Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mid 80's Golden White Needle Shupu MengHai Factory



Golden White Needle Shupu from the MengHai Factory has definitely become one of my favorite ripe puerhs. The quality of the MengHai GWN, when compared to other big factory fare seems always to surpass my expectation -- it provides an artful balance between quality and price.

Being 20 years or more, I wasn't expecting too much in regards to aroma or longevity. After a few years of storage, it has been my experience that shupu rarely if ever will undergo a miraculous transition. Granted, shupu will get better with some age in terms of its mellowness, but for the most part there is no real advantage in aging shupu past 5 or 10 years. Why you ask? As a consequence of artificial fermentation the harshness which we find in young sheng has been for the most part lost or destroyed. Simply put, why age something that is already meant to emulate aged tea?

That said, shupu will never in my humble opinion be an "on par" replacement to sheng. This is not to say that there are not some fantastic shupu on the market with wonderful and vibrant flavors; indeed there are. Yet, shupu in my humble opinion does not generate the same romance of aged sheng which can only be achieved with time.

Initial Impressions

The leaves were wonderfully intact with virtually no breakage. Lovely color with no sign of infestation. The aroma was very woody and laced with a non-offensive dampness. The leaves correspond to a a higher grade when compared to your quintessential shupu. Overall, nice.

Brewing Parameters


Amount - 6g

Brewing vessel - Porcelain Gaiwan

Water Source - Natural Spring MI

Infusion times

1st - 30s
2nd - 20s
3rd - 45s
4th - 60s
5th - 75s
6th - 85s



Brewing Session

Aroma - The aroma corresponded with the dry aroma - very woody and pungent. There was and abundance of dampness, yet not offense. The dankness of the brew became sweet after the 4th infusion. More notes of wet hay and wood were revealed. For the most part, very typical for shupu.



Liquor - The liquor was wonderfully dark. A nice coffee hue and clear. Amazingly clear for shupu. Very sweet and comfortable down the the throat and in the earlier infusions, quite viscous. The woody notes were also quite apparent in the brew which and an amusing spiciness. All in all, not a disappointment.

Overall Impressions



The brew was nice, unfortunately, the age may have affected the longevity of the brew in regards to its flavors. Though aging shupu for a few years may benefit a shupu, IMHO, anything longer than 5-10 years, may actually negate the effects we strive for in a good shupu since most of the aging process has taken place during artificial fermentation. Nonetheless, the age provide for a very uncomplicated brew.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

CopCo Stainless Steel Thermal


Ok, as many of you know, I rarely if ever review products on my blog, yet, I was so surprised with this one, I made an exception. I have always wanted a thermal that would do what it was designed to do - make great tea! Unfortunately, the products that I have test have all fallen short, except this one. I think CopCo had stolen my mental design since they created exactly what I have always pondered would make a great travel buddy.

Here are the Stats

Stainless Steel Thermal

Durable stainless steel construction with non-slip silicone grip

Removable infuser cap allows user to pour hot water directly over loose leaf tea or bag tea

Twist-to-stop steeping feature incorporated in sip-through lid


The function that I enjoy the most IS that I can remove the leaves without removing the basket! - Just a twist of the top dial voila! DONE! The leaves are removed from the infusion. You don't even have to discard the leaves until you are ready since twisting the dial, it creates a barrier between the water and the leaves. Lastly, for this thing to leak you practically have to play catch with it which means no spills to work, school, shopping, or what have you. It's great!

For more info : CopCo

Sunday, February 7, 2010

MengHai Da-Yi "Yun Xian - Wu Tsi Den Ke" Series - Hao




This is the "Hao" beeng for the MengHai Da-Yi "Yun Xian" Wu Tsi Ke Series - Hao (Tips).

Again,like the previous beeng reviewed, the information for this particular beeng was again scarces. Yet, I do believe what MengHai was going after is showcasing a beeng with a high bud ratio which is obviously implied in the name - yet, you never know with puerh and Chinese translations.



The dry leaf does appear to have a slight higher bud ratio than your average beeng preseciption - but not much. I figured if you were going to showcase a beeng and name it "hao", it would be slightly "whiter", yet this was not the case.

