So, this is one of those legendary teas that costs an arm and a leg, coming from a region known for producing “gift teas.” I got it as part of a package generously provided by Liquid Proust (who, I believe, acquired it through TeaPals, who supply Chen Yuan Hao products). If you want to really see what hard-to-find pu’erh is all about, you have to check out his offerings. He makes the exclusive stuff very accessible (and affordable, at that.)
Overall, this tea is fine. It’s a hay-ish, floral, and citrusy tea with some fruit notes that remind me of what you find in a Dayi 7542. Tasty, unassuming, soft – very Yiwu-esque.
I’m not going to beat up this tea, but it’s hard not to be critical when it claims such a price ($1000/cake) and you find yourself really honing in on what the tea offers. I’m really happy to have had the chance to sample such an exclusive tea and to better wrap my head around what is claimed to be some of the “best” pu’erh. Again, it was an enjoyable session.
That said, for those of you on a tight budget who don’t drink $1000 cakes, or even $100 cakes, don’t think that what you are consuming is crap. In fact, the teas that I would give top marks to are actually some of the cheapest teas I own. Literally all of the expensive teas I have tried (from $200-$1000 a cake) have been good, but notably average and easily compared to teas that sell at a fraction of the price. That may tell you more about my own palate than tea quality, but take it as you will.
Anyway, suffice it to say that if you are curious about what this tea offered, I seriously would recommend another hay-ish, floral, and sweet tea offered by Yunnan Sourcing – “Chen Yun Yuan Cha” ($56). I compared both, and the YS cake had more powerful floral aromas and a thicker body. The sweetness of the YS cake is more honeysuckle and honey, while the CYH cake has more gummy fruitiness. The YS cake also has some very faint char notes, but it comes out more of a subtle smokiness, and is not at all unpleasant. Put side-by-side, I would likely grab a cup of the YS cake over the CYH cake.
There you have it. Again, this is a good tea, no question about it. It certainly has high praise from tea bloggers. I just think hyping these things up is a disservice for new pu’erh drinkers. You don’t need super old or super expensive boutique teas to have a quality pu’erh session. Quite the opposite, in fact. Personally, now that I have gone out and sampled 20-30+ year old teas, several Lao Ban Zhang’s and Bing Dao’s, a number of gu shu’s, and other “premium” pu’erhs, I am relieved to find that the experience of these teas is very easily found elsewhere in cheaper and more accessible teas.
Dry leaf – lemon/citrus, floral, peach confectionery, blackberry pie filling
Smell – light, sweet floral, some lemon notes, lemongrass, gummy fruitiness (Juicy Fruit), hints of blackberry. Icing sugar and spice cake in empty cup
Taste – lemon, floral, gummy fruit, hay, lemongrass, hints of spice cake in development, hints of slightly tart red apple in finish. Aftertaste is very light. Hints of floral and white pepper
See others’ reviews here:
TeaDB – https://teadb.org/2015-chenyuan-hao-mansong/
Cwyn – https://deathbytea.blogspot.com/2017/01/2015-chen-yuan-hao-mansong-yibang.html
Maybe I’m just a cheap date…