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Top Shelf Pewter-Stored 1995-1996 Dahongpao (16g)

Top Shelf Pewter-Stored 1995-1996 Dahongpao (16g)

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Update: May 2018

The price of this tea just went up 25%, and I have raised prices accordingly! The vendor has very little of this tea left, so if you'd like to try a 90s dahongpao, I recommend getting on it now. If you make a purchase for more than the vendor has left (he didn't specify how much is left in the warehouse, but he said "very little," I will refund the excess and ship whatever I can get at the time. The vendor feels none of the dahongpao produced today can compare to this stuff!

This is the best quality aged dahongpao I have ever had! The vendor stated this tea is from 1995-1996, but this tea still has a great deal of complexity to it and has not developed the very aged taste typical of a lower roast oolong stored for twenty years. The flavor of the roast in this tea has dissipated for the most part. This tea is definitely not as highly roasted as many of my options. This tea definitely appears to have some age to it, as the aroma of the dry leaf is mellow, and the tea has calming cha qi. This is absolutely exceptional aged dahongpao and very smooth on the swallow, which is a distinguishing factor of a top quality Chinese tea.

I know I offer a lot of different oolongs, but dahongpao has long been one of the most popular Wuyi oolongs in Hong Kong, and is a tea I drink often. I am very fond of the flavor profile of Hong Kong's oolongs. The classic dahongpao offered in HK is still produced in a manner that appeals to older Hongkongers, who grew up drinking this type of tea. I have yet to encounter a dahongpao of the quality available here in Hong Kong on the Mainland Chinese market. There is strong demand for Hong Kong teas in China, as they are perceived to be of better quality. Buying tea in China can be quite the minefield, but many Hong Kong tea companies have been around for generations and sell wonderful tea, since they have a reputation to uphold. I believe these merchants' longstanding connections with generations of farmers and roasters on the Mainland mean Hong Kong companies continue to get the best of China's tea production, as they have for over a century.

This tea is, literally, top shelf. The vendor had to get on a ladder to access the beautiful chased pewter caddy it was stored in. This tea was not initially offered to me. I asked if he had better shuixian than his standard grades (which were quite reasonably priced), and without another word, he moved to the other side of the store and got his ladder to show me this dahongpao. The pewter caddy was the largest I have seen to date, and the craftsmanship was incredible. I'll get a picture of the caddy the next time I visit the merchant as I've never seen a tea caddy of that size and quality anywhere else. I believe the caddy dates back to the 60s or 70s.

This tea is not quite as highly roasted as my other offerings. This tea was made with exceptional base material and the roast was very well done, as much of the unique character and terroir has been preserved.

The dry leaf is lighter in color than the 2005-2006 dahongpao I offer, and has a mild, but distinct, dahongpao aroma. 

Due to the high cost of this tea, and my trust in the quality of the vendor's offerings, I drank the rinse (which I almost never do with any tea). I used a 50ml Chaozhou porcelain cup to hold the rinse. The rinse therefore appeared darker than the first infusion, since I switched to an eggshell thin 15ml gongfu cha cup (also from Chaozhou) to truly taste this tea the traditional way.

The rinse was flavorful and had excellent, but well balanced, huigan (sweetness that returns after the swallow). The tea had a pronounced calming effect. Newer oolong tea can have quite the caffeine kick when brewed gongfu style, but this tea was pleasantly calming. The flavor of the roast was much less apparent than with the 2005-2006 dahongpao I also offer. The true flavor and terroir of the leaves is evident, but this tea is wonderfully balanced all around, as is typical of a top grade tea. With Chinese teas, a well balanced brew is considered a feature of the best teas, as too much (or too little) of any one characteristic is seen as an indicator of inferiority.

Infusion one was exceptionally smooth. There is no harshness to this tea at all. As the tea cools in the pitcher, black tea and osmanthus flavors surfaced in the cup.  There was a hint of the classic dahongpao fruitiness on the palate after the swallow, particularly at the back of the throat. This tea is far more complex than any high roast dahongpao I have ever tried, due to the high quality base material and the excellent processing and storage this tea has gone through in its life.

With my second session with this tea, more leaf was used in a 40ml Factory 1 hongni shuiping. Brewed with more leaf-to-water, raisin, date and sweet tobacco flavors come to the forefront.

This is an aged dahongpao for those who would like to experience a truly exceptional tea. I suggest trying my other dahongpao before trying this tea, but not on the same day. If you'd like to try the dahongpaos as a flight of sorts, however, I would suggest trying this tea first, followed by the connoisseur grade dahongpao, and finally the heavier, darker roasted and fresher 2005-2006 dahongpao I also offer. 

This tea is sold with the caveat that you may no longer want to drink lower grade dahongpao ever again!

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 some 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.

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