Had to go to the hardware store on the corner for some masking tape. On my way back, I decided to cross the street and visit a tea store I often walk past. I never went in because it looks like they've had the same furniture and sign up since the 1950s (a good possibility, actually).
It really was like a time warp. They had a glass counter with piles of 3-4 beengs of different kinds of pu. Lots of CNNP and Menghai Dayi stuff (if my logo/wrapper identification is getting better). They looked like they all had a good amount of age, but it may just be the Hong Kong humidity. They were organized by price.
I noticed one of the women working there was looking my way so I smiled and she came over. I asked her if she spoke English (in Cantonese) and she said a little (in Cantonese), so I just spoke to her in Canto anyway. I told her I wanted some of her best pu erh, but just a little, and asked her if that was ok. They looked set up for wholesale with massive paper bags at the ready, and I've seen pretty serious quantities of tea going in and out of there.
She said that was fine and we walked over to the jars of loose pu. She showed me a jar and said that was it. Lots of chunks of cake. I asked her if it was cooked and she said it was a mix of cakes and pointed to the counter. Some shu, some sheng. I asked her if I could get 75g, and she said the minimum was 150g for this jar. I decided to go for it anyway and we quartered the price mentally (tea, and many other commodities, is sold by catty (600g) here in HK).
A couple walked in, and the guy asked for $100 of bo lei: no discussion of grade or weight, which I found interesting. She told me to take a seat, but I stayed standing and waited. She got their $100 worth and then weighed mine.
She was very surprised I spoke Canto and asked me about my background. I got the standard compliments, and did the HK thing and said "no" to them. She was actually a pretty nice lady. Interestingly the vendors I've dealt with over the last few weeks have been a fairly even split of men and women.
This is what I picked up.
It had an interesting, spicy smell I've never smelled in pu before. I decided to pick out pieces that looked, and smelled, like each other. I guessed these were sheng. Quite a lot of bubbles during the wash.
I only wash once: this was the first infusion.
The leaves after infusion one.
Infusion one was a lot more bitter than I expected, but with some interesting flavor. I think I did pick out sheng bits. I only got seven good infusions from my new gaiwan, so maybe it's younger than I thought, or just not very good sheng? It was, however, more enjoyable and sweeter in the later infusions.
It does appear to be a grab bag of different cakes with very little loose leaf. She said it was supposed to be pretty smooth drinking. All I know is I sure got a lot of work done this afternoon!
Just got done picking out some of the darker, spicier bits. Definitely shu, and quite pleasant: sweet, salty and sour, and it tasted like a Chinese salted prune.
I think I'll take a shot of Chinese prune wine while I'm at it!