I think this was my favorite of the three I tried last year and again this year, it is my favorite of the three. It’s got all the elements of puerh I like, big leaf purity, a bit of sun-dried fruit wildness, a wonderful returning flavor, good texture, and a solid afterglow. This tea doesn’t need me to attach copious sensory descriptors to it today, it just works (although, I do agree with buttery and nutty, per Hobbes). Unlike the Manmai, it’s not grassy nor flinty, and to me it has more overall depth than the Mansai.
207 Tasting Notes
This is the bingcha that’s been in my collection the longest and I’m frequently pulling it out, but little writing about it. There must be something enticing, the smokiness or the age, because despite the fact that critically, I think this tea is weak, purposefully softened, and not that good, I keep drinking it. It’s got some really weird leaves in it, in my opinion. Completely brown, oddly twisted, light leaves.
I had this side-by-side with the Manmai this morning. See that note about how it made me realize that aroma and flavor aren’t all there is to a tea. The flavor and texture in this tea were again overwhelming, but the energy is crisp, satisfying, glowing, and heavy. Mmmmm.
A re-visit to this and the Mansai made me realize how aroma and flavor are really not the only characters of a tea to consider. Texture is important, as is qi or energy, or simply how the tea makes you feel. This tea makes me feel amazing.
Flavor-wise, I’m still really focused on the flinty, grassy, greenness of the tea, and find the texture a little light, but this tea has powerful, golden, glowing energy to it, and that’s just something that’s hard to consistently find.
Updated blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=498
Have been tucking into the 2010 harvest of this tea lately. My perspective on green tea aging has changed a little bit. I don’t think every green can handle time, but some of them manage to keep much of their character and evolve a little in pleasant ways. This one is drinking fine after a year. I eventually burn out on the charcoal, toasted chestnut, and mineral-forward elements of almost any Chinese green, but in the meantime, this provides a light, crisp, refreshing spring brew.
I’ve been drinking this regularly for the past few weeks to sate my craving for green. It’s done well, but in my estimation is far from exceptional matcha. Standard, workable, and without flaw, but does not excel. Whisks up a nice dark green frothy cup, with minimal bitterness, and some solid cucumber and melon tones.
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.
Really surprised to see I hadn’t review this tea yet, I’ve been enjoying it’s delectable greenness for a couple of weeks now. This tea appears to be an easy brewer, as I’ve tried a wide range of leaf ratios (up to 2.5g/oz!) and temperatures and it seems to stand up to most of them. At the cooler range, the tea comes across as pretty bland. But even with a high ratio and warmer temps, there’s never any aggressive bitterness. Flavors stick in the melon and cucumber notes, especially in the finish. It also has a fantastic returning sweetness. A good value, I think.
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.
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.
Finishing off my sample of this tea with a heavy amount of leaf. This is a very nice clean, bright, juicy and straw-like Yunnan green. Tons of strawberry, melon, and peach. Tends to get a little terse, grassy, and bitter if treated too heavy and too hot, but otherwise produces a very spring-like beverage. I found it a little aggressive in the vegetal, herbal, planty spinach notes, something I don’t think works as well with the basket roasting or the light fruit notes, but more with the kelpy, cholorphyll heavy styles of green tea. Nice buds in the steeped leaves.
This tea impressed me. I think my previous experiences with Wuyi teas have been with poor quality tea. Instead, this has a fantastic texture, little to no astringency, and only the slightest bit of sourness in the mid-steeps. There’s a long, incredible returning sweetness with hints of plum and spice. Delicate and floral in aroma, but robust, caramelized and sugary in flavor. I used Wrong Fu Cha’s “Brewing Rock Tea” (http://chahai.net/brewing-rock-tea/) as a guide and it helped me produce some really fantastic tea. Great tea.
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.
This tea is described as being composed of “first flush” material and it shows, as the leaves are covered in fuzzy white down. This youth shows in the flavor as a nutty, dry greenness. Brewing calibration yielded longer steeps early and a gentler touch through the middle to produce good balance. Notable aroma and flavors included that tomato-like orchid fragrance a la ’09 Yunnan Sourcing Wu Liang and a gentle warm honey, almond, cream mix. Less simple than the others, and durable, but again, lacking a striking character that seals the deal.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=424
Today, I’m finding a better mint quality, nicer clarity, and enjoyable bitterness coming out of this Mu Ye Chun 002 with longer initial steeps.
