This is the 2001 MengKu "Yuan Yieh Xian" (or "Yuanyexiang") cake, which appears to have been reviewed by everyone and their cousin. I managed to find myself a little bit of each version (thick and thin papered) and have been curious to taste these for myself, particularly for what it could teach me about the differences that wet versus dry storage can bring to a tea. MarshalN recently posted a very insightful discussion about possible confusions of the term "wet storage" which can be found here and makes for good reading. For my own purposes in this tasting I'll simply refer to the wet (or traditionally) stored cake as "thick" (referring to it's distinctive thick paper wrap) and the dry stored cake as "thin" (being the thin-papered version of the two). I purchased a sample of the thick-papered version from Hou De, and the thin-papered version from Bana Tea Company. Bana labels this cake as "2001 Original Aroma From Wild", which is also the title found in Cloud's big review of this cake, here. In addition to samples, Bana also has a few of these cakes for sale and they're not cheap. I found a Taobao vendor selling the thin-papered version for a bit less, but once you factor in shipping costs it's not that much less than Bana's listing price.
|Thick paper version on left, thin on right|
|Comparison from my own samples (thick version on left)|
|(Photo from Cloud's Tea Collection review page)|
|Thin version on left, thick version on right|
Second infusion, 8 seconds: aroma of the thin is strong camphor and sweet woods. The thick still smells strongly of wet storage reminding me distinctly of old socks, although there's a bit of that minty pine-like camphor underneath. Taste-wise, the thick is again predominant with old socks although there's more dark wood and maybe a hint of tobacco underneath. The thin again excels with much rounder flavor, reaching both low and high notes. There's more mouth activity with the thin, as well. More ku and resulting salivation. It shows a good hui gan down into my throat with a simultaneous warm/cool sensation.
|Thin on left, thick on right|
|Thick on left, thin on right|
I sat for several more infusions of each of these. Both were enjoyable in their own right but if I were pressed to choose a favorite it would definitely be the thin papered version. Overall I found that it had a broader taste profile and a more active qi. Living in the Northwest I feel quite water-logged as it is, and while I love all things dark and forested the thick papered version was such a concentration of it. Maybe if I lived somewhere drier I'd be more inclined to choose the thick-papered version as a favorite for how it reminds me of home.