Brewing Session

Method - Gaiwan 100ml

Infusion times

1-15s
2-12s
3-25s
4-40s
5-50s
6-85s
7-85s

Infusions


Aroma

Definitely still a very young tea even after almost 4 years of aging. There were quintessential aroma notes that you would find in a younger example; mostly floral, but almost candy like. There were wafting notes caramelized honey enveloped with a tad of smoke, though not offensive. The aromas were very strong and did not dissipate easily from the aroma cup nor from the brew itself. Wonderful.



In the latter infusions, the sweetness had transformed more into a vegetal quality allowing more of the muskiness to come through - a nice transition which helped to even out the session.

Taste

The liquor very much corresponded with the youth of the aroma. There were notes of rubber, smoke and very much astringent. However, after the 3rd infusion, in a surprising turn, the notes had transformed into a subtle leather and tobacco; interesting indeed. The astringency was still noticeable which is "ok" in a young and potent beeng. However, what concerns me is that after almost 4 years, it still has quite a bite. The acidity was impeccible, which made the liquor lively and bright. When you can get passed the astringency, there is a subtle huigan that in my opinion makes the astrigency worthwhile. The texture of the liquor was quite smooth which is somewhat suprising with its complex brassiness.


Spent Leaves



Ordinary Big Factory Fare


Final Impressions

What a punch! Very potent in all respects. It had a wonderful longevity and could of gone more rounds however decided to cut the session short as I was starting to feel the effects of drinking such a young tea. I assume that this been will age nicely however, if the astringency is still not in check in a couple of years, there may more concern. But I am going to be lenient only because it supposed to be slightly more bitter with its higher bud ratio. All in all, it was a potent brew which certainly lets you experience the strength of puerh. The cha qi was pleasant and short lived.

Monday, November 9, 2009

2006 MengHai Da-Yi "Yun Xian - Wu Tsi Den Ke" Series


The Wu Tsi Den Ke Series made quite a splash in '06. Although the hefty price tag seemed a bit excessive, many puerh fans grabbed them as soon as they came on the market leaving many DaYi fans in the dark.

The five cake Wu Tsi Den Ke Series were created to highlight the 5 different characters associated with Shengpu - and in very much a Chinese fashion. Wu Tsi Ke is a traditional Chinese blessing when roughly translated means "May your five children become great scholars". Don't you love this stuff?!

Unfortnately, not much is known about this series (or atleast I coudln't find any) other than each of the cakes were allegedly made from a very special prescription to show case the five predominant charactersisitcs in flavor and material of pu-erh: Aged, High-Mountain, Tender Tips, Honey and Rock.

I have chosen to review Chen "aged" first - after all the litmus test for pu-erh is whether or not it will have the capacity for aging - Chen will be my first of five installments.

Initial Impressions

When the leaves were compared to the other examples of the series, there seemed to be a noticeable darker hue. Whether this implies that the prescription used to make the beeng is older than the others, I guess it is difficult to say since dark leaves do not always correlate with age. In it's dry state, the leaves did not provide any scent. However, after the rinse almost in an instant my gaiwan suddenly came alive with wonderful whiffs consisting of deep pungent notes of wood, and what I tend to call the scent of "old books". Additionally, there was also a noticeable hint of smoke making the aroma quite masculine.

The leaves appeared to be of higher grade. Though this is difficult to tell with blended material since blends are generally masticated in order to provide the needed consistency throughout a blended beeng - from the leaves which were somewhat intact (in that I can determine width)they resembled 1-4 grades.

Parameters

Amount - 5g

Method - Gongfu Gaiwan 150ml

Infusion times

1-15s
2-12s
3-20s
4-35s
5-55s
6-75s
7-85s
8-95s
9-120s

Brewing Session




Aroma

The aroma was delicately floral- suprising to say the least since the initial aromas did not point this direction. There were sweet notes laced with a buttery essence; interesting. Definitely rich and pungent. Smoke though faint was also noticeable. The latter infusions were very much consistent with the first yet would vary tremendously from infusion to infusion.

Taste

I found the taste of the liquor quite rustic with its overtones of wood and spice. Generally, when I speak of wood notes, it is to denote the quintessential wood that one finds in pu-erh; however, this is different. I could actually determine an oak quality that was very much reminiscent of a scotch like palate. In the latter infusions, the notes became more earthy sweet with notes of mushroom and dark malt that became medicinal as the liquor cooled on the palate.

