January 28, 2010

2008 Menghai - "Peacock Of Nannou"

The Peacock of Nannou is the only other of the Peacock series of teas that I purchased besides the Menghai and while it definitely plays second fiddle to the Peacock of Menghai it's just the same a nice, enjoyable tea. I really had no clue as to what a Nannou tea should taste like, maybe I still don't, I don't know. Is the Peacock of Nannou a good example of what a classic Nannou tea should taste, smell or look like? Evidently Menghai feels that it is so who am I to argue? I,m sure there is a whole world of cakes out there that a lot of people would consider a much better representation of a classic Nannou flavor profile and maybe someday I,ll discover them for myself but until then Ive got this tea, and I like it.
All of the Peacock cakes weigh in at a hefty 400 gm,s. And at the price point they are selling at they are a good value. But another thing that I have to take into consideration is that the compression is pretty tight, almost Xiaguan tight. Consequently when breaking into something this heavily compressed there is a lot of waste material. Little tiny fragments of leaf that in my book is un-brewable. Even when exercising a lot of care I wind up with maybe 15-20% of the cake going into the garbage, and that waste costs just as much as the rest of the cake. So taking the "waste factor" into consideration they are still a good value.But the idea of paying money for tea and taking any amount of it and throwing it away makes me cringe. But I do realize that expecting them to be user friendly at this age is kinda putting the cart before the horse. With continued aging in a moderately humid environment they will become a little more relaxed and hopefully easier to deal with.

Now, lets get to the tea. The cake itself is made up of pretty nice looking leaf. The aroma is rich, intense and pungent. Sweet and meadowy, floral, with a background of leathery scents. Nine gms. of leaf go into the yixing, a couple of rinses and lets see what we have here. Well, same descriptive words as I used in describing the teas aroma applies to it's flavor as well. Nice viscous body, just sweet enough to marry with the other flavors but isn't bullying the other flavors out of the way either. Slightly dry and tart mouth feel. When compared to the Peacock of Menghai the Nannou seems a little cleaner and maybe a tad brighter in it,s flavors. Very delicate smell of perfume like floral's wafting from the cup. Tis nice!
The tea brews up a clean and clear yellow soup with just a trace of orange in it. Nice and slightly sticky, I love sticky teas. Durability is alright, somewhere around the 7th pot or so it really thins out. But we know the deal here, all the brewing variables plays a big part in how a tea progresses through the session. While I found the Peacock of Menghai to be a very tong worthy tea, the Peacock of Nannou? A tong? No, it's nice enough to justify buying a couple of cakes for the cabinet and see how they progress with time but falls just a little short of falling into the category of tong worthy.
So back to the waste factor, for the Peacock of Menghai I,m willing to overlook the waste, the Menghai is exceptionally tasty in my book. From what Ive read it seems to be that there are a whole lot of people out there that are really liking the Menghai cakes, and Ive happily fallen in line with the rest of em.
Note: additional sessions with this Nannou tea Ive realized that it's sweetness noticeably fades after the first few infusions leaving behind a very dry mouth feel. I find my jaws clenching after the fourth infusion. Very,very dry.

January 25, 2010

Tyson, In The Beginning

A more current photo of Tyson and Max. Actually I have two dogs, Max is extremely camera shy hence the lack of pics. But here they are doing there daily routine of re-claiming Daddys bed after Ive gotten up. Tyson and Max are the best of friends, Max is a little more sneaky and plotting than Tyson. Max also has the unique ability to bite ankles where as Tysons has the ability to just stomp the hell out of Max once he's had enough. Tysons kinda aloof most of the time where as Max is the alarm system, loud, penetrating barking at even the most imaginary of threats. Max has some ummmm, food issues, he will eat any and everything in the blink of an eye. Tyson, wont touch a thing unless he checks it out first and decides if he likes it or not.