While the 001 was crisp, light, and tippy, the 002 is minty, rich, and more durable. I find it more to my liking. The session today was improved by brewing more to my palate, yielding a slightly stronger brew that showed off this tea’s savory fresh green vegetable character. Some of the season’s first Asparagus was around, either in the tea or planted by my anticipating mind. This tea also has a much more satisfying energy to it, with a really heavy, calming buzz, that feels like the hands of a masseuse on my forehead – peaceful and relaxing.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=416
Honestly, I am not sure if I have ever had a puerh that has claimed to be mostly tippy material, as this does. I am sure, however, that it has an impact on flavor and texture. Yesterday, this tea was plain, simple, a bit shallow, but solid and reasonable. Today, it comes across as slippery, mineral heavy, and metallic. It carries a green tea-like dryness and brightness to it, lacking thick, syrupy stickiness.
Aroma and flavor are middling, green, and lightly floral. The finish has poor grip. Unexciting would be one way to frame this tea. Another might be to say that it would be a good intro puerh for Chinese green tea devotees. I think I’m more of a big leaf man, myself. Regardless, I am excited to compare it to the Mu Ye Chun 002, which supposedly has a larger leaf composition. I’ll visit it later this week, coming to the tea table for two sessions, on two different days, with two different natures.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=412
Here, I find a tea unlike much of the smaller producer tea I have been drinking of late. As evidenced by the photo of steeped leaves above, there is variability in production that leaves this tea a little simple. I appreciate its firm bitter grip, it’s opening sweetness, and pungent sun-dried character. However, I find it too heavy on the stemmy greenness familiar to plantation tea, oligosaccharides, and distant oxidized black or white tea notes. There is certainly not much wrong with this tea, I am just searching for a beckoning depth, and it’s not there.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=408
Finally finishing off my precious last bits of this sample. I liked this cake, and it’s still available on Yunnan Sourcing, but it has recently exceeded my price point.
I like this tea for it’s straw and mushroom, it’s balance of sweet and bitter, and both it’s challenge and easy of brewing. It’s one of those teas that can be seen very differently, dependent entirely on the lens you’re viewing it through on a particular day.
Under the cold, wet early clouds and rain of this March morning, it has those pungent grassy and umami flavors, all wrapped up with tongue-coating texture. I will miss this one.
Hacking away at the last dusty core bits of this sample, I’m expecting something different than all of the large leaf, boutique cakes I’ve been drinking lately. Sure, I’ve had this tea before and found it good, but what does factory tea from LBZ taste like?
With a little more murkiness in the soup, I’m reminded that small bits give a terser bitterness and more of that straw-like mushroom quality. It’s good, juicy and chewy. While it lacks the delicate high florals of larger-leafed tea, the sweetness and bitterness are fuller. It’s different than what I’ve been enjoying, and I appreciate that.
While the ’97 Menghai 8582 was heavy on the flavors imposed by the place of storage to the point that I felt they departed from the realm of natural tea flavors, this tea really holds onto the essence of earth and decay. With more natural humus-like, decaying leaf matter and old pine needle flavors, I found this more attuned to my palate. The nuanced and gentle mushroom, moss, and tree bark characters of young sheng puerh have aged gracefully and have descended the flavor profile of this tea from the tree tops into the sub-leaf-litter level, highlighting the natural warm embrace of a forest floor. Some of the basement notes are there in the form of talc, medicine, and ointment, but they’re not overbearing to the point of disgust.
What I struggled with in this tea, in the first three or four steeps, was its texture. Leaving me with a sensation that greasy, damp lotion had been smeared across my tongue, I found the palate initially murky, slightly sour, and hard to get past. I did not drink much of the first three steeps. Fortunately, this clamminess departed and revealed a thick, sweetness that made it intensely pleasurable to drink from the fifth steep on.
If this tea is supposedly somewhere been wet and dry storage, than I guess I’m more of a dry storage fan. This flavor profile was much more to my liking, and I’ve learned that the first few steeps of a tea such as this are not as meaningful as the middle steeps. This was a bit of lore I found early on in my readings on puerh and something that I did not experience with young sheng puerh, but is something that makes sense in light of an aged tea such as this.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=392
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
Revisiting this tea this morning, after a long period of having a brutal head cold and having been on the road before that, it’s my first session back at the tea table in over a week. It’s also the first time I’ve had this tea since tasting the other three 2009 Yunnan Sourcing cake samples I have. This one is far and away the winner for me. I can’t get over how fragrantly and wonderfully the aroma and flavors come across. I still think the body is a little lacking in comparison to the Ban Zhang Chun Qing, but the fresh, fruity, floral characters of this tea are unparalleled in my experience. Grateful to have ordered a whole cake from JAS eTea.