This cake was available for a long time at the Esssence of Tea, being their cheapest cake. When I had it for the first time, I was not really impressed, thinking the Small Yellow label to be notably better for not that much more money. Anyway, it was a welcome opportunity to revisit this tea again.
It was sold here by Mr. Ptacek for a rather lovely price of $75 (the original price was about $72; therefore we get a bargain much unlike the usual premiums seen around here).
Now, the dry leaves:
The leaves are quite large and they seem loosely pressed. There is a light white coating, but it mostly stays on stems.
A detail of the white stuff:
And one more:
Now, I hope that those unbelieving Thomases who did not believe me that the white coating is a mold, I hope you believe me now. I know, someone could think that it's Frosty the snowman who sprinkled the stems with snow, but it's not. If you still don't believe me, I'll get you microscopic photos next time.
Is it safe to drink such a tea? I think so. My stomach is, unfortunately, quite sensitive. Yet these teas comfort it. And I think that countless people drinking tea with such a light frosting are another suggestion that this mold may be ok. Yellow or green mold, no. But a bit of white stuff is not an issue.
The year which passed from my last tasting of this tea helped with storage aroma, which was not too strong back then and is actually quite mild now.
My issue with this tea is not that it had a bit of wetter storage. I think that the major problem is its relative weakness. It is thinner than other aged tea, and it's not really as sweet either. On the other hand, it has an interesting taste, which is not only "aged" (wood, some nuts, forest floor), but also herbal. It is also pleasantly clean (and with good clarity of liquor) There is still a bite of bitterness, but that can be kept low using shorter steepings.
It had a nice activity in mouth, but I did not feel too much qi.
This was a bit like a loose leaf to me, not as concentrated and lubricating as cakes. However, let us be realistic. The deal did not sound "you'll get an awesome tea for $75". The deal is "You get a nice, lightly aged tea for a good price. It is not perfect. Right... But it is not $10000 either".
I still think that even when accounting the small increase in price, the Small Yellow label is better - possibly similar in mouthfeel and qi, but sweeter and thicker. However, especially for Czech people, I think that the offer of having a tea with somewhat aged feeling, for $75, without the fuss with customs office and all that, the bargain is quite good. I hope that Mr. Ptacek will continue bringing such tea to CR.