I never really wanted to be a dog owner, not that I didn't like dogs, I just didn't want the responsibility. When you have a dog you always have to be aware things like, you cant just take off and leave for the day, you have to think about stuff like the dog needs to be fed, has to be let out to go potty, are they going to get into things while I,m gone, etc. So I just had better things to do with my time than worry about a dog. One day I see this white boxer in my front yard, he looks to be friendly and obviously on some sort of unsupervised excursion. He had no dog tags so I had no way of contacting the owners. So I walk him around the neighborhood to see if I can find where he lives. It turns out that everybody knew this dog, he's been out running around for weeks. But nobody knew where he lived. So, I take him back home and needed some time to think about how can I find his owners. One of my neighbors decided that he could spend the night at his house and the next day we could see what we could find out about Tyson.

The next day turned into 3 days later I was out in the yard with the dog and a car driving by stopped, Tyson's owners had found him. Turns out he lived on the street behind where I lived (Tyson Cove) They take him home and as far as I knew it was over. What a relief to be rid of that dog. Well, a couple of days later I open my door to find Tyson sitting on my porch waiting for me. He had been jumping a six foot tall fence at his house for quite some time, evidently he'd been going on these outings for quite some time. I take him back home and that's the end of that. This scenario had repeated itself many times, Tyson knew exactly where I lived and for whatever reason had decided that he liked me. Eventually the owners would take longer and longer to come pick him up, he had spent the night at my house many times by then. Eventually they stopped coming to pick him up and come to find out they had moved away and just left him behind. I felt so sorry for Tyson, he's very young, 1 year old at that time. All my neighbors played a dirty trick on me. They all talked to me about letting Tyson stay at my house and we could all work on finding Tyson a new home. One of the neighbors even made sure that I had plenty of dog food and treats for him. Well guess what? Nobody ever found a home for Tyson, they never had any intention of finding him a home. Tyson already had a home, my house. They knew that if I had him long enough that I would grow attached to him and decide to keep him. That's how I came to be Tyson's new Daddy. Ive had him for four years now. I can honestly say that I wouldn't give him away for anything. Tyson exudes unconditional love to everybody, he see's no strangers, just new friends. Loves to cuddle and give kisses. He's my little buddy and everyday I genuinely look forward to spending time with him, going for walks or whatever. All the photos here are from around the time when this was actually taking place. The above pic where he's staring at my foot is one of his favorite games, "get my toes" he just waiting for the slightest of movement and then he will ATTACK! All in fun, although he is a lot stronger then you would think, he could easily rip your face off but he just doesn't have it in him to be aggressive. The pic below is a rather embarrassing and unflattering pic of him sleeping on the sofa. The house was being repaired at that time due to a hail storm that put leaks in the roof. Ruined carpet, you name it. The sofa had also been damaged due to the leak in the ceiling so I didn't care if he slept on it. That was a big mistake, Tyson still sleeps on the sofa, he knows he is not supposed to get on the sofa but he thinks that as long as he's asleep it's o.k. for him to be there. So there have been times that I enter the room and find him on the couch and when he sees me he just shuts his eyes and pretends to be asleep. Anyways that's how I came to be a dog owner. Stay tuned, in pt.2 you will learn all about the time Tyson helped himself to 8 jumbo sized bran muffins and a lb. of butter while I was at the grocery store.

January 23, 2010

2008 Menghai - Peacock of Menghai

I think it was meant to be, the "Peacock of Menghai" was destined for the jar with the peacock glaze. I don't really enjoy the process of breaking into and prying chunks of tea from a cake. When I do have to deal with it I usually dismember a good portion of it so I don't have to deal with it again anytime soon. Hence the use of jars.
Now for the tea, I know that a lot of you are already familiar with Menghai's Peacock series of cakes, but they are new to me. Available in the boxed set of five cakes with five different mountains being represented, Mengsong, Menghai, Nannou, Bulang and Bada. Or they are also available individually. Out of the three cakes that Ive had (Mengsong, Menghai and Nannou) the Peacock of Menghai is the real standout. I might not have ever tried these tea's were it not for Terje, one of my fellow online tea cronies. Some few weeks ago Terje had sent me some tea samples and that's when I first tasted these tea's. Thanks again Terje.
The Peacock of Menghai is a great tea sold at an affordable price. A little under $20.00 for a 400 gm. beeng. This tea is the bee's knee's in the eye's of many people, clearly the standout cake in the series. I bought one each of the Menghai and the Nannou, in the process of procurement of a tong of the Menghai. Steve over at jas-etea has several tongs on the way. My impression of the Mengsong cake was that it's a good tea but a little too familiar, to me it's very reminiscent of the 7542 cakes. I suspect that one of the base tea's in the 7542 recipe is Mengsong.

