Friday, March 18, 2022

Top Recommendation: 2004 ChenYuan Hao Song Pin Hao Commemorative Cake

I publish this in haste because there are still a few samples left to try at  I took a risk and got a full cake of this 2004 Chen Yuan Hao Song Pin Hao at approx. $623.00 for 380g cake or $1.64/g… I thank Paolo for bringing this one in for us in advance….

Dry leaves smell of faint distant woody cardboard with a stronger lingering creamy sweetness.

The first infusion has a pure watery woody creamy sweet very Yiwu initial taste with a very fluffy creamy sweet finish.  The pure creamy sweet Yiwu taste pops and expands long in the mouth and deep in the throat.  The mouthfeel is very soft with a mild mouth watering and deep throat feeling.  It is very clear and tasty.  Minutes later there is a subtle brassy metallic taste.  The cooled down cup tastes more woody, salty, and bland vegetal.  Interesting…

Second infusion has a vibrant tangy initial pop of sour cherry that holds in a lubricating saliva inducing mouth.  There is tons of mouthwatering and saliva producing with a strong moving saliva from the deep throat and filling the mouth like biting into a Gushers candy from childhood.  There is some brassy notes, salty notes and woody notes and creamy sweet notes underneath.  The Qi is very pausing/ quieting on the mind.  It’s the Qi that stops the world….  The jaw feels heavy, the eyes clear.

The third infusion has a strong tangy sweet sour cherry plumb onset that makes the mouth strongly water and pulls the saliva up into the mouth.  The movement pushes the strong sweet fruity taste out with great effect.  There are salty, briny, woody and creamy sweet with faint distant incense underneath.  The savoury, sour, sweet, bland combination with the strong saliva producing and vibrant pop of flavor with completely mind stopping and world pausing Qi is a pretty amazing experience.  There is a deep and profound sense of purpose, happiness, and euphoria in this Qi that I would say is at the very highest quality to me.  A heavy jaw but gentle spinal release. Wow!

The fourth infusion has a woody sour fruity cherry plum pop that is more weighted with woody tastes initially and has a long creamy sweetness underneath with salty briny and some faint distant incense.  Nice strong saliva producing but less than the first three infusions.  The taste and mouthfeeling is insanely tasty to me the Qi is this bigger than me feeling.  Pausing me and bringing me into a purposeful euphoria.  Mintues later there is a salty creamy sweet taste in the mouth.  Wow!

The fifth infusion has a strong syrupy oily cherry tart plum with some richer coco and buttery notes layered in with salty savoury notes… so good… the cooled down cup is incense cherry plum with a woody savoury incense taste.  It has a returing candy like sweetness under savoury and woody syrupy tastes.  The world freezes around me but I have this deep ethereal feeling of freedom… so good with a thick saliva producing feeling.

6th infusion has a syrupy cherry plum thick initial taste with a distinct savory, woody subtle incense underneath.  Thick sweet taste over a tone of saliva producing oils and deep throat sensations.  Enliving and pausing feelings simulatanously.   Very powerful and profound Qi experience here.  Dense thick taste with sweetness, sour, savoury bland, smoke… no bitter at all.

7th has a syrupy dense sweet plum slight sour cherry with nice vibrancy and thickness to this there is complexity in this blend in its taste, mouthfeeling, and Qi.  I see no weaknesses in this puerh…. Top shelf stuff superior to other Yuanchen Hao I have tired thus far. 

8th thick oily cherry plumb with deep mysterious smokey woody savoury taste there is a returning sweetness of faint sweet candy underneath.  This infusion is a bit smokier and woodiner now and less sour.  Deep throat sensations and lots of saliva producing.  Beautiful Qi transcending experience here.

9th has a woody smoke less sweet and more savoury onset with a toasted nut and faint hard to grasp candy sweetness in the aftertaste but more nutty sweetness.  The mouth salivating is less.  The sweetness is much less initially as is the thickness.

10th has a sour smoke less fruity or sweet onset and more smoky, woody onset with a returning long faint candy and salty taste which makes the mouth salivate.  There is some brassy metallic notes in there and a creamy almost bready note as well.  Complex and interesting tastes.  Nice mouthwatering and deep throat feel with more distinct long candy finish.  Qi is more focusing now with subtle shoulder and jaw heaviness and some heart beasts.

11th has a watery woody smoke onset with some lesser sweetness underneath.  Some wood, some savoury but not much sweetness anymore.  Not as oily and not as much saliva producing.  Still heavy jaw and arms and shoulders feeling with drowsy happy stillness feeling.

