The tasting token goes back to Finepuer with this one. Being from Jingmai and being from 2001, it goes along well with the Gu Puer set of single-area teas from 2001.
I often asked myself "how is this great fresh, juicy Jingmai going to age"? Of course, I know a few vendors who will assure you that they will age great. Due to "expertise" of such people, I'd advise a truck of salt ready for taking their advice. Actually, I think that this He Shi Hua's tea, along with some older Jingmais from YS I have tasted but not yet written about, suggest that Jingmai lovers should be wary of what will happen to their teas in 10 years.
I'm not saying that these older Jingmais are bad, but all of them aged in a way that could be unpleasant for some. I think that while many other regions are unpleasant when young and get good with age, Jingmai is quite pleasant when young and while it is still pleasant as it ages, it becomes quite differently pleasant.
There are some white flecks but given the rather dry storage of the cake, I'd attribute them to neifei.
Rinsed leaves smell quite good, slightly nutty, with a good deal of blackberry jam (not pure, it's as if some red berries were added in there).
There is certain "minerality" in the first few steepings, but it goes away quickly. The taste is rather full, fruity - the taste is of forest fruit, mostly blackberries. It's funny how easy is to draw the line to young Jingmai's taste, even though the taste has advanced significantly via aging.
The liquor is one of lighter, given the age of this tea. At least for my self, I would prefer 2001 teas to be at least as this dark.
Returning to the taste - the taste starts with heavily transformed Jingmai fruitiness and then evolves into... something like hongcha - at least certain sorts. Now I drink tanzanian black tea from a mug I recalled to be similar and there are definitely significant similarities. Another tea which is partly similar in the 2nd half of main taste is good English breakfast. It is this aspect of this tea (and the 2003 Jingmais I have tasted) that could be repulsive to some. I do not mind it - If I drink red/black tea different from Lapsang Souchong, I drink it for precisely this aspect - but it is not as expected in puerh. Also I would not attribute it to "hongchaization" or anything fiendish - first, it was in all the older Jingmais I have tasted, second, one does see how it may evolve naturally from taste of young Jingmai.
There is still a good deal of bitterness, but being the Jingmai-style, it's pleasant in a way. It also leads to good aftertaste which is more similar to young Jingmai than the main taste (which is obviously related, but quite different.
The positive after-taste performance is heavily boosted by good old tree cooling feeling (it seems that for once, the "gu cha" claim was true).
As the steepings go, the fruitiness changes to woodiness (slowly) and light honey aspect do appear - quite a satisfactory development. Also, I believe that the honey quality may be emphasized by future aging.
Overall, the tea was a bit light and "dry" to my tastes - I prefer the heaviness of the Gu puer set from YS, on the other hand, this Jingmai is quite a clean tea with good taste development. To me, such "reasonably dry stored" teas are like if you listen to complex music with boosted high band - it's good for analysis of the music as you can hear the details, various techniques employed by the musicians and all that, while enjoyment is still possible. However, if I want to listen to music for pure pleasure, I prefer more balanced setting.
Nevertheless, I do not want to sound negative - I enjoyed this tea a lot, partly for its educational value, but the larger part is formed by its interesting taste and very good mouthfeel.
The leaves are a mixture of medium and large - it is not true that Jingmai tea would have to be from small leaves:
Also, looking at the leaves, their thickness and the thickness of leaf-stalk, it supports the hypothesis of gu cha proposed by the mouthfeel.
The take-home message for me is - buy Jingmai for drinking, but not for more serious aging.