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2017 HK Natural Storage Zhongcha Jingmai Mountain Ripe Pu Erh Cake (100g)

2017 HK Natural Storage Zhongcha Jingmai Mountain Ripe Pu Erh Cake (100g)

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August 27th, 2020

I bought a single cake of this shou in September 2018  directly from China Tea as a test: this tea now appears to be gone from the market! I've had this stored in my own warehouse since then and it has aged beautifully in natural storage without any plastic covering. Now that the tea is stored in a thick cotton-paper covered plastic bag, I expect there to be a rebound in aromatic intensity in the next few months. Directly from my storage, however, this is a very interesting shou and definitely nothing like any other Zhongcha shou I've had to date!

Zhongcha is one of the Chinese government's own tea businesses, and China Tea (formerly under CNNP) once controlled all commercial tea production in China up until the late 90s. This tea is a more recent attempt to diversify their pu erh productions to compete with an increasingly complex market, and this is definitely something different for them. Apparently Chinese pu erh aficionados also found this tea to be of interest since there appears to be no more to be had.

Zhongcha used a sticker to hold the wrapper together on this cake, which prevents tampering. The wrapper is quite attractive and features a classic shanshui (mountains and water) scene. 

Please note the shot of the back of the cake had the ISO turned up to better show the material used since the actual cake is nice and dark after a few years in my storage.

The dry cake doesn't smell of much, but when the water hits the leaves, sweet aged aromas and deeper, darker complexity come to the forefront. 

From the first infusion, I can tell the fermentation level was quite light. The liquor is very, very smooth to drink and on the swallow, as is often the case with shou made with modern single origin material. This tea performs like an older shou due to its smoothness, but I expect the tea to open up dramatically as far as complexity goes with more time in plastic. There are light almond aromatics in the liquor (which I can taste as well). The liquor is clean and clear with light camphor. This tea has lightly calming energy, which was a lovely way to finish my evening when I tested this tea. 

I felt the light fermentation and camphor in this material made it perform like a very well aged sheng, which was also a surprise. I felt like I may even have detected aged out smoke in the first few infusions!

I'm only offering up three 100g samples from my cake for the shou aficionado who is interested in trying something that is very much a departure from Zhongcha's classic shou offerings.

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