This morning I realized that this tea (at least the cake I own) is representative of my Puerh journey and perhaps my tea journey in general. Brief history. I got big into tea in high school in the early 90s after my parents brought back some loose tea and a Brown Betty teapot from a vacation in England that I still regret declining. Soon after my mom found an ad in a gourmet magazine for a company selling single estate teas. Hence begun my tea journey in 1991. I was particularly fond of black teas and the only puerh I’d tasted was in 2003 was a mini tuo of shou that the vendor instructed to brew western style. Of course it tasted like rotten mushrooms and I gave it to someone who’d drink anything and I never thought of puerh again until 2017 when my mom pulled out a Saveur magazine and told me about an article about people getting high on puerh teas and how horrible it sounded, to which I replied gimme that, snagged the magazine which contained the interview with Paul from W2T and quickly made an order. So this is 1 of the first cakes I’ve bought almost 4 years ago and it’s seen the evolution of my tea drinking tastes, storage methods and the ever evolving question of whether one can effectively age tea in the west. The answer is YES!!! When I bought this tea it was full of youthful citric, stone fruit, herbal, floral and minty notes with an uncommon thickness. I made the same mistake as many noobs and allowed it to dry out and lose character. It was then that I learned about crock storage and brought some life back to it…for a while. By 2019 this tea was in in awkward phase and while it still had good qi the flavor was meh. At this point I’d begun dealing with multiple vendors and my tasted leaned more toward the more robust teas of eastern Yiwu, Yibang and Gedeng so this tea got little attention. About this time I learned about experiments in heated storage and decided to use this tea (and my other 3-7 year old awkward teas) in the experiment. Briefly, for the uninitiated this involves heating a picnic cooler with a seeding mat to 85-90 deg f and placing cakes humidified to 60-70% into sealed Mylar bags and storing them in the cooler. Now I’ve had this method bring back top notes to say 3 year old teas and speed up the transformation of say 6-7 year old teas in which bottom notes were beginning to emerge but this is the only tea I’ve bought super fresh and was able to observe its transformation. I tasted this tea the first time this morning in the year that it’s been in heated storage and expected it to still be in its awkward stage as it’s still a little less than 5 years old. To my surprise I didn’t recognize it. I’ve been sampling a lot of drier Taiwan stored 7-14 year old boutique Yiwu teas from the likes of Yang Qing Hao, Chenyuan Hao, Biyun Hao etc and in its present state this tea fits right in with the more robust selections of the above. Woody notes have emerged and foresty camphorous notes dominate followed by sweet floral notes in the finish. Still super thick and stimulating mouthfeel. Still no plum notes but I expect these to arrive in perhaps another year. The qi, well I’m couchlocked and rambling about the evolution of a tea cake I’ve had 4 years and still managed to have 100g left when my reviews are typically short and sweet. It’d be interesting to taste this side by side with tea that’s been in Paul’s storage all this time. The point of this review, this tea is really good. You can effectively age tea in cool dry climates and heated storage can be very effective (at least in the relatively short term). No one has hotbox stored tea for a decade so who knows if adverse effects will arise.