12th has a fruity smoke onset with some faint sour and woody and savoury.  Qi is still strong in the body and mind.

I put this one into mug steepings….

Smokey savoury deep woody tastes are left here with a faint hard to grasp sweetness on the breath now…

With a strong solid profile thoughout I feel this one is flawless and likely the best full cake I own.  It accomplishes this with strong dense sweet tastes with a layered complex background of woods, smoke, salty/savoury tastes, and candy sweetnesses.  The mouthfeeling is very deep throaty and pushes tones of saliva into the mouth where vibrant and complex tastes are accentuated while there is balance within smoke, savoury, and darker tastes.  The bodyfeeling is also complex with heavy jaw and shoulders and limbs that are at a polarity between an enlivened Heart beating feeling.  In the mind there is a profound feeling like the world is pausing around you, different and more complex than a more common slowing of the mind sensation.  It feels freeing and profoundly rejuvenating and strongly sharpens the senses and the enjoyment of life.  It has all the features that suggest a brilliant puerh and is actually reminiscent or better than the famous old cakes it tries to emulate or commemorate from Yiwu’s famous Song Pin Hao.

I give this puerh the top rating and am left wondering why there is more attention paid to the 2005 ChenYuan Hao Shanzhong ChuanQi and 2003 ChenYuan Hao Tong Qing Hao?  Maybe it is harder to come by???  This puerh is much superior in my mind… with stronger taste than the Tong Qing Hao and stronger Qi than the Shanzhong ChuanQi and better mouthfeeling/throatfeeling than both.

There are a few samples of these left and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

Marco’s (Late Steeps) Tasting Notes



  1. Matt,
    I wonder if at this level, all the three tea have something exceptional but they're different enough to appeal to different kind of drinkers?

    Unlike tea from other producers which can be a bit too much alike, I find these 3 cakes quite different from each other, and the yiwu "tea king" series (2007 onwards) is even more different from these but in its way also very, very good.

    Compare that with BHYJ or XZH, I find a relatively obvious common thread in their tea of similar years.

    I understand that pre-07 CYH was experimenting and trying out quite a few things. A few experiments also weren't that great (06 Nannuo I'm looking at you!)
    I just scored a single 2002 CYH Yiwu Zhengshan cake, quite excited to try it, never had tea from this brand from so early, though I believe official productions go as far back as 2001 at least.

    However you guessed correctly: the main reason may just be because SPH is indeed harder to find than the other two.

    1. Paolo,

      The old school Yiwu cred of this Song Pin Hao personally appeals to more than the other two. So I kind of see what you are saying about personal tastes. The Tong Qing Hao is more delicate and more straightforward sweet taste. The Shanzhong Chuanqi is stronger with the power of the underlying bitterness with the big sneak up on you Qi. However, I strongly feel that anyone who is deep into puerh and has tried some of the more famous productions will all agree that this Song Pin Hao is significantly better and will probably one day become very famous.

      So… you are going to bring in another tong right????



      One more Tong! One more Tong! One more Tong!


    2. Matt,
      I would if I could.
      Alas, my source is an elderly gentleman who's a personal friend and only has single tongs of most tea he still has.

      I'll be looking, but it's sold out with the 2 main Taiwanese sources that have the other CYH teas (05 shanzhong, 03 tqh, youle, Manzhuan, yiwu zhengshan)

      Maybe they still have it in Malaysia?

  2. TW Auctions was also selling some kind of fake/horrible storage version. But yes, at least from the known Malaysian storage, this is one of the teas to get, particularly in the sense of gushu teas processed somewhat factory style.

    1. Shah8,

      You bring up storage… The storage on this cake is also really good with no storage tastes or weird nuances. No humid tastes or smells. The storage is a drier natural Taiwanese home storage, I believe, and it really gives a tea like this lots of complexity without getting weird and it really brings out the vibrant sweetness. I just read Marco’s notes from 2017 which sounds much less sweet. It could have sweetened up with age, I suppose, but It would be hard to imagine a Malaysian storage could beat this Taiwanese storage. I’d love to try one to compare.


  3. I've been thinking about how you say this tea is superior to Shanzhong (which I have a slight preference for), and maybe I just don't fully get it... I'm open to it.

    I've also only had it 3 or 4 times by now.

    It seems you had what I call the "magical-qi" experience. The feeling of this is "just perfect".

