Important information we get from the packaging about this qizi bing:
Name: Spring of Menghai (raw puerh).
Batch number 701
Weight: 400 grams
Production date: May 24, 2007
Producer: Menghai Factory located in Xishuangbana
Like all new Dayi products, it comes with a special label to fend off copies.
According to the producer, this is one of their best current puerh, made with high quality leaves. Let's see this in more detail.
The best place to start is to look at the bottom side of the cake and compare it with the upper side. That's how you can know if the maker has put different, beautiful leaves on the highest layer to make it look better than it actually is.
For this cake, the difference is not that big. Both sides show a high amount of young puerh buds (which is more expensive than bigger leaves).
You will notice that the cake is not completely round. This is my fault: I took the pictures after tasting the bing twice!
The cake is pressed mechanically. On the sides the leaves come off quite easily (but not too much) and it gets harder as we approach the center.
The pressing of the cake is quite even and the edges are clean. You can see how the surface is even on the next picture.
From the size of the buds and the leaves, it's already possible to tell that the leaves come from rather young plantations and are not wild or old.
Scent: The smell of the dry leaves is true to its name. There is a light scent of fresh spring leaves.
Tasting: 3 grams for 5 minutes. 95 degrees mineral water (Yes brand). The paper inside the wrapper suggests 3 to 5 minutes.
View: the tea turns red/orange. The transparency of the brew is quite good.
Fragrances: fresh grassy fruitiness. One common puerh scent is almost absent: cigarette smoke.
Taste: Some astringency and a lot of bitterness (ku). But it also stays long and brings a rather nice plum smell with the aftertaste.
The spent leaves show how young this tea has been picked. Many are chopped, but it's possible to find whole ones too. Overall: This young puerh is very close to green Yunnan tea. Light without smokiness. The best way to brew it to avoid the bitterness is to use more leaves and shorten the brewing time. Brewed like this, the lack of smokiness makes it a decent everyday puerh (at least for people like me who don't like the cigarette smell of most puerhs). It makes me think of the puerh equivalent of a fresh Si Ji Chun Oolong.
Price: same as my 2000 cooked Fuhai brick.
If we look closer, we can see that not all buds look alike.
Update: The above probably doesn't qualify as a strong endorsement for this bing. So what are some other good reasons to purchase this one in particular?
1. The fact that the cake is relatively pure and uses mostly buds and young leafs from plantation trees is quite educational about the characteristics of this kind of leaves. With most cakes blends of different leaf grades and sometimes blends of plantation and wild/old arbor puerh, it's more difficult to identify which tastes/smells come from what kind of leaf. Also, this cake is from one of the most famous (if not The most famous) factories. So, it's also interesting to taste what one of their best new cake tastes like.
2. Brewing excellent tea is very easy. Brewing blended cakes is easier too, because the blending is often done to balance out the strength and weaknesses of the different leaves. This cake, on the other hand, requires some specific steps to brew it well. So this can be a good opportunity to practice your gongfu cha skills.