Friday, March 9, 2018

Storage Lessons Comparing 1997 & 1999 Teamasters’ Menghai Factory 7542

Out of any tea from the 90s, I have consumed the 7542 more than all others combined (here and here and here).  This classic recipe from Menghai Factory is by far the most popular and famous of all 90s puerh.  In Korea in the mid 2000s every tea shop that sold puerh pretty much had some.  Inevitably I drank a lot of it at the tea tables all those years back.

In fact it was so abundant that, it is a guarantee that many must have been fakes.  Either way, they all tasted fairly aged and delicious- some more than others.  The quality of these cakes depended mainly on the storage and whether they were true Menghai factory vs. fake.  Sometimes a fake could even taste better than a cake that seemed real.  So even early on in my puerh tea education I learned that the taste of a long session of tea rarely lies.

These 7542 sample recipes came included in a recent order from Stephane of Teamasters.  If you are looking to avoid the fakes altogether the first thing would be to find a very reputable vendor, Teamasters is one such vendor.

Well, as I said there is only one way to know if these guys are the super delicious 7542s or just the normally delicious 7542s.  Let crush these samples with some gong fu and deep meditation…

Earlier this week received a few feet of snow, it is a blizzard out there today, the whole family is out of the house so I ‘m breaking out this sample and having a great tea session… Sigh… I forgot I broke my old small, cheap shui ping pot… and my other small volume David Louveau pot is at work… well this will be a first aged puerh in this Korean ceramic pot … with no other great option in mind…. Let’s do it!  It is actually perfect volume for all the sample!

The dry leaves smell of dry wood with a very faint odour of distant fruit that is overwhelmed by a dusty odour.  As the leaves hit the warm tea pot woody notes and cherry almost orangy notes emerge.  The leaves seem medium-higher humidity stored with decent humidity exposure likely Taiwanese stored.

First infusion has a smooth velvety creamy woody slight orangy taste.  The taste is deep, rich, and coats the tongue, mouth, and throat with a slightly simulating, but thick coating.  It opens the mid throat nicely.  There is a nice cooling menthol aftertaste present along with deeper dried cherries, orange peel, and wood.  This tea imparts an immediate warming penetrating qi and makes the mind release into immediate reassuring calm.

The second infusion starts to show that this is Menghai Factory because even with significant age it still has an edge.  It opens with chalky almost talc cherry fruits and old dry wood, like that of an old library.  It has both a viscus feeling in the mouth as well as a slight astringency.  The astringency is enough to push a gob of saliva up into the throat to entrap all the aged flavours of aged camphor and oak, slight cream, distant cherry and talc.  They sound simple in writing but deep in the mouth.

The third infusion returns to a denser, richer presentation with the more astringent aspects dropping slightly.  The rich profile gives us deep layer, nuanced aged wood taste, very slightly creamy edge, with cherry talc distant tastes and a slight orange peel taste distant in the throat that follows aged wood and slight menthol.  The mouth and throat feel are spot on for Menghai Factory of this age.

The fourth infusion has a lighter fruity burst initially that was shrouded deep in richer wood tastes in the previous infusions.  The wood tastes are drier and more astringent in this infusion.  This astringency seems to capture more fruity tastes in the mouth.  The fruit tastes are distant, almost like dried cherries, orange peel, and pomegranate.  The shift in profile could have been due to me fetching new water as well.

The fifth infusion is much the same as the fourth- dry wood, talic, distant dried cherry, old aged wood in the library taste.  Slight cooling even a mushroom like taste in the finish which I’ve never encountered before in 7442.  Has anyone out there ever tasted mushroom in 7542?  Mouthfeel and throatfeel remain full, slightly astringent.  The qi is big, nice, warming in the whole body, mind is very relaxed but sharp and present.  The strength is apparent as it still seems to nudge the digestion.  I rest the leaves for 30 minutes…

The sixth infusion has a robust layered wood taste that is very full in the mouth the high notes have again yielded to the aged wood.  The mouthfeel is not as astringent here more of a rich astringency.  A chalky feeling in the mouth with slight cooling in throat.

The seventh lightens up more than the sixth and is much the same.  I added 5 more seconds to the flash infusion here.

