This tea is from another of Hong Kong's oldest merchants. I've walked past this merchant 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!
As you can probably make out from the pictures, this tea has only seen light traditional storage, and there is no mold visible on the surface of the cake. There is a light aroma of humid storage from the dry cake, but it is very subtle. I purchased two of these standard 8653s from this year's production for dry storage, and they smell very smokey indeed, like many Xiaguan products.
This tea was a wonderful surprise. In the first few infusions, the leaves smell of wildflowers and fruit with a hint of storage. None of the storage carried over into the cup at all! The tea is slightly sweet and only very slightly astringent and bitter. There are pronounced black tea and citrus notes, along with mango from the second infusion onwards. There is a wild honey-like character to the flavor profile as well, which is really very pleasant. This tea has aged much like my home storage 7542, indicating the storage had been done very, very well. I prefer lighter traditional storage since you can still enjoy aromatics and flavor of the parent material, but with the bitterness and smoke aged away in a much shorter period of time. This company's warehousing style is really the ideal balance between dry storage and traditional storage. The tea brews up a lovely copper and has excellent longevity--I had to quit before I brewed the tea out as I'd already worked my way through a connoisseur grade dahongpao session during the day!
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 cake. This is definitely the best example of traditional storage I have encountered to date (for my tastes). While the tea is slightly more bitter and astringent than it would be with more humid or prolonged storage, the lovely flavor I get from this tea make this my favorite HK traditional storage sheng pu erh!
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.
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. For this reason, I cannot offer a discount on larger purchases at this time.