake out of the middle of the tong she opened for me. The cake is still airing out with the hope that the geosmin taste can be mitigated to some extent.

    However, I also got a decent Xiaguan cake in this shop which matches the one I tasted in Taipei.

  3. Morgan
    May 9, 2019 @ 11:20 am

    How funny! I bought the same 03 Yiwu brick from the same woman at her shop in 2017 and had the exact same experience. Unfortunately, even after breaking up the entire brick to let it air out since late 2017, it has not improved in the slightest. With my brick, the geosmin funk of dank and rather off putting storage hasn’t change one bit since that time and in my case does not dissipate after a few brews. My tea also has zero energy whatsoever, nor the oily concentration you mentioned. It does have some typical Yiwu characteristics, somewhere in there, but I find it completely unenjoyable underneath everything else. As with anything, your experience may differ, and I certainly hope you’re tea turns out better than mine! Please let us know what happens.

    On an up note, I did get some early 00’s loose leaf Yiwu from her that was pretty fantastic, in and out of the shop. I also definitely enjoyed my time with her enough to revisit her shop next time I’m in Taipei.

  4. Saq
    May 21, 2019 @ 11:54 am

    Note that this store has their main branch and warehouse in Guangdong. So I think most of their teas have guandong storage with just the last few years in Taiwan.

    Picked up a few teas there myself, but they matched what I tried at the store and the storage is pretty clean.


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