The eighth infusion 10 seconds is added to the flash infusion and it yields pretty much the same flavours as previous.  Of note is still the strong menthol aftertaste, full mouth- and throatfeeling.  There seems to be more fruit notes in the mid profile in this infusion.  I step away for an hour or so then I’m back to enjoy…

The ninth infusion tastes of wood and almost date fruit taste.  The sweeter fresher cherry taste is gone in this infusion. Everything is deeper and more coalescent.  Wood, slight dates, leather.  The cooling sensation is less.

The tenth infusion is of woody, leather, aged taste. slight cooling aftertaste in a full, slightly astringent/drying mouthfeel.  The taste beyond this point is just basically the above aged taste.  When makes it still enjoyable is the engaged mouthfeeling, almost sweetness as a counterpoint to the deeper, earthier woody aged tastes and traces of a cooling aftertaste in a simulating throat.  As a result it can play out for many many infusions much like this.

After a few more infusions I put this tea into long overnight steepings and I am greeted to dried fruity, leathery wood infusions the throat feel holds somewhat giving these longer infusions some depth.  I enjoy this tea for the next few mornings like this.

Overall, this 7542 has lost almost all traces of youth.  I would image that this tea had heavier humid storage for the first 10 years then it was direr stored.  It has suggestion that this came from a herbal medicine distributor in the 1990s with a slight aged herb feel- it is possible.  Nice tea for those who prefer their 7542 with deeper humid storage and more of an aged taste and feel.  This 7542 very much resembles the stuff I drank years ago in Korean Puerh Tea Houses.

The shear amount of snow has really slowed down a place that is used to having lots of snow.  The result is another perfect morning for a great tea session and just days from the 1997, I sample this 1999.

The dry leaves smell of creamy fairly intense sweetness with undertones of wood.  The creamy rich sweetness surprises me a bit.  The leaves are not as compressed as the 1997 and much much lighter and more vibrant.  This 1999 is much more dry stored Kunming or shrink wrapped or true dry storage.

The first infusion has a very creamy sweet initial taste with notes of fruity wood that descends into very mild and creamy wood almost talc like taste.  The mouthfeeling is light and thin creamy and talc.  The aftertaste is light on the breath with a very light cooling sweetness.

The second infusion’s initial taste dries the lips with creamy sweet slightly astringent fruity wood flavor.  The base taste is clean wood with a noticeable undercurrent of creamy sweetness throughout.  The vibrancy and creamy sweetness of this 7542 is quite nice. The cooling aftertaste is nice and strong the mildly astringent mouth and throat feel hold it there and keep it on the breath.

The third infusion starts with a creamy sweet more cohesive taste with the fruitier sweetness overtaking the creamy sweetness.  This infusion tastes more broth-like, more contained, more juice-like, with the fruit taste almost equal with wood tastes here.  The creaminess is still there too.  The dry wood tastes seems more intense as the astringency continues to grow here.  It’s not drying in the mouth or throat, its medium astringency.  A very noticeable classic Menghai note of pine wood or resin start to develop.

The fourth infusion has the woody pine like notes dominating now with the creamier sweet notes entrenched almost equally now.  The pine comes initially then greats the creamy sweet taste quickly.  The sweetness is long on the breath along with a bit of cooling.  This is a classic 7542 profile.  There is less talc and more cherry-plum sweetness in this infusion now.

The fifth infusion has a cohesiveness pulling all the tastes into one and they start to be more mild.  The aftertaste remains big with sweet creamy notes and an almost menthol like pine taste.  Overall the mouth and throat feeling are easy to ignore- they are still very full but not standoffish.  The mouth- and throatfeel have a full slightly powdery consistency with a medium astringency.  This infusion also tastes puerh like almost camphory in taste.  The qi of this tea is not as strong as other 7542 but it has a very cooling qi in the body not warming.  This speaks to its still relative youth and dry storage.  In the body you can feel it lingering in the stomach slightly.  Overall it’s relaxing and gives on a mild, focused mental sharpness.

The sixth is much the same as the fifth as all these tastes pull together in the initial taste and following taste.  These infusions have a plum and camphor taste.  There is also pine especially on the breath.  The aftertaste remains active and evolving, the mouth- and throatfeeling unwavering.  There is a talc taste on the breath minutes later, lots of sweetness returning with coolness.

