Yangqing Hao 2012 Yeh Gu
This is a “wild tree” 2012 production by Yangqing Hao from a “protected state forest”. It’s over 1$/g and is not usually available, due to very small inventory.
This tea is a major outlier compared to any of the 2000s Yangqing Hao that I’ve tried. Let me simplify my review so that I get the main points across:
First, the appearance of the dry leaf is unusually dark. Above we see the Yeh Gu followed by the 2004 YQH Dingji Yesheng with the same lighting. Why are the leaves so dark? One explanation is that it is some alternate varietal or cultivar. After brewing, the Yeh Gu seems to be a blend of three types of material: one very dark green, another a normal brown-green colour I’m used to with YQH, and finally a light yellow component:
Second, the taste profile is strikingly bitter, with a sweet aftertaste and giving a good deal of excitement. In the first steeps there is quite a bit of roastiness, a kind of acrid note which I am sure will age out. The bitterness expands to be a kind of blanket which intensifies to a long lasting grapefruit pith bitterness which is quite unpleasant, the kind of bitterness you get from pills, very intense. I brewed all three components separately and each is very bitter, with the lightest leaves the most intense in bitterness. Underneath the bitter blanket, there is some more traditional YQH house taste of aged paper and sweetness. The astringency begins quite fine and increases over the steeps, but does not get truly rough. It is stronger in the lighter material but all the material gives quite a bit of fine astringency. The 2001 Zhongcha Huangyin always reminded me of a kind of brawnier, more bitter version of a YQH tea, but this Yeh Gu is a kind of extreme exaggeration of the bitterness found in the 01.
Third, this Yeh Gu has a very intense version of the famous Yangqing Hao house storage aroma. I’m not sure if this helps to explain the darkness of the leaves (I would guess not) but the intensity of the sweet herbal mintiness/lemony aroma is quite striking, and for the first time I get a hint of what might be the underlying cause of the YQH storage aroma. I believe the aroma is a combination of esters such as ethyl acetate (nail polish, fruity, pear…) which are produced by fermentation by some of the fungi involved in puerh maturation. It may be that Yangqing Hao storage encourages a type of fungi which produces these esters instead of the earthy geosmin profile that other storage can produce.
I found the tea overly bitter (and somewhat astringent but not unusually so) with very long-lasting bitter aftertaste, and with a weird two-tone profile of bitter and generic YQH-taste. I found the storage overpowering, and I found the energy to be mainly of excitement. I am very curious what this tea is actually made of, what the blend is, and how this will evolve. Another thing worth mentioning is that the leaves are tightly twisted, more than usual and definitely more than any YQH I’ve tried before — unclear what this indicates. I expect that people buying this expensive tea today must be storing it for the future. Do the above signs predict a tranformation into a masterpiece of aged tea? I don’t know, but in any case, the tea appears today to be an outlier in several areas.