Everybody has secrets. Secrets are priceless to oneself, and when those entrusted with our secrets choose to sell them, the transaction comes at a high cost.
But when you make several wan (万, meaning 10,000) of cakes out of your secret and sell them, is it really still a secret?
暗香 (àn xiāng) means "subtle scent" or "hidden (as in obscured) fragrance". I don't know if "secret" is a good translation (care to opine, Marshaln?). "Dark fragrance" or "underhanded fragrance" are also possibilities, if unlikely ones.
Also, there was a Chinese movie by the same name in 2009. Perhaps drinking this tea while writing inspired the author to use this name?
Whatever the translation, the name clearly suggests that we take a good whiff of this tea and explore the scent, an act that can yield some unpleasant results when the object of our olfactory sense is shu pu'er, which can often smell like that pesky neighbor's clogged and funky drainage ditch.
The scent of this shu pu'er's wet leaves was pleasant, certainly. Mulchy and wet without smelling dirty, that "forest floor after the rain" euphemism that changes "smells like dirt" into a fond recollection of sierran enjoyment. It also carried a "secret/hidden/subtle/dark/underhanded fragrance" of cake.
The taste also carried this clean and balanced trait, woody, mulchy, and peppery. Velvety textured in the mouth, it made me salivate--a very "active" quality for a fermented tea to have. The only downsides were a thinness of texture and aftertaste, although the mineral, rocky aftertaste gave the tea an appreciably clean finish.
The fragrance, expectedly, changed little over infusions. The cake quality became a fruitiness as the tea thinned and tasted sweeter in later infusions.
Some of the fragrant qualities of the tea arise from the more lightly fermented large leaves, visible in the photo above.
I found it a very enjoyable tea, and thank you to Shah8 for sharing this sample with me. If you're interested, Dragon Tea House on ebay sells the cake for US$48 (free shipping), or you can find it on Taobao for less than a third of that price before shipping and proxy fees.