Menghai Tea Factory
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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m not enjoying this one quite as much as the last time I logged it. There is more bitterness noticeable despite doing very brief infusions, probably because I packed the gaiwan too much. It does settle into a very mellow tea again after the first half dozen infusions, but those first have to be carefully managed. I think this is one to set aside for a good while…
A couple added notes from my final session today. The mid-steeps carry the slightest hint of sourness. There’s a long, long returning sweetness, that comes almost minutes after swallowing, which is nice, but not enough to save this tea. Finally, yesterday the tea gave me a strong clay-like dry grip, so today I used my stainless steel electric kettle, only to still get that sensation, so it’s either my water, the tea, or my water and the tea.
Funny how my palate has grown since I’ve started tasting tea. What to me at the time was enjoyable, now seems denuded, poorly processed, and rough. Today, this tea really lacks sweetness for me, instead having a strong, dry earthen grip on the tongue. The pine smoke is there and strong, dominating the entirety of the flavor profile. A large mix of brown leaves yields a hollower, darker tea.
Well, this certainly is not as terrible as I thought it was when I first had it. In fact, this is a perfectly fine, if plain and simple, Menghai production. It’s got some nice fruit and straw tones to it, but it’s missing the sweetness, texture, and depth I want from good sheng. The qi is light and fleeting. With such tight compression and fine chop, it takes a more delicate hand to not produce a tough, bitter brew. Longer steeps up front to get the compression loose, and then shorter steeps to keep it clean. Has a minty finish and reasonable balance, but comes across dry to me. Menghai sure can create consistent teas, with an even leaf blend, and a need for age.
In the middle of a rare gongfu session with this lovely tea this evening—I usually do it by the thermos full, to share with a group of colleagues during an afternoon clinic. Gongfu brings out the variations in flavor well, and this is one shu that stands up to this. I’m into about the 8th or so infusion, and there are notes of honey, apricot, caramel, delicious.
To me, the flavors depart from the realm of agriculture and nature. The flavors no longer taste like tea to me, they taste like the basement in which the tea was stored. Full of talc, basement, salt peter, attic, wet cardboard, old paper, medicine, and grandmothers, I feel as though these flavors lead me on one of my father’s genealogy expeditions or a trip into an historic copper mine shaft than through a sub-tropical forest or a farm of any kind. I do appreciate the woody, ginseng-like herbal qualities, but always end up vacillating between an appreciation of those flavors and a distaste for the damp, musty ones heralding a basement storage. I think I was a little too far gone to really focus on the flavors when I had the 1985 Menghai 8582 with Tim at The Mandarin’s Tea Room, but have a pouch of 1980s Menghai 79092 Loose Ripe which perplexes me in the same way for its super-heavy talc, grandmother, medicine and basement flavors.
Everyone has their own palate, suited to certain flavors and textures. Obviously, with aged sheng puerh being very popular, there are quite a few people for whom the flavor profile of this type of stored tea matches their palate. However, I think I am more attracted to the young, fresh, and fruit-like earth tones of teas such as young sheng puerh, certain oolongs, whites and dark green japanese teas. All that said, I’m still excited to try the other two examples in this tasting to see what variations in storage condition can elicit from the tea.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=387
Batch 903. This tea confounds me. It must be intended for aging, except that I know there are a few crazy folk who do enjoy it young and bristly. I’m not put off by the loud barking bitterness and intensity, but instead find the flavor of the tea less than desirable. It has a lightly rotten raisin kind of scent, a bit pungent and raw. I can see it being called straw and mushroom, but it doesn’t really carry the elegance or quality that those terms elicit for me. Will certainly be game for trying this tea in 10-20 years. Finally, the qi is a bit fast and unsettling, like an unstable vibration.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=310
Another wonderful afternoon with this tea. It is not as caramel-rich as the 2008 Yi Wu bamboo puerh from Norbu, but it has rounded notes of caramel and gentle earthiness, and is always a hit when I take it round to share. Today I got my office manager—a dedicated coffee drinker—to take a whiff and a cup, and she liked it a lot. It’s a tea to make friends with and influence people!
Sample provided by Jas eTea. First pours bring strong currents of talc, minerals, and white powders. I know some people get excited about this element, but I don’t particularly enjoy. A few steeps in, this tea lights up with dates, south asian spices, and woodiness, with some distant citrus. The textures starts shallow for me, but deepens and softens with a gentle wheat-like flavor. The wet leaves hold a cellar or forest floor character that doesn’t show up in the aroma or flavor. I give this tea good marks for being low in strong fermentation character and above average in complexity.
So I’m trying pu-erh. I am not an experienced pu erh-drinker, but of the many pu erh varieties I have tried, this one stands out – smooth and mellow. It’s got that earthy pu-erh-ness to it, but not overwhelmingly so, as with the other ripe pu-erhs I’ve tried. It’s caffeinated, but somehow still manages to be calming.
This is a very good every day drink. I am glad I ordered the whole cake, and not just a sample.
