Friday, January 30, 2015

2006 751 "Two Elephants" cake

Since we just discussed the negatives of buying tea via Taobao, why don't we talk about something nicer? How about the positives of buying tea via Taobao?

Since no tea order from Taobao is complete without a few random pu'erh cakes I chose two cakes from a Guangzhou based vendor who specializes in the stuff. One of the two cakes I chose is the 2006 751 Two Elephants, which is a mid-aged sheng pu'erh, supposedly with dry storage. This cake was commissioned by Zhong Hanrong (钟汉荣), a somewhat famous pu'erh guru based in Hong Kong. Two Elephants the brand he produces pu'erh under - supposedly in existence since 1964 (although I can't find anything earlier than 2000). It seems that most of the available Two Elephants brand cakes are pressed by Changtai. Not much is for sale online - all I could find is a  2007 sheng brick from the same vendor and some miscellaneous shupu from other vendors.



The Taobao reviews of this cake were very positive, one reading "Chen Xiang (aged taste/aroma) overflowing" when translated, so I decided to go for it.  Anyways, how could I resist? Those two elephants on the wapper look so cute and happy, playing in a bamboo forest, not a care in the world. I was secretly hoping that this tea would leave me happy and without a care in the world, just like those Two Elephants.



The leaves of this one are completely full and unbroken - an indication of above average base material. The dark color and shiny exterior of the leaves suggests dry storage in a more humid area (HK dry, Guangdong dry, Taiwan dry). The dry aroma is sweet and somewhat reminds me of brown sugar. Sign 2 of good storage - a sweet aroma. The third sign is the deep orange color of the steeped tea. The fourth and most important sign is the taste. This pu'erh is one of the sweeter pu'erhs I've come across, with a thick body and a crisp aftertaste. Early infusions are fruity/honeyed with a plesasant bitterness. Floral elements come through in the later steeps, along with a slight hint of sticky rice. Don't let these fruity/floral taste descriptions fool you though - this tea is quite strong. My kettle ran out of water before this tea started losing steam - I've pushed previous sessions to ~20 steeps. Although I'm not a huge believer in Cha Qi (tea energy), I can't deny that this tea left me quite relaxed and at ease. Happy and carefree, just like the Two Elephants.



In hindsight, it was a bit foolish of me to expect a good 9 year old cake at that pricepoint (148RMB or about $24), however it paid off. At 148RMB this tea is an absolute steal - a cake of this quality with 9 years of Guangdong dry storage would likely go for $70-100 in the west. I'm seriously considering a tong of this, this tea seems like it'll age into something nice, not to mention that this tea is a very good daily drinker for now. This made up for the horrors that came with my first Taobao order. Needless to say, I'll be on the lookout for elephants while tea shopping.




4 comments:

  1. I'm assuming you too are a Westerner? How do we go about placing an overseas shipping order? I translated the page, but that didn't get me very far...

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    1. Hi Anthony,

      I am indeed a westerner, based in NY. To place an order to Taobao you must go through an agent, which is a company in China that will order the tea for you (you need a Chinese credit card for Taobao) and ship it out to you. I personally used TaobaoFocus, which seems to be quite popular. Note that it is uneconomical to only order a cake or two from Taobao, you should shoot for 2 kilos of tea minimum for it to be worthwhile. Shipping prices get cheaper (per kilo) as you buy more.

      If you're interested in ordering from Taobao you might want to read some reviews of other teas bought from Taobao, notably the 2001 Dingxing (http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2010/08/2001-dingxing-yiwu.html). I was sent a sample of that a while ago - it's quite a nice tea for the price, although the storage is quite wet. I'm also going to be reviewing various Taobao teas in the next few months.

      If you decide to order, good luck!

      -Jake

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    2. I ordered one cake, with more on the way if it's 1) to my liking; and 2) a bargain tea by Western standards. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    3. Hope you enjoy it! Curious to hear what you think of it. I'll be doing lots of Taobao reviews in the next few months, however you can e-mail me (sidebar of this blog) if you want recommendations before I post the reviews.

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