2009 Menghai 7542
It was time. I needed to clean my non-clay teaware. Every few months, I gather up my modest assortment of porcelain and glass and soak it overnight in a solution of baking soda and water. In the morning, I run a cloth over everything, rinse, and dry. I love how sparkling and new-looking the pieces come out. Even more, I’m dazzled by the fact that removing layers of tea and rinse water makes the sound of the pieces come alive. Gaiwan lids, especially, give off a newfound bright ring.
It’s Sunday morning and my fiancée is out of town. With all the time a day like this can offer, I reach in to my stash and pluck a most-neglected sample. I find it hard to believe I’m just now having one of the most renowned, historic, and hyped recipes of sheng puerh. This sample was provided as an “extra” in my last purchase from JAS eTea (likely batch 903?).
I must admit that I don’t fully understand the appeal of this tea. As Hobbes points out, few get into this tea while it’s young. And while I can imagine it’s a different beast ten to twenty years down the road, as a young tea it’s unappealing to me on a number of levels. First, my previous experiences with Menghai (as compared to smaller, more boutique productions) have been less than titillating. I ranged through the five 2008 Peacock series teas and found some delightful, some despicable, and some bland.
Second, Menghai is a “factory” that uses “plantation” tea. As someone seeking small, artisanal productions of whatever foodstuffs I consume, these loaded terms turn me off. Even if in comparison to Hershey chocolate, the scale is remarkably smaller, I still would prefer something that has, as I perceive, less potential of being haunted by excessive pesticide residue. Hobbes also notes (same post) Menghai’s “fresh-straw-and-sweet-mushroom character that they manage to recreate so successfully each year.” To me, this sort of consistency puts it up with Budweiser. Consistent mass production of a cheap good often means a sacrifice in overall quality.
Finally, while I appreciate the potent and satisfying “kuwei,” I think the flavor is less than great. It reminds me of my very first taste of puerh, a sample of 2003 Jingmai puerh from The Random Tea Room in Philadelphia. It tasted like watered-down semi-rotten raisins. Certainly, my brewing skill had something to do with that, but, I’ve gotten better since then and this 7542 still tastes equally undesirable. Note: I love The Random Tea Room, I just happened to not enjoy that particular tea.
Most importantly, however, to each their own. This tea is not mine. I’m not trying to denigrate Hobbes’ appreciation of Menghai recipes, just expound my own personal take from his fountain of knowledge and experience. And perceptions change, I’m sure if I have an opportunity to try aged examples of this tea in the future, I will think differently of it. For now, as drinkable young sheng puerh goes, I believe there are more affable examples.
The Half-Dipper – 2009 Menghai – Dayi 7542 (901)
Tea Goober – 2009 Menghai 7542-901