It's one of those days that I don't know what I want to drink. Growing bored with all of my go-to teas Ive been drinking lately, so I resorted to my box of tea samples and tid-bits for inspiration. And bless my cotton socks I might have found something here. I don't know where I got this from or how long Ive had it. Ive always liked Menghai's 7542 but Ive never had the old school, CNNP version of it before. So this is the proper, back in the day (before Dayi) version of 7542. Although I have to keep in mind the 7542's price point, which tells a lot. I figure that if a cake sells for $17.00 or so, what could the ratio of high grade mao cha to plantation grown filler be? After having travelled through all the middle men before it got to me and that's the price I paid, then these cakes must be cheap as dirt to produce.
But then again, even though this is pre-Dayi, it's still cheap tea and maybe I shouldn't have high hopes for this tea seeing that it's been in the sample box for God knows how long. Also it's a fairly small chunk of tea, it's not going to be representative of the same tea stored as a whole cake in a proper storage environment.
There is indeed a noticeable difference in the teas composition. Modern day 7542 is made from a much more consistent leaf size. This tea also has some twigs ranging in size from insignificant to full blown sticks, that's something I haven't seen in a Dayi 7542. This tea consists of various leaf sizes and it's much easier to see the blend itself. Some of the leaves are kinda thin and paper like, while others are quite thick and chunky. The dry leaf has only the slightest of wet storage odors remaining.
Seven grams of leaf go into the yixing, two good rinses (trying to diminish any traces of wet storage) and lets see what we have here. The characteristics that Ive come to expect from the 7542 recipe is definitely in the cup. Woodsy and leathery with barely noticeable traces of smoke. Almost no bitterness to be found and just enough sweetness to provide contrast to the wood and leather.
This tea was initially wet stored, and probably quite heavily, but it's been dry for so long that it brews up a pretty light and clear amber color. This is pretty much a straight forward, basic sheng with not much in the way of complexity. What Folgers is to coffee is what this tea is to raw puerh. Nothing wrong with it but nothing to write home about either. This teas less than ideal storage hasn't "ruined" the tea, but even if it were to go into a moderately humid environment for revivifying I,m not sure it's salvageable. It's lost too much at this point.
Drinking these kinds of teas provide some insight into how important storage environments are to puerh. I,m kinda leery of buying "aged sheng" from online vendors for this exact reason. Just because it's from a reputable maker and it's a popular tea doesn't mean anything really. Whats been done to it over the years plays such a big role in the teas outcome. This tea is probably still available online somewhere out there, but I wouldn't want it if they were giving it away. Just doesn't cut the mustard in my book.
I wonder..........is it possible that you can learn what good tea should taste like...... by drinking bad tea? I think what you learn is the tell tale signs of improper or negligent storage conditions. The year the tea was made doesn't matter, the name brand or maker doesn't matter, nor it's blend or mountain of origin. These three issues can give you an indication of what to expect or what the teas potential might be. But there is only one way to tell for sure........Drink It!