I've been neglecting this sample from Yunnan Sourcing for a while. This is not available at YS anymore, however it still may be bought from jas-etea. The oldest tea from Yong Pin Hao I had was the 2001 Yi Wu Zheng Shan from Yunnan Sourcing - a magnificent tea. Then I was sort of clogged by many different (well, not much) 2007-8 Yong Pin Hao Yi Wu samples which were generally good, but not too interesting and not too memorable. That is why I did not try the sample of this 2003 for some time, being afraid it would bring nothing new again. What a surprise it was! It confirms that Yong Pin Hao used to make high quality tea too, not only good tea for reasonable money as he does these days.
Why the surprise? Some drinkers (probably mostly from the Czech Republic and Slovakia) have met the 2003 Yi Wu Zheng Shan private order - originally from Stéphane of Teamasters, re-sold here by Longfeng. I do not know the original price of this tea, however it is sold at around $300 here. Crazy, one might think. Anyway, during one barter of samples, I obtained a bit of it and tried it... and felt kind of underwhelmed, given the price. It was certainly very complex, good and all that, but the price was really off in my opinion (uneducated, that is). Why am I talking about a different cake when this post is labelled as 2003 Yong Pin Hao Yi Wu Zheng Shan? Well... I am not that qualified to say that the material of this cake is exactly the same as the 2003 YWZS from Teamasters. But if not exactly the same, it is damn similar! To verify this observation, I brewed the rest of the sample of 2003 YWZS from Teamasters and along and I have to say that the similarity is striking even when these two teas are brewed alongside. The leaves also look quite similar, being often two leaves and tips. The YPH tea seems to contain a bit more of broken bits, but that may be just the case with my sample.
In the first brew, sort of camphor & candy (dried longan?) taste did dominate (quite difficult to describe), along with a tiny little bit of smokiness. Nothing too remarkable at this stage. With further brews, tones of [over]ripe fruit did overtake the camphor (which gradually disappeared) - the tea was very good in this phase, complex, while retaining certain cleanliness. The tea is nicely sweet, first in a sugary way, forest honey joins the party evenually. I can not quite describe the taste, there is a lot of going on - occasional flowery or spicy tones appear too. The complexity of this tea is like when you listen to a good record on a good hi-fi set - you hear/taste the complexity, yet it is not muddled together - you can hear/taste various components clearly.
The aftertaste still has an edge, which is nothing uncommon in a tea of this age. There are some woody tones, joined by the taste of forest honey from 3rd brew onwards. The aftertaste is slightly smoother in the 2003 YWZS from teamasters, but this could be also due to Taiwanese, vs. Kunming storage, not necessarily different material.
Mouth activity is very good, as well as "grand" cha qi. Older trees work very well here. Long-term aftertaste is good too, it stays in mouth for a long time.
This is quite a high-quality tea with not-that-common taste profile and it is, in my opinion, worth the asked $65 (on the other hand, I totally do not think that it is worth $300, even though the $300 cake weighs 500g and this $65 cake weighs 400g).
Is there anyone who tried both mentioned 2003 Yi Wu cakes? I myself find the similarity puzzling and would like to hear a second opinion on this.
Further reading: Listening to leaves