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2012 HK-Market Xinhui Chenpi / Aged Mandarin Peel (50g)

2012 HK-Market Xinhui Chenpi / Aged Mandarin Peel (50g)

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November 6th, 2020

This chenpi (or aged mandarin orange peel) is from a Hong Kong dealer who carries a surprisingly wide variety of Xinhui chenpi at varying price points. This dealer sells a few different Chinese medicinal products of the highest qualities, and I've been looking at his selection for several years now. I finally decided to buy some of his mid-range chenpi to assess its quality since I'd been asked to get some in. The quality of this chenpi greatly surpassed my expectations.

Xinhui chenpi is used in a variety of dishes in Chinese cuisine, but is most widely used in food and traditional Chinese medicine in Guangdong and Hong Kong, since the best quality chenpi is grown in Xinhui, Jiangmen, Guangdong, which is well under 200km from here. Part of the allure of Xinhui chenpi is the preparation method involved, which apparently is a closely guarded secret. Mandarin oranges are grown and processed into chenpi other places to compete with Guangdong chenpi (at a much lower price point), but Xinhui chenpi is held in the highest regard. For many Hong Kongers, there is really no substitute.

Chenpi is, of course, also often brewed with tea, most commonly with ripe pu erh. Ripe pu erh stuffed oranges come in all sorts of quality and price points, but I personally really enjoy the freedom to brew the tea of my choice with high quality chenpi instead of letting a producer decide which ripe goes with which peel. 

Dry, this chenpi definitely has an aged aroma to it. After shredding some peel for brewing in boiling water to assess its quality, I got an aroma that was almost juniper-like, which is exactly what I'd expect from good Xinhui chenpi. Xinhui chenpi often makes me think of gin, and I may have to add some to gin at some point!

There is also lovely sweet citrus aroma left in the peel. My 2005 chenpi is much further along and I was surprised how much difference the extra seven years of age make! I found drinking this chenpi on its own to be very calming. Apparently chenpi and fresh ginger root are brewed together in the cooler months, which is something I'm definitely looking forward to trying soon.

The liquor in the cup was sweet with absolutely no bitterness or sourness, and made a very enjoyable tisane on its own! I also got some aged tea aromatics from this chenpi, which was a surprise. I wasn't expecting to get 'old book' in the cup, which is an aromatic note I often encounter in aged teas of all types. This flavor could be due to decomposition of cellulose over time. 

I tested this chenpi with 2019 Zhongcha grade III liubao, and found the combination to bring out bitterness that wasn't present in either before I combined them! I strongly suggest trying a few different chenpi and tea combinations, since I'm sure some combinations will work better than others. I found the combination very powerfully calming, so there is definitely a synergistic effect between some teas and chenpi. This particular combination was so calming that it almost sent me back to bed in the morning.

Chenpi definitely appreciates in value with age, so I strongly suggest putting some away for your own future consumption. Century-old chenpi can sell for more per gram than gold!

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