Pu erh are sold as loose tea or compressed and are commonly sold as cake, brick, tuo or melon shape tea. This 2006 ripe tea which I had purchased in Hong Kong 3 years ago was compressed into a tuo shape. This 'bowl shape' compressed tea has a hollow at the bottom of the tuo. This was to ensure that, during the steaming and compression process, this hollow will allow the tea to properly dry out and be ready for packaging and sale. Without this hollow, moisture may be retained in the cake thus damaging the cake. I am always fascinated by this tuo shape but I find, to me, storing tuos to be more tedious than regular size tea cakes. I store my tea cakes individually in brown paper envelopes and line them up on a shelf. I had kept this tuo for three years and it stood up as a sore thumb on my shelf.
Anyway back to this tea. This 250g tea was produced by Yi Pin Tang tea factory. I had no idea of this factory and went on the internet to solicit more info on this factory. This factory has a website (http://www.ynypt.cn). China business listings I use, also mentioned that this factory was set up in 2005 with a staff strength of about 200. The company had also obtained ISO 9001. Yunnan Sourcing which sell their tea also states that is "run by yet another Menghai tea factory manager".
It is no surprise that this tea compares very favourably to the ripe teas produced by the other big boys (menghai, mengku etc). This tea has a nice color, a woody and fragrant aroma (hint of leather in early infusions) with a nice sweet finish. Easily makes 8-10 infusions from one brew. This tuo is compressed very tightly and it took me some effort to break up this tuo tea cake. Overall, this tea did not disappoint and I enjoyed this tea very much.
I enjoy drinking ripe pu erh tea very much (almost a tong a year). There are distinct flavor characteristics produced by the various pu erh tea factories. I believe the production of ripe pu erh requires intimate knowledge of tea fermentation and that ripe pu erh stored over time will develop into a better pu erh tea.....maybe the tea goes through further natural fermentation......but I find that older ripe pu erh (say more than 3-5 yrs old) can really make a super nice brew.