The seventh infusion you can taste a subtle smokiness, could taste it very faintly in the sixth but more here.  This infusion has much less sweetness and more of a smoky woody taste throughout.  The aftertaste is mainly woody slight returning coolness.  Not as much sweet here.  Not as complex over the whole taste profile.

Eighth infusion I start adding 5 seconds to each subsequent infusions and starts with a clear woody taste, slight, faint almost flowery/powdery fruit taste.  Cool aftertaste with chalky finish sweet and creamy slight woody.  Long aftertaste.

The ninth infusion I drop back to flash infusion and am gifted with a very nice result that almost talc rose like sweet chalky taste that is classic dry stored 7542 initially.  It slightly numbs the lips the evolution in the profile is complex, interesting.  Pine wood appears in the aftertaste next to creamy sweet undertones.

The tenth I flash infuse again and the taste is much like the ninth.

The eleventh another very enjoyable infusion that is just as complex and very similar to the above.

I have to leave for work but I understand that these leaves are at their prime right now in the infusion.  I throw them into a container and put them into my one cup Korean tea maker at work but, I’m not sure if it’s the different, softer water there, the exposure to cold, or the steeping vessel but I can’t keep the momentum going with this tea.  Infusions at work I start adding more time to the infusions but get tastes of sweet creamy plum cherry but more muted than before.  Now mainly the tastes are of wood with a still full mouthfeeling and nice astringency of the throat which nicely hold the returning sweet menthol coolness.

The Qi really starts to build until it is almost of a talkative, jittery type.  Someone at work asks, “Did you have coffer today?”  Its that type of intense factory style qi that lingers within these steepings. But it really builds up very slowly to this point.

I steep this tea from morning to night and I am amazed at the stamina of it.  The throat feeling is unwavering and the menthol like returning sweetness will not resign.  This is a great example of dry stored 7542 and shares a certain resemblance to the Manghai Factory Qingbings I’ve sampled in the past.


These two Menghai Factory 7542 are quite interesting to compare.  Only 2 years separate these two identical recipes from identical factories, as far as puerh from 20 years ago this is almost nothing.  Meaning there is no one I ever met, no teamaster, that could guess which puerh is older by tasting a 19 year old and a 21 year old so this age difference, doesn’t mean much.  Although the price difference between these two is more due to the age difference.

The huge difference between these near identical teas is basically storage.

Neither is really better, it’s just a matter of preference.

I doubt that there are many readers out there who are going to shell out the money for these full cakes but I highly recommend ordering the samples.  Especially if you are new to puerh and want to see how different storage conditions effect a puerh 20 years down the road.  Or those drinkers out there who have never experienced Menghai (Dayi) Factory back when it was still great puerh.

I quite like the 1999 myself although just a bit out of my price range. 

Thanks Stephane for these memorable sessions.



TeaMasters said...

Dear Matt,
Thanks a lot for your very detailed tasting notes and comparison of these 2 Menghai 7542. By coincidence, I re-tasted these 2 puerhs in parallel yesterday, because another (young) puerh friend also told me that he prefers the 1997 over the 1999. My theory is that age plays a role in this preference for younger, rawer, more energetic puerh. That's one reason that may explain that, with my growing age, I prefer the smoother, deeper 1997 over the 1999. Indeed, the 1997 seems much older and refined than the 1999.
PS: Both puerhs were stored in Taiwan, but in different locations for most of the time. This shows that even in Taiwan the storage conditions are the same everywhere. Interestingly, last year I could taste a 7542 from the end of the 1980s, stored in Washington State, and it tasted much younger than the 1999!

Matt said...


The rich, more aged, nature of the 1997 was perfect to drink on a very snowy and cold winter day. But a few days latter things had to get done and I really appreciated the strength of the 1999!


Patrick said...


I've had the lucky opportunity to sample these teas from Stephane as well and could not agree more with your summary. These are necessary samples to truly understand 90s 7542, and so readily accessible to the western market. If I had the money I would buy nothing but the 1997!


Matt said...


A dream daily drinker! Hahahaha

What is really interesting about the price is this...

When I was drinking very similar Taiwanese stored approx 20 years puerh similar to this 1997 in the mid 2000s. The price in Korea would have been around $200. So really puerh of this quality and 20 years age from Menghai has only doubled.

Thanks for bringing up the point that a sample set like this isn’t really accessible to those in the West.

Does anyone know of another?