This 250g tuo is from one of Hong Kong's oldest merchants. I've walked past this merchant's location dozens of times, but never ventured inside for a better look until very recently. I'm glad I did. The merchant only sells pu erh tea, and a single oolong grade. When I asked him if he carried any oolongs, he pointed to a large canister and said he only had a standard grade for offer. I said I didn't want it, and we both laughed. We get along very well and he carries excellent teas at fair prices, so I will definitely be trying more of his selection in the months and years to come!
This tuo has seen traditional storage in the past, and has visible remnants of mold and some bug holes in the wrapper, but the tea has also had years to air out and is extremely clean, smooth and pleasant drinking now, with no off flavors whatsoever! There are absolutely no storage aromas evident from the tuo, which surprised me, but this dealer really knows how to handle his tea. This dealer's HK-style traditional storage technique is my favorite at present since it is a little dryer than usual. I believe the influence of the 88 Qing Bing made him store his teas a little dryer than he used to!
This tuo is very tightly compressed, but breaking off some tea for a sample was relatively easy with a pu erh needle.
This tea was a wonderful surprise. I rinsed twice, as I normally do with all shu pu erh. I don't normally brew shu pu erh in porcelain (I use 1980s zisha teapots most of the time), so the fact that I could detect no storage flavor whatsoever was quite the surprise. The tea is thick, sweet and smooth, with just a hint of saltiness to counterbalance the sweetness. The balance of sweetness and saltiness and the thick mouthfeel reminded me of a prune. This is absolutely my cup of tea as far as shu pu erh goes. This company's warehousing style is really the ideal balance between dry storage and traditional storage. The compressed tea took several infusions to open up fully. I believe the compression slowed down aging significantly, but this tea is absolutely wonderful now! I found myself wondering how this tea would perform with a little traditional storage sheng mixed in. The thick, sweet brew reminded me of the raw/ripe mix I carry here at TeaLife. There is even a hint of raisin-like character detectable, which I found very pleasant.
If you like Hong Kong dry storage, this would be your cup of tea. This tea really shows you the potential of Hong Kong traditional storage to speed things up without removing all of the origin character from the tea. This is definitely one of the best examples of traditional storage shu pu erh I have encountered to date (for my tastes). There are no humid notes whatsoever, and the tea is smooth and tasty with excellent mouthfeel! I got five infusions from the tea, but a long sixth infusion would absolutely be a possibility (more if you use more tea leaf and shorter infusions, of course).
Brewing suggestion: 5-8g per 100ml. Less or more depending on your taste. Place tea in a preheated pot or gaiwan. Rinse twice with boiling water, or water just off the boil, allowing 30 seconds to one minute between rinses to allow the leaves to expand. I like to use 10-20 second rinses, but some prefer to rinse for longer; this is a matter of personal preference. My first infusion is usually 10-20 seconds long, but you can vary your infusion lengths depending on the amount of leaf you use, and how strong you like your tea.
These tuos have lost some weight from storage (as is normal) and the tuo pictured weighed around 230g.
Please note: most traditional Hong Kong tea merchants do not offer discounts on volume until I am purchasing several kilograms at a time, and in most cases, no discounts are offered at all, even for ten kilos of a single tea or more. I may however be able to offer a discount on this tea for volume purchases as the merchant seems amiable to discussion.