Friday, July 28, 2017

Same Tea Different Years 2013 & 2014 Shuangjiang Mengku “Sprit of Tea”

I purchased a sample of these two with my tong of 2008 WildArbour King cakes and a 2008 Nan Jian 912 cake.  An interesting thing to note is that when Yunnan Sourcing has a sale on a certain puerh, not only does the whole item go on sale but also the samples as well.  I usually don’t care to purchase samples unless I am sure that I would probably never buy the actual cake.  Basically, I sample for education purposes only.  If I think I might like the puerh, I usually just take the plunge and purchase the whole cake, brick, or tuo.  I think this is opposite than most of my readers… hahaha.

I decided to pick up a few samples of some common Shuangjiang Mengku cakes that didn’t exist when I was heavy into my puerh drinking.  One of these “newer” regular productions is the “Spirit of Tea” cake.

"Spirit of Tea" is the most premium regular production that was produced by Mengku Rongshi since 2009. It is entirely wild arbor tea! (link)

Let us try the 2013 first…

Dry leaves smell of fresh distant fruit and hay.

First infusion starts with strong sour tones which turn to powdery ice sugar like tastes in the mouth.  The mouthfeel feels full, soft and powdery.  The aftertaste is reasonably round and sweet.

The second infusion starts sour again then transitions to more of a dry woody and vegetal taste.  The aftertaste is slight cooling and ice sugar sweetness.  The wood note is carried throughout the profile of this tea.  The mouthfeel remains fairly full and powdery.  Minutes later there are some floral notes that come out in the aftertaste and linger on the breath.

The third has a more pronounced floral sweetness up front.  The sweetness evolves into that creamy cherry fruit sweetness.  This infusion is full of different layers of sweet tastes floral sweetness, creamy cherry and dragon fruit sweetness and mild barely sugary sweetness on the aftertaste.  The qi of this tea is relaxing with a mild floating feeling in the head.

The fourth infusion has more of these sweet tastes blended into each other.  It is more cohesive than previous infusions.  A creamy cherry sweetness dominates the profile.  The mouthfeel is chalky enough to hold these tastes and let them evolve in the mouth.  On the breath is an interesting play of florals and fruits minutes later.

The fifth infusion shows some watery melon and white grape notes up front before turning into subtle florals and layered sweetness.

The sixth infusion has more creamy full icing surgery sweetness in the profile with an slight drier wood taste sneaking up.

The seventh infusion has less of a lighter profile but is still quite light.  A mild vegetal sourness shows up but as does some interesting tropical fruit and icing surgary tastes.  These tastes show on the breath even minutes later.

The next batch of infusions are pushed stronger to yield floral and creamy surgary taste that mainly appears in the aftertaste.  This tea has decent stamina for yielding light tastes.  The sugery floral taste is evident even minutes later.

This tea has nice stamina and can carry these flavours for many infusions.  If it is pushed too hard at the end overly sour notes come out.

This is a $72.00/ 500g cake ($0.14/gram).

Dry leaves smell of strong licorice root and distant sweet fruit with a slight hay edge.

The first infusion is a nice round buttery, creamy taste with a slight edge of sourness and a slight buttery floral in the aftertaste.  There is a citrus/ lime note that appears last on the breath as well as a mild surgary taste.

The second infusion has some creamy sweetness mixed with slight bitter and more sour notes.  It has a creamy longer aftertaste and slight cooling surgery taste on the breath.

The third infusion is much the same with the creamier sweeter notes more apparent and long.  The mouthfeel is slightly stimulating effect that is mainly found in the mouth.

The fourth infusion is much the same.  This 2014 still is more on the youthful side and carries a sour taste as a result.

The fifth and sixth infusions have even a more turbid bitterness and slight sourness over the slight creamy sugary simple tastes.  A mild floral taste is left on the breath with a very faint cooling.  Most of the profile is bitter/sour with very little play of interesting top notes.  The mouthfeel remains thin in the mouth.  The qi of this tea is mild, a slight lightness in the legs and arms.  It is still young enough that it gives off a slight rawness in the stomach.

The seventh has more of a turbid/ rubber taste to it.  It has a vegetal floral aroma on the breath that lingers.  There are some interesting tastes that attempt to push through minutes later.

The eighth the sour and bitter start to dissipate under still short infusion times and a dry slightly flat base taste delivers faint florals and barely surgery sweetness.

The ninth infusion becomes flat with a slight floral aftertaste.  This tea is infused another handful of times and still manages to hold on to some of that slight floral aftertaste.

The difference between the 2013 and 2014 is notable.