The chayun for was wonderfully active. The liquor tantalized the sides of my tongue and the roof of my mouth. There was also a unique sharpness which coupled well with the huigan. Definitely a viscus concoction which made the session quite satisfying.


Spent Leaves




Nothing remarkable about the spent leaves. Appears to be classic 'big factory' fare. There seems to be a good ratio of buds within this prescription.

Final Impressions

The only thing really off putting about this example is the hefty price tag. I really enjoyed it. The aromas were captivating; the clarity, color and activity of the liquor kept things moving. Best of all, the flavors did not tire the palate as some of the more assertive examples can easily do. The recipe appears to have been created with aging capacity in mind in that the aging characteristics needed for aging pu-erh were all present. Oh, a warming chaqi.

Monday, October 12, 2009

1998 MengHai Factory 8582 Sheng Beeng

Apologise to my readers for the long delay in posting. Rest assure that I do not plan on killing my blog. Please look foreword for other reviews in the VERY near future!




I was readjusting my pu closet and to my surprise had found this little nugget of gold - A sample of 8582 that I had purchased sometime back! I love it when this happens.

Well, for many of you, I am sure that 8582 needs no introduction since it certainly has become a perennial favorite for many; and rightly so. Current aged examples are quite delicious and seem to age just as well as other "higher grade" leaf. I think I need to explain what I mean by higher grade. Many tea drinkers who begin to collect too more often than not assume that higher grade of mao cha is more suitable for aging than others. Well, this is not entirely so. The grade of the leaf only corresponds to the size of the leaf and has really nothing to do with its quality. For instance, when we have a MengHai Dayi 06(2)2 recipe, we can assume that the majority of the tea will have finer and more bud like leaves since the number in the paren will always indicate leaf grade - in this case it is a 2. However as I had previously stated, this will not always translate into a cake which will age. In fact, many cakes which are considered finer grade are not showing promise at all.

Now back to the 85(8)2. As will notice, the leaf grade in this recipe is a grade of 8. This will mean that the Marjory of the beeng will be composed of 8 grade leaves - generally bigger and heartier fare. The 8582 has become a perennial classic since many of the older 8582 are showing great signs of promise. I like them in my own collection for this very reason.


Water - Generic Spring Water

Infusions

1 Rinse

1-15s
2-10s
3-15s
4-21s
5-26s
6-34s
7-41s
8-68s

Impressions




Aroma

I was surprised that there was still a hint of honey in the aroma. Albeit faint, it was still noticeable. The dominant aromas however were hay and pleasing wood aromas. Latter infusions were somewhat sweeter which with an ever so lovely musk. The aromas were long and lasting and did not dissipate easily from the aroma cup. Nice potency.

Taste

The flavors were richly brite and slightly tannic and acidic- though not obtuse, but delicate which complimented the richness of the liquor quite well. As in the aroma, the wood notes were dominant which transformed on the palate as it cooled on the tongue. The texture and viscosity were impeccable making the throat feel comfortable which the swallow.


Final Impressions

It was an orthodox puerh. It was enjoyable but was not as inviting as I had hoped. The huigan was lacking which did not correspond well with the sweetness of the aroma. On a good note, the chaqi was pleasant and comfortable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cha Gel Sheng Concentrate



That is right, pu-erh concentrate. A gent named Coloradopu who I chat with on occasions on Tea Chat was nice enough to send me a few nuggets of this curiosity. Frankly, I do not know much about this concoction other than it is supposedly sheng which has gone through quite a bit of processing resulting in what you see here. The pieces resemble a Jolly Rancher in consistency but considerably more brittle. They give off a faint caramelized odor which really makes it seem more like candy than something that you would infuse to imbibe.

I was warned by Coloradopu to use only a small bit as it is very concentrated. I decided on a piece the size of an eraser end to start. Not wanting to risk of contaminating my Yixing ware, I figured a Gaiwan would serve my purpose.



Well, here goes nothing!



Almost instantaneously the nugget started to infuse into the water as you can see. Actually looked quite nice.




