While I never yet really disliked any tea from Manzhuan, I also have not yet found a truly great tea coming from there, the 2004 Shi Kun Mu being probably the closest to that. I thought that this cake from Yunnan Sourcing was priced quite fairly ($20 per 250 bing, supposedly from 80-100 yrs old trees) - such a price could be expected in good plantation material, but sounds quite good with the trees from which this tea originated. Therefore, I grabbed a sample.
Upon opening the pouch, I was frankly surprised at the degree of compression - this cake is tight as Tommy Reck's piping!
The aroma of dry leaves is somewhat surprising, stepping rather far from the "close-to-yiwu" cluster. I don't think I'd know where to place it, had I not known it's from Manzhuan. It is heavily floral and sweet.
The liquor is yellow, with a green tint I have seldom seen up to now. As it oxidizes, it gets more orange (as seen on the picture below). It does not smell too distinctly.
In mouth, it becomes clearer that this is really from near Yiwu - while it's not that thick, given its origin, it is rather thick compared to, e.g., Bulang teas; also the lubricating feeling is quite typical of regions near to Yiwu, I believe. The taste is floral indeed (while avoiding unpleasant vegetalness that I dislike in young pu) - it's like orchids and lillies after being sprinkled with water. Although the taste is not entirely the same, this feels to me like Baozhong wulongs. Beware, this is not a "oolong-pu", it's just the floral tastes that are shared by these teas. Also, it is not like "lucha-pu" - it's just a fair, proper puerh, which has a very flowery and green taste spectrum.
I think that the flowery tastes could be perceived as soapy, in a way, but there are a lot soapier teas. Also, as I eat a lot of bananas these days, I think that there is an aroma of green bananas. Also, as steepings go, the taste of other young fruit appears, although it never becomes too strong. Also, the fruitiness can be emphasized when the liquor is drank colder. I think that this tea is actually better drank a bit colder than most other teas. When I drink it really warm, the taste is almost too weak.
Despite the tea having quite a "high" taste, it overall feels darker than green tea or Baozhong - there is "lower" or darker body, which does not sport a strong taste, but it has a good presence.
The taste is mid-long, which is fine in young tea. After a couple of seconds, pronounced astringency appears. Luckily, despite the considerable strength and length (minutes) of the astringency, it is not an especially unpleasant one. It feels a bit strange, but not bad. In some steepings, it was accompanied by light tingling. A certainly positive thing is that this tea is quite good for stomach, quite unlike most young tea.
I noticed a curious thing in wet leaves - some of the leaves have an uncommonly curved serrations (top), while most (70%?) leaves are "ordinary" (bottom):
For me, this was not a "fall in love" tea, but a "this is new puerh experience" one. Nevertheless, it seems priced fairly to me and is fun enough to drink. Well done!