The 2013 Sprit of Tea has not only much fuller mouthfeel but it also has a more vibrant taste to it.  They both have good stamina and at least something worthwhile can be had for many infusions a good indicator of wild arbour.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2008 Nan Jian 912, Aging Wuliang Puerh and Breaking Into Iron Bings

I threw in a cake of this one to sample in my order of 2008Wild Arbour King cakes from Yunnan Sourcing a few months back.  It was (and still is) selling for $40.00 for a 400g ($0.10/gram)cake but was included in the 12% sale at the time (by pure coincidence a 10% off sale is on now).  This cake is a popular, cheap everyday drinker in the West.  It is certified organic, iron pressed, composed of Wuliang/Lincang materials. This cake has been stored in Guangdong most of its life before heading to Yunnan Sourcing’s drier Kunming storage.

I am a fan of iron bings.  I like how the aged and semi-aged iron bings taste.  They seem to age slower and have a mix of aged taste as well as some retained youthful qualities from the tight compression.  They also give an old school kind of feeling to them and are often slightly stronger tasting cakes that are often a touch bitter.  It would be interesting to see one of the newer trendier producers offer an iron bing cake.  This cake was stored in wetter storage so I’m expecting more of a noticeable dichotomy than usual here.

I have developed a method to remove the leaves of iron bing cakes without hassle.  Basically, I just angle the whole bing at a 45 degree angle on a very hard surface and apply force.  The leaves come off pretty easily.

Personally, I am not always convinced that tea will get better with more age.  I remember Mr. Kim telling me that sometimes aged tea is best after 8-10 years.  Then will decline.  I think this is especially true for puerh that tends to be more fragrant with a mellow flavor.  I feel that Wuliang puerh fits this description. I have very nice full tasting and vibrant Wuliang from 2011 but I have been drinking it lately not aging it further for this reason.  I believe it should only be aged long enough so the rawness and ill effects of fresh sheng are reduced- then it is best consumed.  I guess only time will tell.  Let’s try out this Wuliang/Lincang from probably the most famous of Wuliang factories- Nan Jian Tulin Tea Factory…

Dry leaves smell of old wetter storage- a meatier smell with very little in the way of fragrant high notes.

The first infusion has a watery, bland, not quite sweet and juicy, taste in the mouth.  There is some suggestions of melon fruit before quickly disappearing in the mouth.  There is a faint, almost floral, mild cooling aftertaste.

The second infusion starts with a stronger profile of mild tobacco and leather over a slight bitter astringent vegetal taste.  There is a bean taste in there as well then a slight suggestion of sweet fruit before a soft/ mild cooling appears.  This infusion is over a thin, slightly dry mouthfeel.

The third has slight melon fruity taste over a significant slight tobacco, leather and slight bitter vegetal taste. The cooling aftertaste is just slight.  Minutes later nice rock sugar tastes well as distant floral mildly present themselves.  There is very little throat feel but rather a thin, slightly drying astringent mouthfeel which coats the mouth and makes the teeth feel sticky.

The fourth infusion is much the same as the second.  The long tobacco/ leather and slight bitter vegetal tastes dominate the profile of this tea over only mild suggestions of something more complex and subtle.

The fifth infusion has more of a watery slight juicy fruit feel but it is still dominated but tobacco, leather and slight bitter astringent vegetal taste.  The mild cool aftertaste remains.

The sixth and seventh and eighth infusions are more subtle in taste with a slight crisper cooling sweetness trying to unsuccessfully push through the deeper base tastes.  The taste remains very stable.  This tea can be steeped for many more infusions and yield basically the same simple tastes.  It has durability on its side. The qi of this tea is mild alerting and slightly relaxing- very standard qi.  It is totally uncomplicated and changes very little from infusion to infusion.  Its taste and feel is simple, reliable, and predictable.  It is totally drinkable and there is no off taste or chemical feeling but it just isn’t that interesting.  There is a simple honesty about this cake and for those who like the flavors and this type of storage I can see how it could be an everyday drinker for them.  For $40.00 you are mainly paying for the storage and age of this cake.  I can’t see myself buying another.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Advice On Buying Fresh Sheng Puerh, 2008 Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King And Catching Up With The Ones That Got Away

Have you ever sampled a puerh, liked it, but by the time you go to buy it’s sold out?  Of course you have, its happened to all of us.  You never forget it do you?  But have any of you had a chance to buy that same cake 9 years later?  This is a story about making wrongs right again…

I have a long history with this cake.  In fact, I wrote a review post on it when it first came out 9 years ago here (link).  I was given a generous sample by a man who taught me almost everything I knew about tea at that time, my teamaster if you wish to call him that.  I call him Mr. Kim.  This was one of the wholesale cakes that Mr.Kim brought into his shop for sale in 2008.

