Menghai Tea Factory
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Recent Tasting Notes
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!
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.
A great buy for someone who’s only had bad, fishy shu pu’er, Dayi’s Yunxiang cake redeems the name of shu. And for any doubters, this tea’s traits define why I love Menghai Factory shu pu above all others and worth its price. When I’m in the market again for cooked tea, this cake is on my list.
Notes: Malt, clean, walnuts, soil, dried bamboo, grains, black pepper, sweet, winter squash, rocky.
Other features: stronger on sides of tongue, one infusion left a tingly feeling on my tongue, no acidity or awkward flavors even when infusions cool down.
Continuing to work through the last of these Peacock series samples and I must say I think I’m fatiguing of Menghai’s compression and of plantation tea. In many ways, there’s nothing wrong with this tea, but there’s also little exceptional about it. I do appreciate being able to single out a region, but the production kind of renders down and sanitizes whatever character might show. There’s moderate fruitiness, classic sheng glow, and lots of astringency from the abundant dust. Finishes in honey.
My sample was from the core of the bing, so it was compressed tighter than steel and composed, seemingly, of dust. This was not an appealing cake from the get go. The first few steeps were scattered and blurry, with plenty of green bitterness, some light melon, and a dapple of honey. It produced one of the paler soups I’ve seen in sheng and had light aromatics. Smoothing over towards the middle of the session, the confusion ebbed to blandness, with a plain white sugar and cream of wheat character dominating. Unexciting.
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.
A completely different beast than Bada, the Peacock of Bulang is a very thick and robust creature. Immediately, smoke comes through. A hint of the pine-scented Lapsang shows up in the first steep, and unlike the often coarse cigarette-like smokiness of the Xiaguan teas, this is cleaner, richer, and more enjoyable. As someone who appreciates the hearty Bambergian rauchbiers, I find the rustic hill quality of this tea enjoyable. As the leaf opens up, it yields a really dark orange soup, a bit murky. Normally, an associated strong oxidized hongchaesque tannic bitterness would dominate, but it’s subtle and not unbearable. Otherwise the tea is clean, complex, hearty, and satisfying. The chaqi is smooth, settling, and warm.
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.
A perplexing sheng, for sure. The cake had intense, iron-fisted compression that made flaking new leaves difficult. The opening aroma was a stellar display of fresh strawberries. Unfortunately, this character quickly faded. The first three steeps were thin, dry soups of green-tea-like grassiness, a faint hint of bile, and some raw grains. Around the fourth steep, the soup thickened up and gave a very generic sweetness, losing raw edges, but not gaining much depth. I’m not in much hurry to return to this one.
wow! my first raw (sheng) pu-erh and its simply amazing. amazng pear and tropical fruits on the nose, very smooth and thick in the mouth, no bitterness at all. 5 infusions and still going strong! i’m not an expert on sheng but this is really tasty for a 2006 vintage tea