Updated: Nov 4, 2017
After a recent discussion on facebook mentioned lao paka, a.k.a. (lao) huangpian, we were reminded that we had some relatively old huangpian ageing in Guangzhou. This isn't the type of huangpian normally sold on to the Western market. It's been compressed into 3kg tubes or and 30kg columns for long-term storage and/or display. I couldn't get a decent shot of the 30kg tube as it was too hard to move just for pictures, but here's a couple of the 3kg version:
These were pressed back in 2007 and stored in Yiwu before being transported to our store in Guangzhou in 2012. This form of Puer is becoming less common and is popular amongst collectors.
Huangpian is a very accessible tea as it has many traits that fit beginners:
it has less bitterness and astringency compared to standard leaves, Yiwu huangpian is especially so
lack of offensive flavours/aromas (unless stored badly)
it is forgiving to brew - it's hard to over-brew unless you totally forget about it
it is cheaper to obtain
it tastes and ages just like any other Puer
Looking at this 2005 Yiwu Huangpian, the leaf has definitely aged well. The tight compression causes some inevitable breakage but it's possible to break off the whole leaves and keep enough of them pretty whole and clean.
Since the leaves are generally larger and/or older, they release flavour more slowly. Many village families normally throw a large handful into a large kettle/pot and keep refilling with boiling water throughout the day - there's generally less bitterness and astringency and you can imagine what that means for Yiwu huangpian. For our gongfu brewing, we choose to fill the gaiwan and steep each brew longer than standard raw Puer. Check out these leaves after five relatively long steeps:
These leaves give off a wonderful, full and comforting aged and balanced aroma that you rarely get with younger Puers. A common issue with humid ageing is the heavy loss of aroma, but as common with our own Guangzhou storage, this still has a lot of character in the aroma. Once tasting, there's definitely notes of forest fruits and honey sweetness. The initial two rinses and steeps had great colour but didn't really release enough flavour, probably because we didn't brew it hard enough. However, the third steep was a smooth, fuller flavour that had good huigan and cha qi. There are definitely old arbour or gushu leaves in this blend as the cha qi affects me immediately with the aroma filling my stomach and chest, followed by some haphazard burping - a reaction that I get in bucketloads with good tea. My father-in-law says, even with our nose allergies, you can tell a good tea by the affect on the body. The burping side-effect from good tea is always followed by a refreshing lightness and alertness.
The sweetness has aged notes of malt, chocolate and the tea makes me salivate on the tip and sides of the tongue. I already want to drink more of this tea. As we get through more steeps, the gushu becomes more obvious, as it releases even more depth of flavour and minerality. I'm not that familiar with describing these more nuanced notes, but I can say that it's a very comforting, relaxing feeling that doesn't rush as it spreads through my body.
If interested, the samples are available for retail now and if anyone wants one or two of the whole tubes or columns, please contact me for wholesale price.