I purchased this tong of pu erh during my December trip last year. This is the 2004 Xiaguan ripe pu erh 357g.
I normally do not purchase old pu erh (below 2004) during my trips to Guangzhou. I am not experienced in old pu erh and I am not familiar with the pricing of such tea. Moreover, my tea dealer friends mainly deal in new teas as these dealers are in the business of supplying new and current teas to tea shops and tea enthusiasts within mainland China. My tea dealer friends tell me that the sales turnover for new teas is faster. Yes, they have the odds and ends of current tea that is not sold but these dealers I know are not interested to sell old pu erh as they think that the sales for such tea is slower and older teas are hard to come by.
During my last Dec trip, one of the tea dealers there had kept aside one tong of the 2004 Xiaguan ripe for me. He explained that one of his important customers had requested for some old Xiaguan ripes and this dealer managed to wrangle a few such tongs from one Xiaguan wholesaler in Guangzhou. I was told that this particular Xiaguan cake was 'hard to find' in the tea market which explained the higher price I paid.
You will notice from the above pix that the tong is tied with metal wires. Beware - these wires may be rusty and untying the wires bare-handed can be quite hazardous.
There are no markings on the reverse wrapper of the tea cake as well as an absence of manufacturing dates on the wrapper. There is also no neifei (an enclosed note), which I normally see in pu erh cakes that normally describes the benefits of pu erh.
This Xiaguan ripe cake is bigger than the normal cakes in my collection. This 'not too tight' compression allow me to break open the cake without using any tools; just literally use my hands to break up the cake. I think that this level of compression is good as I do not get too much tea fanning or tea dust as compared to breaking up a tightly compressed tea cake.
The aromatic levels of this cake when I brew this tea is very impressive. The aroma is pleasantly strong with hints of chinese herbs and a oak-like scent. Together with a nice sweet finish, this tea puts a tiny smile on my face.