    For me it's much easier to have this experience when I try a tea for the very first time (is this just me or do you have that too? my close tea friend reports it as well)
    To happen it needs the right tea and then it needs me to be quite present as well, so perhaps there's an element of chance in it as well
    The working theory here being that if I try a tea the first time when I'm not that present, it may never leave such a lasting impression on me, so perhaps my judgements are not as precise as I'd like them to be

    I used to advise to people: "if you have one great experience with a tea, buy it, it's great for you. but if you have some bland ones and one great, believe the great one and not the bland one, the bland ones may have just been you were not there enough" or in other words: the tea proves itself by generating only one memorable experience (as it clearly did for you)

    Shanzhong proved itself for me in slightly stronger way (like 10% more) than SPH on my very first experience with it. Qualitatively different too, maybe Shanzhong was a bit more exciting/enlivening, SPH a bit more calming. Also, I like the aged bitterness/strength of Shanzhong very much.

    I think you can't be any more clear in which ways you think SPH is a superior tea, so I won't inquire further, I'll have it a few more times and see if my thinking changes.


    By the way, my first 3 years of tea were drinking puerh in silence as meditation, I used to have the magical-qi experience nearly every day with tea that's quite rough and/or rather boring taste wise, tea that I wouldn't drink at all today.
    I now can't quite get that level of absorption into it unless the taste is very much near what I consider excellent.
    What does this mean? Not sure, it maybe doesn't belong in this comment by logic but it felt relevant as we're talking about how exactly where Qi is (in the human and/or in the tea)


    Thanks for the kind words I'm honoured I was able to share this! And thanks the kind gentleman who sold it to me!


    PS: Sorry my comments are new ones but on web I don't see a button to reply to an existing comment?

    1. Paolo,

      Yes, It was my first time and published right after consumption when there is a lot of excitement still. It also defined expectations a bit as well. You mentioned expectation in past posts as well.

      Probably 90% of my posts on this blog are from first tastings though.


  4. Paolo,

    Your last comment really resonated with me. Having a good 1st session means a lot and sometimes has just as much to do with you/the moment than the tea itself. Novelty has a lot to do with enjoyment/pleasure. With food & pyschoactive substance. E.g talk to addicts about their first time with their chosen substance vs where they are now.

    Im not sure I agree that one great experience and a few mediocre ones with a tea necessarily means the tea is great for you. You mentioning your earlier years of greatly enjoying forgettable teas seems proof to that. If you had purchased cakes of all those teas I imagine you'd not drink them much anymore and theyd just sit around.

    I recently had perhaps my best ever session with a tea Ive drank a cake and a half of over a few years and that was really special moment for me and proof that novelty isn't everything. Sometimes old friends can be better or just as good as falling in love at the first glance.

    Again, loved your words!

    1. Ignoramus,
      Matter of fact I bought tons of those cakes and they're just lying around ahah

      But they were suitable for me at the time, just over time my tea philosophy evolved. It'd have a good idea to buy enough to drink in the foreseeable future and just for myself. So I'd amend the advice above with "buy (one cake only)"

      I've had beautiful sessions with tea later on as well and indeed there's no hard and fast rule.
      Thinking about it, maybe I experience a dip in the depth of sessions 2-5 to then come back to baseline.
      Eh, hard to tell really, other than noticing that I experience magical-qi/taste much more often on the very first experience

      Maybe my always-sampling minded approach in the last 2 years has something to do with it too, compared with the more "accepting whatever I'm drinking" mode I was in before

      Thanks for your kind words

  5. Picked up one of the last samples on Matt's recommendation. Only first session today but Matt's review is pretty spot on. The 4th infusion line: "woody sour fruity cherry plum pop that is more weighted with woody tastes initially and has a long creamy sweetness underneath with salty briny" really resonates with my experience of the tea. Umeboshi like with a bit of a yeshengy-quality, especially initially. While Matt calls this "flawless" I think there is still some taiwanese storage tastes to it that detract, the sourness kinda fades to a briny muddy pondy mossiness with a touch of brassica stink?

    I had purchased a cake of CYH's SZCQ & TQH due to TWL's cycle of hype and glamorously reviewing their own teas and writing exaggerated product descriptions. I never liked SZCQ, enjoyed it maybe 1 out of 7 sessions, liked TQH but nowhere near the level of cost/hype it sits at. I sold both, and am glad I got a sample of this at Matt's rec but wouldn't cake it as for me this is a great tea but not one I connect with that much due to my own preferences. Paolo sent me a free session of the SZCQ so maybe his storage will redeem it a bit as Matt's review makes it sound preferable to TWL's.

    As Matt concludes in the post, this is just much better IMO, "with stronger taste than the Tong Qing Hao and stronger Qi than the Shanzhong ChuanQi and better mouthfeeling/throatfeeling than both." I would emphasize that last bit!