Opening the cakes paper wrapper unleashes the most mouthwatering smell of pungently, rich sheng. It's got a little of everything going on here, leathery, beany, a tad fruity, meadows and floral. The cake's made from a mix of multi colored leaf, greens, browns, reds and white buds. The compression is pretty tight, almost Xiaguan tight, but I,m not intimidated in the least, it's really not that bad but it takes a little effort.
The tea brews up clean and clear and the flavors reflect the tea's aroma's pretty well. The tea's body may be just a little on the light side but not too much. The flavors are very full and well rounded though. This tea is very close to my idea of perfection. I love this stuff regardless of it's price. Bitterness could be an issue if you don't stay on top of your timing. The durability is good but nothing special.
Another example of Menghai's mastery of puerh. This tea could run circles around a lot of the elite, boutique tea's out there. Who needs handmade, stone pressed tea's when you've got these cakes? Menghai has only offered the entire peacock series once or twice before so these tea's are not available all the time. But there seems to be plenty of them on the market presently, just about all the usual online vendors have them in stock. Ive made plenty of room in my tea cabinet for a little nest egg of the Peacock of Menghai cakes. Hopefully I,ll still have some ten years from now and I,m hedging my bets that they will be superb. I,ll let you know.

January 12, 2010

Thanks Terje

After a long weeks work and feeling like Ive just about had enough of it all I came home to a most welcome surprise in the mail today, a package from Terje (an online tea chum from Norway) which contains an assortment of sheng samples. That was very nice suprise. I can just relax and enjoy some new teas and stop fantasising about the best way to kill my co-workers. Of course I allowed myself to try the most alluring of the bunch, a 1999 Menghai Dayi Yiwu Shan.

 Absolutely superb! Thank you Terje. I demand to know where you got this from. Opening the little baggy emitted a wonderful aroma, I knew this was going to be good as soon as I smelled it, a rich and heavy depth but at the same time some delicate aromas were also there. The tea brews a very clean and clear orange color. The aroma is decadent, woodsy, yet clean. Very floral for a tea with 11 years age on it. The sweetness and bitterness are very well balanced. I almost want to say there are some fruity flavors in the aftertaste. This tea is a true delight and a much needed session (after the cluster fuck that I,ll refer to as "today") Just look at that cup of goodness. There is so much in the cup that's enjoyable now it would be quite a challenge for me to have a cake of this and allow it to continue aging. Nah, I couldn't do it, wouldn't last a year unscathed around here. This tea fades out with grace, I love teas that do that. Doesn't just turn into sweet grain water, the flavors remain intact but slowly and gradually turn down the volume. So, Terje. Where did you get this? And how much did it set you back?

Note: As it turns out Terje received this tea as a gift from a friend who purchased it in Hong Kong. In other words, tis none to be had. Boo Hoo!

January 4, 2010

Puerh Video Sheds New Light On The Topic Of "Wulong,d" Maocha (maybe)


I found this video and thought it was interesting. Covers most of the history of Puerh as well as some of it,s production. You may have seen this before but I had not. One of the things I found interesting was that at one time evidently it was common practice to pre-ferment the maocha. Yep, you heard correctly, the tea was not ready for consumption until after the leaf had been pre-fermented. So, if this is correct then all the hub bub about pre-fermentation and how the tea may not age properly is a bunch of hooey. This video is about thirty minutes long but it,s somewhere around the seventeen minute mark that this issue is addressed. Those red tinged leaves have never worried me too much, although their are exceptions I usually prefer the taste of the red tinged teas to the pure green. A little rounder, fuller and the astringency seems to be toned down a bit. But I am perfectly aware that this video is not going to change the minds of people who have already made up their mind that this practice is either an accident or the result of producers wanting to make a drink now tea. Let me know what you think. What this tells me is that, take all the "online personalities" opinions and perspective with a grain of salt. The people making these teas have been doing so for a whole lot longer than all us twenty something white boys have been drinking it. Having cakes stacked to the rafters doesnt make you an expert, nor does having a popular blog. But, whatever!