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2020 Haiwan Yiwu Mahei Raw Pu Erh Cake (50g)

2020 Haiwan Yiwu Mahei Raw Pu Erh Cake (50g)

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January 4th, 2021

Yiwu Mahei tea has a long history, and is considered some of the best Yiwu tea of all. I first encountered this Haiwan production in 2018, and was astonished by the complexity and sheer quality of the tea. This 2020 version appears to be just as good as the 2018 version was, and I think it will improve further with more time to open up in my warehouse here in Hong Kong. 

The 2020 version comes with a QR code sticker that you can scratch off and scan to determine the authenticity of each cake. 2020 Haiwan tea is produced to the highest standards, and modern tea is produced in much more hygienic conditions than it was in the mid-2000s. Haiwan is a large producer with a long and illustrious reputation: the founder was responsible for the creation of ripe pu erh, and Haiwan's ripe pu erh is truly excellent. Their sheng is too, and these productions are the best example of their production prowess I've had to date. 

While we're experiencing cold and dry weather this winter here in Hong Kong, this tea is now woken up sufficiently for me to be able to judge it after over a month's rest in Hong Kong. I expect this cake to further improve once the temperature and humidity rise again.

I was easily able to break off a large chunk from the edge of the cake for brewing. The stone compression on this cake is a nice touch, and allowed me to break the chunk down into individual leaves with ease. 

After a quick rinse in a 150ml porcelain teapot, it was time to get brewing. I chose to test this tea in porcelain today to fully taste the aromas the tea has to offer.

The liquor has a fullness of flavor that reminds me of wild material. In the cup, this is an aromatic and complex tea, but I know it'll be even better in a few months once it wakes back up in my environment. This tea was stored in cool and dry conditions in Kunming since pressing, and there is still a slight freshness to this tea that reminds me of some of my 2020 maocha. This note has since dissipated from my maocha, but it is preserved in this Haiwan pressing due to the eight months this tea spent in Kunming.

There are blueberry and Concord grape aromatics here, as well as some interesting sweet wildflower complexity with a hint of the funk I'd get from a Bulang production. I can't wait to see how this cake opens up with more time, as it's already a lovely drinking experience. There is balanced mid-range bitterness here that just fits the overall profile perfectly, and a Spanish saffron-like character that persists through the session. Haiwan claims this is old tree material, and it definitely seems to be true to the robustness of the liquor. I've never found a plantation tea that could deliver the same fullness across the flavor range that old tree or wild tree tea can deliver. The huigan here is also excellent and balanced, and this balance is what makes this tea truly excel. This is just really good material, and Haiwan have the expertise to process it correctly. The liquor just feels 'juicy' because of its naturally full profile. 

I also now detect just a whisper of cantaloupe, indicating this material was oxidized further than is traditional to bring out more aromatic complexity. In my opinion, this isn't a bad thing. Good material will still age well, but bad material will drop off. A little more oxidation on good material doesn't seem to significantly impact ageability. 

The cha qi from this tea is lovely and calming as well, but I also think it will improve as the tea opens up and springs back to life as the weather improves here. I never inflate the humidity in my storage in any way, so I just have to wait for the seasons to change for all of my tea to kick back into high gear. 

The leaf quality is excellent, as you'd expect from a production in this price range from Haiwan. I highly recommend this tea to someone who is interested in trying out a very good (and well processed) young sheng that I believe has enough intensity to age well and deliver a pleasurable drinking experience over the years.

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