A Tea Addict's Journal

Border tea

December 7, 2007 · 4 Comments

New candy from my candy store.

I went back to the candy store to see if she has any more teas for me. One of the reasons I keep going back to this place is because unlike a lot of old shops, the laobanniang is very kind here and lets me do my thing, and doesn’t mind me asking questions, asking to see things, play with things, etc. A lot of these shops don’t really want to deal with you, and that makes things hard. When it’s a shop like this where the varieties of teas are in probably the hundreds when you account for all the various vintages (among which are gems and duds) it’s not possible to go through everything at once. If I had my way, I’d have all the bins open and spend an afternoon there opening every single bag. But alas, I can’t.

I picked some stuff up, and rummaged through some of her bins. Among the things she showed me were an aged qianlixiang (thousand miles fragrance), old oriental beauty, a slightly sour huangjingui, two bags of old puerh — one cooked, one a mixed bag of cooked and raw — and then some of these old pieces of puerh she has. Old is relative, of course. They sit in the back of the room, in this wall cabinet full of crap, basically, and in there are some leftover puerh from when they still sold this stuff (it’s gotten too expensive for them to buy these things, and they’re not really in this business anymore). Nothing too interesting, but I found this cake above, and it’s very cheap, so I figured, why not.

From the looks of it it looks like border tea — probably Vietnam tea. At first I thought it looked like Guangdong bing, but then the shape of it is not right, so that’s ruled out. It looks the most like some of the “new” Tongqing cakes that some Taiwanese guys made in the 80s. Those are usually wet stored to high heaven. This one’s not too wet, but definitely hasn’t been dry stored either. The dark and smallish leaves, and the smallish indentation in the back, sort of made me think this is the same thing, without the neifei (which is basically just slightly stuck on anyway). Things like this sell for a ridiculous price at M3T in Paris, at least I remember seeing one of them from a guy who bought it there.

The colour of the tea looks ok

But the taste is distinctly different. If you’ve had these a few times, you’d know what it is. I remember reading about it — how in Hong Kong, back in the day (and even now) loose puerh is sometimes (or often) made with Vietnam tea because they’re cheaper, and because back then, the supply of puerh was inconsistent. They probably go into blends, among other things. Even now, they’re supposed to be making their way into puerh cakes and what not.

This stuff isn’t high grade stuff, and don’t taste as good and rich as real Yunnan puerh. There’s a certain edge to it, and the sweetness is not quite there, in comparison. I’ve always wanted a more or less authentic cake of unadulterated border tea. I think I found it 🙂

I also came home with some supposedly 35 years old dongding that really reminded me of the liu’an I had yesterday, oddly enough, as well as some of the biyuzhu I had last week. I should’ve gotten a sample of the old oriental beauty. Oh well, there’s always next time.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • davelcorp // December 7, 2007 at 6:41 pm | Reply

    Wow, that brew looks pretty murky. What do you estimate the age to be? Did you ask the store owner if she had any info on it?

    What is that small hole missing from the front-center?

    Very curious looking stuff.

  • MarshalN // December 7, 2007 at 11:35 pm | Reply

    Actually, only the picture turned out that way.  The brew is actually quite clear when you see it in person — you can see all the way to the bottom of the cup with no problem.

    I don’t know what the little hole is — there’s just a little hole there.  The few other cakes they have don’t have this.

  • lewperin // December 8, 2007 at 6:44 pm | Reply

    The Vietnam border tea I have, supposedly from 1995, has a kind of herbal bitterness that always makes me think of Chinese apothecary shops. Does that sound like what you have?

  • MarshalN // December 9, 2007 at 10:23 am | Reply

    Perhaps the bitterness in this one has receeded a bit (this tea is probably 15+ years, my guess).  It does have a sort of herbal spiciness that a Yunnan puerh wouldn’t normally have.

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