2003 Yiwu Zhengshan 500g brick
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.