Among other interesting teas, MarshalN has sent me a piece of this famous cake. There is a couple of links at the bottom of this post, mentiong this tea. I might add that this is the gancang - dry stored, thin paper version.
The tea does smell quite nicely even in dry form, it's like leather, incense (which will, when steeped, transform to camphor) and tree bark.
The wet leaves add a lot of components to the experience. Actually, it become quite obvious that this tea may be rather wonderful. And...it is. I enjoyed sniffing the wet leaves for several minutes. The aroma is pleasantly sweet, very complex, with tones of bark, medicinality, spice, a bit of vanilla and, as the leaves get colder, more and more camphor. Entirely cold leaves are very camphorous. While I do not taste any concrete fruit, there is the same sort of pleasantness one gets from fruity aroma.
The liquor is exceptionally clean (the blur is a consequence of my lens' aperture, not cloudiness of liquor; also pardon the flash) and nicely colored. It smells sweet and spicy.
The taste is, like the aroma, very complex and already lightly aged. The sweetness is very strong and well defined (it's like bass in music - it can be either "generic supporting bass", or a well defined instrument with clean intonation). All the tastes present in the aroma can be found (again, the camphor gets more pronounced as the liquor cools down), but I find it difficult to dissect the taste - and I rather prefer not to do so - it simply works marvellously together. The components, when described with words, may not sound like the tastiest things in the world, but it all works very, very good together. The taste lasts long and properly develops into a good hui gan (even in throat) and later into a pleasant long-term aftertaste.
While the tea is generally very pleasant and soothing, it still has a nontrivial amount of bitterness and astringency - probably a result of drier storage (more on that later). But it's not too disturbing or "wrong". It also helps a bit to use less leaves and steep them for a bit longer.
Mouthfeel continues with the overall "mid-aged" soothing performance of the aroma and taste. It cools a bit and tingles too, but it's nowhere near modern young gushu bombs. But I do not mind - on the contrary, I guess that too aggressive activity would ruin the peace that this tea bestowed on me.
It feels so good to drink this, a real treat. Hobbes wrote "Drinking tea brings me back to myself. To my breath, to my posture. To the distant tree-tops talking silently with the wind outside the lounge window" - and this is exactly how this tea affect me, it seems. It's a most pleasant and almost intimate experience.
This tea is also a great example of (in my opinion) properly done dry storage. It is rich, but with certain more youthful aspect and all that. I wonder how and where was exactly the tea stored. Because it is nowhere near super-dry stored sour mummies that are sometimes sold as "dry stored".
This tea is still available (a bit of a surprise, given it's fame) from Bana tea company. It costs $195 a cake and I say why not... It's expensive, but it's also very good. Unfortunately, good tea costs more and more these days. However, the matter of price is always debatable, e.g., MarshalN told me (and wrote earlier) that he thinks it's not worth as much. But I dare say that it might be worth to try at least 50g. That costs about $30 which is not that much.