Saturday, March 18, 2017

2003, puerh far West

2003 raw puerh
China's state monopoly on the production and sale of tea (and puerh) lasted until the end of the 20th century. In the first years around 2000, some big private players started to create new factories with their own brands (like Haiwan or Changtai). But there were also small producers that simply started to press tea and didn't have the money or even the marketing skills to create their own brand and wrappers.

So, they did what most small producers were doing: they pressed cakes and wrapped them with a copy of the well-known CNNP design. These were the days of the puerh Far West, when law was very loosely, if ever, enforced. (Even my top quality wild Yiwu raw puerh cake from spring 2003 originally comes in a blank white wrapper. That's why I had to ask a friend to write this calligraphy on a second wrapper around this cake).

It's only after 2005 that China set up and started to enforce a Quality System on the production of puerh cakes. Factories had to be registered, production date had to be mentioned... Spring 2003, however, was still the wild West in Yunnan when this small private factory cake was made. I found this spring 2003 raw puerh cake thanks to a Taiwanese tea merchant who frequently travels to China. 
This cake has 2 things going for it: the price and the aged scents. At 59 USD for a 14 years old raw puerh cake, it's very affordable. And the aged scents of camphor, wood and earth are already shining thanks to excellent storage condition. 
The leaves are not fancy old arbor, but are decent young plantation puerh. The color of the open leaves shows that they have aged well and shed their fresh green colors. Now the color is between dark green and brown.

For this Chaxi, I have aired the dry leaves for a couple of hours before brewing them in a small Yixing zisha Shuiping. This has helped to make the taste quite smooth and sweet. The raw puerh energy is present in the long aftertaste.

This tea is great to get familiar with (well) aged raw puerh at a low price and as a daily tea for aged puerh fans. It's also interesting to compare it to my wild raw 2003 Yiwu puerh to understand the taste difference between plantation and wild puerh.

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