I also think this is a good starting point for someone wanting to taste ripe pu-erh
I am not a big fan of Shu, but oddly sometimes this tea serves me so well, such as on a cold winter night!
This tea has nice bright dark red tea liquor. The taste is smooth with a soupy texture, feels very clean, no offensive over-fermentation taste at all. It’s after taste is not only sweet, but also somewhat more complicated (in a nice way) than most shu I’ve tried. No wonder it’s seen by a lot of people as a classic product of shu.
If I have to critique on it, I would say its taste is on the weaker side. But very possibly many flavors of shu that’s favored by a lot of other people just escape my radar. The tea is very soothing, with great mouth feel and excellent warming effect. It really made every skin pore of mine feel comfortable!
A friend of mine commented that he feels this tea doesn’t taste much different from its 2008 version, which seems to me may not be a bad thing at all.
Picked this one up from JAS eTea to have a relatively easy drinking shu pu’er at work and am very satisfied. It breaks easily into a nice array of small leaves, with a pleasant, slightly cocoa-infused dry leaf aroma.
Overall, it has a pleasant, soft grain flavor and texture. Cream of rice or cream of wheat, perhaps. A bit of honey, a bit of chocolate, and nice classic shu pu’erh flavor. Those fearing strong “wo dui” will be glad to know this has little to none. It is a bit simple, but not boring. There are hearty flavors there and for me, it delivers what I need from a shu pu’er. It’s certainly a great value for the money and quality.
I am recently in a puerh sheng mood, which doesn’t happen often. So I would grab the chance and taste a few more sheng products :D
This tea is supposed to be one of the routine, decent products of Da Yi. It’s from 2007, which was not a great year for puerh, but not the worst year either. The tea is pretty good, that’s if you are like me and don’t mind bitterness to a small degree. I think this tea is reasonably bitter, and by reasonably, I mean the bitterness is not long-lasting. It hits the inner part of the tongue and disappears fairly quickly. The aftertaste is very nice. It’s the aftertaste that make you feel the mouth is very cool and clean. There is a little bit of astringency and a hint of smokiness.
The leaves are not very chopped, but not the whole leaves either.
I made about 8-9 infusions of it, and pushed the brewing pretty much to an end. It’s not a very strong sheng among the teas I’ve tried recently.
I’ve sadly found I’ve got a little bit of allergy recently. A friend of mine used to say, if you live in Northeast and don’t have a season allergy yet, don’t think that you are spared and it may start any year! Now I think I’ve got it :-S but just a little bit. Probably that’s why I crave for sheng puerh recently. It did help a lot. Probably just drinking that much of water would help anyway, but only with tea, I can patiently drink so much water!
I found this version above average, when compared to the other four in the series. Again, very tight, thick compression of small leaves from the core of the cake came in my sample. When dry, an aroma of white raisins and warm earth. The first steeps produced a bright, clear middle golden soup, fresh with complex sweetness, some hickory chips, a pale maltiness, and fresh almond milk. It definitely had a bit of a creamy or milky character that made it silky and complex. Nice, but faint, bittersweetness in the back of the throat rounded the flavor. An enjoyable sample, for sure.
This is a lovely puerh. The dry tuo smells woods and earth, without being musty. There are some broken leaves and stems, probably inevitable as such a tuo is broken up, but lots of large leaf pieces and some intact leaves visible after brewing. The leaf still smells spicy-sweet and promises more infusions to come.
Infused at 1 gram per ounce in a small yixing pot with boiling water, the first infusions need to be short as it still has some bitterness left that is apparent with careless or overlong infusions. Infused cautiously, 15 seconds at a time, it reveals sweet, smoky, earthy, spicy flavors. The smoky flavors fade fairly quickly, but the spicy sweet remains grounded and earthy for many infusions. I’m at least at 10-12 infusions now, limited more by bladder capacity than by the leaves giving out, and have lengthened the infusions to as long as a minute.
I’m nearing the end of the final steeps of a multi-day session with this tea and I must say I’m impressed. While the Bada forgettable, the Bulang smokey but cooked, and the Menghai static, this cake came across as rich and deep. A clean bright yellow soup gave a sumptuous texture of fine linen, soft peach fuzz, and cooked apple flesh. Bright grassiness danced between unripe strawberries and peach pits. Light, airy, and full of clean fruits and dry pithy grass. This tea seemed very alive, complex, and mature. It would seem a quite apt candidate for aging, I believe. Fine work.
The only hard thing with this tea is breaking up the very highly compressed brick to get chunks to brew. It needs a steady hand and a strong sturdy blade to slip in between the layers and work off pieces of tea.
After that, it’s all smooth. Boiling water flash rinse, then on to infusions, 30 seconds at a time, using a gram or more of leaf per ounce of water, gaiwan or yixing, as you prefer. This is not a tea with any edges that need rounding by the yixing. It is warm, sweet, with toasty caramel notes over a base of gentle earthiness, a perfect puerh for introducing someone nervous about this type of tea, or for those moments when you want something calming and soothing too.
I got mine from Yunnan Sourcing.