Not wanting to over steep, I decided I would leave the Gaiwan lid off so that I may gauge the strength of the liquor. Wanting to play it safe and not wanting to over steep, I decided to decant the yellow liquor into my fair cup only after 10 seconds when it reached what I thought was the appropiate color for young sheng pu.

Decanting







Well, it looks like sheng, but unfortunately that is where the resemblance stops. I was not putting too much hope in this product, after all anything instant sux. Honestly, its not a bad tea. It almost tastes like sheng which has been overly roasted (which I have done on occasion). The liquor has no astringency or bitterness. It is not nuanced but straightforward. The liquor itself doesn't give off much of an aroma. However, there is a definite sweet, roast smell wafting up from the fair cup. It almost smells like a yan cha. There is really nothing great about this tea other than its novelty. I guess if you are traveling and do not have any time to stop for a steep or don't want customs examining your bags wondering what this green stuff is in your carry-on, I guess it may serve a purpose. :D

Nugget after first Infusion

I actually was able to steep this nugget 6 times before it completely dissolved.



Thanks ColoradoPu for being so generous! Btw, stay tuned for the Cha Gel SHUPU Concentrate which he was also kind enough to send! :D

Thursday, August 6, 2009

MengHai Factory DaYi #7582 Sheng Beeng



The 7582 recipe is an older MengHai Factory recipe yet rarely produced. In fact, I haven't seen any other productions of the #7582 other than the '06, of which is also becoming quite elusive.

The recipe of the #7582 contains a 6-9 grade blend from YiWu and the Ba Da mountains however it is unknown what is the percentage of each. What is known however is that the '06 is one of the most expensive DaYi code recipes of that year.

First Impressions



The first thing grabbed my attention other than the leaf grade was that surface of the cake was quite peppered with yellow leaves. Not a big problem of course but was just unusual, at least for me, for a DaYi product. Certainly I have seen 'some' yellow leaves in DaYi but never to this extent. Interesting to say the least. The dry leaves appeared to be healthy and certainly do correspond to the leaf grade of the recipe. I can even say that they have darkened a bit since I have purchased it. They had a lovely melon and grassy sent that were quite noticeable even though the wrapper.



The maocha was not as compact as they appear at first glance. They easily pried off with my toucha pick with very little effort.

Brewing Parameters

Method - 150ml Gaiwan

Amount - 6.2gm


Infusion Times

1-15s
2-12s
3-25s
4-35s
5-55s
6-65s

Tasting Impressions





Aroma

The aroma was really not that captivating. This was not to suggest that it was not pleasant - indeed it was; however, I was expecting the lovely notes of YiWu that one receives from young sheng. For the most part, the aroma was quintessential pu-erh with hints of citrus and pine resin. I guess it wasn't all that bad. The latter infusions had become grassy which of course is not that surprising and very much consist ant with the former infusions.

Taste

From the onset, it was a powerful drink. The very first infusion woke my palate. Most of the sensations were concentrated on the sides of my tongue and the top of my mouth. Still very youthful in quality - brassy and astringent. The acidity was also exceptionally strong which was indicated by its brightness. The initial notes were subdued honey and faint hints of melon. However, the only word I could find to describe the latter infusions was, meaty. There was indeed a meaty quality to it. Not the meatiness that we at times associate the taste or sensation of Umami , but meaty in the sense that the flavors were not relenting in any way. It was like every taste bud was affected by some search and destroy misson. The huigan did not reveal itself until after the 4 round. However, a little to late in that the liquor soon after leeched out.

Spent Leaves



Final Impressions


I am not sure if my analysis was too critical. Perhaps I was judging it to other Yiwu blended products that I have. Nonetheless, it certainly has the oomph needed to age and I presume that that it will. In fact the liquor seems a bit darker than the last time I sampled it. Not that liquor color is any a good indication but at least I know that it is certainly trying to transform. Nonetheless,it will have to age because I am not touching this one again for at least another 3-4 years.

It was not that the flavors were brutal but they are much to potent to drink on a causual bases. That said, I can say with out a doubt that I can characterize this example as androgenous in that it has both female and masculine qualities - the flavors were to some extent pefume-y with a pleasing quality to them but very much an alpha. Unfortnately, I was unable to gauge any chaqi with so much going on. I am very excited to see how these beengs will develop.