November 23, 2009

2008 Menghai "Da Jing Dian"

I blindly bought a couple of these cakes, having read nothing but positive things about them I felt it would be a fairly safe gamble. "Da Jing Dian" a.k.a. "Big Classic" made from grade three leaves, semi aged, sun dried maocha. I don't usually dabble in the Menghai special production cakes preferring to stick with the tried and true numbers (7542-7532) which are my favorites. The Da Jing Dian is a commemorative cake celebrating the "Dayi" brand as being recognised for some kinda national heritage award. They seem to like coming up with special occasion recipes.
Not any different from Xiaguan really, variations on a theme but Menghai has a much bigger repertoire to choose from. Maybe more creative with base ingredients they seem to come up with subtle yet distinct variations.

The dry leaf is rather pretty, green transitioning into brown. Plenty of whitish tea buds blended into the mix. The aroma wafting from the cake is enticing, judging from the smell alone I can tell there is much to be had here. A lot of depth with an underlying fruit like sweetness and woodsy aroma. The slightest touch of smokiness still remains. The cakes compression is the slightest bit tighter than the numbered cakes but still easy enough to deal with. This tea doesn't dawdle, it gets going pretty quickly. The first infusions flavor sits firmly in the woodsy and mushroomy genre, the flavor spreads and penetrates quickly. A good balance of sweet and bitter astringency. Nice full mouth feel yet the teas flavor also has a "brightness" about it, a crisp cleanliness that serves as the perfect counterpart to the sweetness and the full body. This is an interesting tea experience in that the lower palate is saturated with sweet and woodsy, a smidgen of fruit flavors yet the upper palate experiences the nutty, bright and clean, touch of floral flavors. The aftertaste is robust, thick and long lasting. Not much in the way of transitioning flavors with this tea it pretty much opens up and stays the same through out the session. It doesn't drop out on you but fades gradually and gracefully, I admire that in a tea. Honestly, you just cannot beat Menghai for quality and value. A high quality, well made product for not a lot of money. $15.50 per cake.

The teas color doesn't really show up well in the cup but in the sharing pot you can see it,s true color. A deep golden yellow. Brews up clear as a bell. Durability is very good, I think about 6-7 infusions before it starts to wane into sweet, grainy blandness. I know most people keep the pot going till the teas flavors are completely gone, I,m not one of those people. Once the teas flavors are exhausted and the body has gone I call it a day. A good tea, glad I grabbed a couple of these but two is enough. I,m sticking to my guns in that the 7542 is where it,s at with the Menghai teas. It,s got everything I love in a tea.
I haven't been very creative with my picture taking lately, no glamour shots, no back lighting, just tea. Maybe I,ll get back into taking glamour shots again but in a way it,s an unnecessary affectation. Beautiful as it is, that's not my reality. My tea table is the patio table in the back yard, that's where I usually enjoy my tea, watching the dogs play and the birds chirping and the squirrels teasing the dogs with their taunting (you cant catch me) game. This may sound strange but all the ruckus and shenanigans distract me while I,m drinking tea, being distracted helps me enjoy and evaluate a tea by "not thinking" about it. Just "experiencing" it. Sometimes it,s the furthest thing from my mind, and that,s when it,s sublime. Does that make sense?
note: Having had a few sessions with the Da Jing Dian I may have to eat my words and get a couple more of these cakes for storage.

November 13, 2009

2009 Guan Zi Zai "Ban Zhang" Wild Arbor

A big "Thanks" goes to Maitre for providing me with this sample. My curiosity was sparked when I saw this cake posted on Yunnan Sourcing,s site. Given my newly acquired obsession with Ban Zhang teas I was tempted to buy some but wanted to hold off on ordering to see if anyone else had tried this one yet. At $43.20 for a 500 gm. cake it,s a good value if the tea is decent. The wrapper is real perty as you can see. And if the wrappers pretty the tea must be good, right? Nope! not always. Sometimes them perty wrappers are the teas strongest selling point, there to draw you in. With this tea the wrapper is fitting, no deception going on here.

Not the crystal clear yellow soup we would hope for. Claity is good but the teas been "wulong'd" Theres something about the teas aroma that reminds me of Xiaguan,s teas. Maybe it,s just the smokiness of it. It looks more like a manufactured tea than handmade. Compression is medium tight. It appears to be made from less than first grade leaf. A hodge podge blend of small, medium and large leaf thats been bruised, tattered and torn with a few sticks thrown into the mix.

Dark shades of green with a few brown and red leaves to be found. The teas aroma has a lot of depth, woodsy, that much loved beany smell is there along with the slightest wisp of smokiness and a faint hint of a perfume like aroma. The flavor is fairly intense right off the bat. All the expected flavors, woodsy, beany, a little yam, tobacco and leather. A decent amount of bitterness as well as sweetness. The bitterness could get out of control without careful brewing parameters. The teas body is just a tad light, but it,s o.k. The teas richness fades a little sooner than what I would like leaving behind a wash of generic washed out sheng flavors. Grain, bitter and astringent.

All in all, not bad. It,s a good quality, well made tea. For me, I would rather spend a little extra and buy Yunnan Sourcing,s Lao Ban Zhang "Chun Qing" The flavors of the Chun Qing are more balanced and it has tons of depth and richness that continues to show up well into the 6th to 8th infusion. Thanks again for all the samples Maitre. Ive got yours on the way, you should get it soon.

November 9, 2009

Yunnan Sourcing Global Store

Scotts got a new site that I thought everyone should know about. Same great selection, Ive had a quick gander at it and the prices are 10% lower than his ebay prices and he now offers reward points which can be used towards your purchase. Go (here) to check it out. think he,s gonna make the leap and jump off of ebay? Much easier to use, automatically calculates shipping fees and now has discounted shipping rates for EMS.

November 7, 2009

2009 Menghai 7542-901

It,s time for stock piling. The 2009 Menghai numbers are making their way onto the market and you can get your favorites right (here) Ive never written about these teas before mainly because there is so much info about them out there already it,s safe to assume that everybody knows the deal with these cakes. They are the firmly established benchmark that all other sheng,s are compared to. There is really no better time to grab some than now. At $10.00 each your not going to find a tea in this price range that offers so much. In their youth I wouldn't consider any of them to be cream of the crop brilliant but always a consistently good cup a tea. I go to the Menghai numbers when I need to get back to square one. I kinda feel that after a while of drinking some of the more boutique teas I need to re-center myself and re-establish my framework of flavor profiles. For me the Menghai numbers are home base, everything else is sometimes amazing, more often mediocre and occasionally a waste of money. This blog would be incomplete if left without ever writing about the numbers.

So at the risk of redundancy I,ll supply my brief description of the 7542 tea. Rich and savory with that beany, slightly leathery, slight tobacco flavor and aroma. This years tea maybe a little more refined than the previous years teas. A slight floral aspect shows up in the cup, not quite as assertive as in the past. User friendly level of compression, not too tight or loose. Brews up yellow with a very slight amber tinge, but I tend to be heavy handed with the leaf quantity which has an affect on the brews color. Plenty of body, nice and sticky. I always have plans of saving these cakes for aging, Ha! what a laugh, they never last more than a year around here.
The Menghai numbers are excellent teas to hone your brewing skills with. Learning to coax the best from these cakes (7542,8582,7532) by varying your parameters you,ll be better equipped to tackle some of the more persnickety teas. Good old Menghai.