Menghai Tea Factory
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Recent Tasting Notes
This is one smooth tea even being a new shu. The first infusion is a creamy almost vanilla flavor that completely fills the mouth coating it with a viscous cream sensation. Infusion number two brings out some cherry tobacco notes. I would also argue that a coffee drinker might enjoy this tea due to it’s viscous heady nature. The color is beautiful reddish brown almost the same color as my yixing pot. However the party lasts a short time as this tea gives it all and is finished by the 4th infusion.
Not too much to be overly impressed by in this Dayi ripe puerh brick. A typical ripe puerh with a slightly malty taste to it. Well suited as a cheaper everyday casual drinking ripe puerh, that falls into the good upper middle range but falls short of the exceptional upper end ripe puerh.
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
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
Comparing teas side-by-side is always fun. Today, pushing the ’09 Gong Tuo hard with an initial one minute steep, for an espresso-like brew, I was amused to see the weak last steeps of the 80s shu (http://steepster.com/teas/jas-etea/16232-80s-loose-menghai-79092-ripe) seem incredibly sweet when held up against, the more bitter, terse, and earthy ’09. Enlightening was that when brewing shu so aggressively, the faults of the tea come right to the surface, as it showed little sweetness or depth, instead giving a chalky coarseness and a watered-down earthen flavor, making the 80s tea seem so much more interesting. However, comparing young and aged shu in such a manner is probably not fair.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=511
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.
My first high altitude grown ripe puerh but not much different as I picked up most on the lighter fermentation levels used in this tea. This one takes a bit more skill to brew with good results than most ripe puerh as it does best with very short infusions otherwise one will find it a bit disappointing for a premium product. It has a nice light taste to the brewed tea and is good for a lot of short infusions. Although in the end it is not a puerh that I would see myself buying again as while it is a good puerh it fell short of my personal preferences.
Some tea drinkers like young sheng; but for me, this Menghai was unsatisfying on several levels. Sampled at 200˚F, the liquor was somewhat bitter – the kind of thing that happens when a green tea is scorched. Sampled at 145˚F, the bitter notes vanished, but that taste like an understeeped green oolong; the liquor was a light green, and wan in flavor.
Part of the problem is that puerh consumed this early is going to be substandard, since it hasn’t even begun to age. And then there’s the controversy over young sheng; some tea drinkers like the experience, but drinking this is not dissimilar to brewing an inexpensive Tie-Guan-Yin at 212˚F; you’ll get the same harsh, overcooked flavor, and that’s going to be the case with most young sheng.
Farewell, fair Nannuo. Okay, THIS was the best in the series. No, really. In the second of two brew sessions, I finally got the flow down with this tea. It takes some intuition, otherwise it gets crushingly dry and cottony. Otherwise, light, perfumy, and with delicate fruits. I think it’s a solid, punchy tea, but responds to a lighter hand of brewing. The steeped leaves certainly showed the largest leaves of the set, as well as the least cooked and most consistent processing.
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.
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…
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.
Almost done with the Peacock series. One left, after this one. I do believe this is probably the best in the series. Still, I consider it only above average. It opens with a strong orchid and fresh mushroom aroma that subsides into the cup. The first steeps are delightfully sweet and thick, but the middle steeps can be easily over-brewed to produce an astringency that strips any and all saliva off the tongue, making your mouth feel like sand. It lightens up in the later steeps, but empties out quickly. There is some “orangeness” to this tea that makes it a little tame, but otherwise, I think it’s an above-average Menghai sheng.
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.
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.
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!