I spent many hours in my week sitting cross-legged drinking tea at Mr. Kim’s table talking, discussing, and learning about tea.  In Korea this means Korean tea, Japanese matcha, and (Chinese) sheng puerh tea almost exclusively.  Mr. Kim taught me a lot.  One of the most important things he taught me about puerh was his advice on purchasing fresh sheng puerh (which I haven’t done for years and years now).  He said that the puerh should have a full feeling in the mouth and especially the throat, it should feel good in the body now and make you feel good, it should be something that you could enjoy now not something that was so strong and bitter that you would have to age to consume, and it should be to your liking regardless of what others think about the tea.  If it is a quality sheng its taste will also develop and change throughout the gongfu session and through many many steepings.

I feel like this is really good advice and has done my puerh collection well over all these years.  This advice might seem obvious to some now but back in the mid-2000s it was contrary to the mainstream belief that a puerh should be bitter and strong to age well.  I know there are lots of people out there sitting on tones of bitter, harsh puerh that is hard on their body, that they never really enjoyed and that isn’t aging so well in dry storage- so I am grateful for this early advice.

When I first tried Mr. Kim’s sample back in 2008 it didn’t quite meet all the purchasing criteria for me.  Check out my first impressions here.  For me it had too much typical puerh taste too early in the session.  Even so, I would often drink this fresh sheng puerh with Mr. Kim at his tea table.  After a while this tea started to grow on me, I liked the way it made me feel mainly.  So when it was time for me to depart from Korea in December of 2008, I made a stop at Mr. Kim’s shop to buy a tong.  Unfortunately, he had sold out.

After my first purchase of six 1 KG bricks of the 2006 Wild Arbour King I was still in no mood to purchase this 2008 version of the same namesake.  After all, I much preferred the 2006 anyways and I didn’t think I really needed any more Licang puerh.

Yunnan Sourcing sure makes it difficult to just make one off purchases.  About a month after my big purchase and after acquiring a large sum of loyalty credit it just happened to be that Scott is offering a 12% off the Big Four Puerh Factories promotion (Mengku Shuang Jiang is one of the four).  Still feeling the sting of a dwindling puerh stash, I throw in a tong of these bulky 500g cakes, ($62.00/500g or  0.12/gram before both discounts now it is currentlypriced at $76.00 per cake or $0.15/gram), a single cake from one of the other four factories and a few new Mengku factory samples of some offerings they never had back in the day just for fun.

The old Yunnan Sourcing website says these cakes were dry Guangdong stored. 

So there we go.

Please gather around the tea table as I had done with Mr. Kim and let’s enjoy this tea…

The dry leaves smell of slight cherry fruit in semi aged mushroomy puerh odours.

The first infusion has a clean, sugary-sweet, slightly metallic taste with a nicely semi-aged base taste and nice slow to evolve, cooling sweet, crisp aftertaste.  This tea is immediately fresh but yet grounded with aged incense-like tastes.  There is a floral taste in the throat appearing minutes later.

The second infusion has more lightly deep medicinal tastes, mushrooms, and vanilla tastes initially then finishes with a slightly floral, slightly metallic aftertaste.  There is a vegetal even, sour if overbrewed, taste in the middle of the profile as well which strings things together.  A cool metallic aftertaste remains.

The third infusion presents with more mushroom and slight medicinal tastes up front then slowly transforms into very faint metallic and floral in the throat along with a faint long cooling sensation.  This tea has more of a slight throat opening feeling than an actual mouthfeel.  The sensation in the mouth is thin but full and slightly sticky.  In the throat feels opening even into the mid-throat.  The qi of this tea is slight and relaxing, it floats the head and relaxes the body.

The fourth infusion has some lighter florals up front mixed in with soft semi-aged medicinal tastes.  These light tastes stretch past soft vegetal notes and into a muted metallic and floral aftertaste.  There is a nice packaging of solid simple and somewhat unique tastes in this tea.

In the fifth and sixth infusions this tea starts to thin out holding a nice bouquet of florals in semi-aged medicinal tastes.  The aftertaste is a metallic, slightly cooling taste.  The mouthfeel becomes a very fine grit here and saliva pools in the mid-throat.  The qi is really noticeable in the chest and heart and gives this area both an opening feeling and a stimulating sensation- the heart gallops gently.

The seventh is much the same as is the eighth but the taste becomes much more generic aged puerh at this point.  It has a nice incense-like taste to it.

It brews out like this even in overnight steepings.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2007 Boyou Manludashan and Pushing Puerh Through Awkward Adolescence

A few months ago I drank up a few cakes of this tea and it was delicious.  It served up big fragrant floral tastes in a punchy slightly bitter base taste. It had a simple unpretentious mouthfeel but carried the taste well.  It was definitely one of my favorite daily drinkers over the last year.  I had initially split a box of this tea with my Victoria, BC puerh drinking buddy, Antoine.  He read a review on the Half-Dipper and convinced me to go half-half on a box of 3 cakes.  This was back in 2011 (I think) when these cakes were terribly cheap from Yunnan Sourcing.  Since then it was stored in Victoria, BC for 2 years, then 4 years of ultra dry prairie storage.

