While reading the woes of the world and the bleak financial news on the papers this morning (not to mention Sen. John McCain's puzzling choice for VP), I sipped on what most likely the 20th infusion of 2005 Yichanghao "Ji Pin" sheng pu'er (Houde). Maybe it was the 19th or the 21st brew...I lost count. This last cup was steeped for a good 12 to 13 hours from the evening before. Its aroma and taste were still enjoyable, and the tea was drunk at room temperature.
For a vintage 2005, the dry leaves of this Yichanghao look interestingly darker than most other -- if not all -- 2005 sheng pu'er I have or tried. The beeng gives off a mild whiff of floral and straw notes. It made me wonder: is this one of those '04 - '05 Chang Tai tea that went through, as Danny Samarkand mentioned on CHA DAO, a "slight pre-processing fermentation"? [click here for the excellent 2nd installation on proper storage consideration for pu'er teas, written by Mr. Samarkand and MarshalN, as well as the ensuing discussion in the comment section, which touched briefly on the subject of Chang Tai teas]. Unless I misunderstood Danny's meaning, this '05 Yichanghao fits his opinion: the leaves are darker compared to similarly young teas, and the liquor is orange.
A very pleasant fragrance emanated from the tea liquor, which reminded me of straw, bamboo shoot, and of sweet smelling flowers. It's so fragrant that it almost felt unnatural for a young raw pu'er. Again, it made me wonder: is this more oolong or more pu'er? I couldn't be exactly sure.
The taste was smooth and astringency was hardly present, unless I pushed the steeping time exceedingly long. It's sweet-ish in the mouth and throat from the get go (as in no ku -- bitterness that turns to sweet sensations that one might expect from some young pu'er). The chayun and the huigan were all rather weak, but the overall package was very pleasant, actually.
On its chaqi: I felt a certain energy flow that first warmed my lower back and then it moved towards my stomach area, shoulders, chest and neck. The effect was calming and relaxing.
Conclusion: For a young pu'er, it is already approachable and ready to be enjoyed. I would think that anyone who hasn't acquired a taste for young raw pu'er should find this tea pleasant [enough].
Ageability, however, is hard to predict. There was not much strength or concentration of taste, aroma, chayun and huigan, all of which are necessary attributes that every candidate for a long-term storage should possess (or so I read). Certainly not lacking, however, is its good brewing durability. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what this tea has in store a few years from now. I should think that an investment in a few beengs could be warranted...some for immediate enjoyment and a few for a bit longer down the line.
Good compression -- not too tight or too loose. The wet leaves are healthy and intact.
What do you, dear readers, think about its aging prospect given my long-winded descriptions above?