It was the only cake of mine that I could even find a replacement for when I realized that I will be soon out of puerh.  I was relieved to find out that not only does Yunnan Sourcing still stock this Mengsong iron bing but also that it has gone up very little in price.  So it was easy for me to add a box of 3 400g cakes for $139.00 ($0.12/g) to my cart along with my order of 2006 Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King bricks.  I was also excited to compare the exclusively Kunming dry storage cakes with my storage.

When the tea arrived I brewed it up gong fu style as I had for month previous but I was surprised at what Kunming did to this one…

The dry leaves smell of fragrant orchid, peach, and honey.  Very light and delicious smelling.

The First infusion has an empty watery taste up front which attempts to carry some of those fragrant notes found in the dry leaf such as peach, honey, and orchid.  In this lighter first infusion the mouthfeel is more watery and weak and the tastes are empty in the mouthfeel.

The second has sort of a fragmented feeling to it.  The tea opens up with slightly bitter barely smoky vanilla notes with slight suggestions of a menthol/ medicinal taste then they slowly transition into faint fragrant floral notes that present over the initial notes.  A gummy, slightly drying, aftertaste is left on the tongue.  This tea has a small throat feel and has a hard time holding on to interesting tastes as a medicinal vanilla clings on.  There are faint suggestions of orchid and honey underneath.

The third infusion some creamy honey tastes transition quickly into medical vanilla notes then some florals strengthen in the aftertaste.  This infusion comes together better and is held together a bit better by the thicker, slightly drying mouthfeel that mainly resides in the front of the mouth.  This tea really lacks a significant throat feel.  The qi of this tea is a big caffeine burst which is quite strong and very alerting.  It almost gives a jittery feeling due to its strength that is mainly felt in the limbs.  This tea makes a groggy, stagnant mind race.

The fourth transitions smoother still with creamy vanilla notes presenting first over bitter notes.  They slide into a more medicinal taste, a barely menthol and mainly medicinal flavor, and then to malty aged, faint florals.  The bitterness is ever present throughout the profile.  The floral suggestions continue to try to push their way out even minutes later on the breath.  The floral suggestions have a heaviness, a slight perfumery, agedness to them.

The fifth presents first with a melon note in a watery bitter base.  The strong vanilla and medicinal base taste is muted in this infusion and there is a certain emptiness that develops before the florals attempt to push through in the aftertaste.  There is a faint metallic taste left in the mouth minutes later.

The sixth infusion displays melon tastes over bitter which turn into creamy nice lighter florals now.  This tea really opens up with the floral notes in these middle infusion.  The throat also starts holding a glob of saliva now which helps retain these high note tastes.  A soft tobacco note is in there as well.

The seventh is more watery with melon and soft tobacco over a very soft bitter base.

More time is added to this eighth steeping and a very watery infusion sees some faint florals and melon in the hallow soup.

The ninth and tenth under long steeps push out a nice short, cool floral taste minutes later.   The aftertastes in these late infusions are enjoyable.

This tea is currently in an awkward stage of ageing.  The thick, large and long lasting floral notes that once dominated the ultra-dry stored tea are now fleeting in this Kunming stored tea.  It is revealing how unstable these tastes can be if not firmly planted over a solid mouth- and throat-feel.  The moderate bitterness of this tea on the other hand has not changed nor has the cha qi.  Just a month ago the slow, dry aged version of this same puerh was one of my favorite everyday drinkers- fragrant, floral, sweet, punchy, bitter, very alerting.  This more humid stored (Kunming storage) version is too awkward to drink and doesn’t even look as promising to age.

Since the above tea session, I have actually gotten much better tastes out of this tea lately.  I have used a technique to push out more full tastes from sheng puerh that have entered that awkward adolescent, semi-aged phase in their aging.  Often puerh at this age drop off their high notes and aromatic essences and their lower, more aged, base isn’t there to support this dropping off of higher elements yet.  What results is a tea like this one that feels lacking.  The best way to steep these teas is stronger- with more leaf and longer steeping time.  This stronger push can often fill the gap by forcing more prominent tastes and attempting to shore up a weak mouthfeel.  This works great for most teas but will backfire if the tea is too bitter.

It worked great for this Mengsong and since doing so I have managed to drink through about 1/3 of the bing in the last few weeks.  I think I will put two cakes into deep storage and leave one out when I am craving that factory tea push.

There is a likely reason this tea’s price has not moved too much (its price has gone up to just $147.00/box of 3 since purchase).  It’s potential to develop into anything great is unlikely.  For a daily factory puerh feeling daily drinker it is fine and is probably priced about right for its quality.  Somedays this tea is really off putting while other days I crave its factory edginess.

This tea is heavily reviewed by tea bloggers.  Check out some other tasting notes here: