Before the expected (and looked-forward-to) package from Origintea makes it here, I'll be spending my days with young Menghai Dayi tea, it seems.
Finishing a master thesis is a very painful process. I even resorted to green tea not to upset my stomach with too much pu, but keeping the caffeine level high enough. Yesterday, I was injected with some extra energy, when I got the message that they accepted my/our article into Journal of Neurophysiology. Anyway, the extra energy ran out quickly... and so I'm left with young Dayi as the last resort.
2010 Menghai Dayi Year of tiger - Rui Hu Cheng Xiang
These Zodiac Dayi cakes seem to epitomize the Dayi hype... This tea has jumped more than ten times in price, since the time when it appeared on the market. Taetea's price is, probably similarly to the price of Sampletea, between $80 and $90. There are some cheaper options on ebay, but, of course, it may be a bit risky when it comes to fakes.
The leaves are a bit dark for 2010, eh?
Nevertheless, the aroma of rinsed leaves is very pleasant - plenty of sweetness, some overripe fruit, some herbs, a taste which will eventually become honey sweetness and similarly undeveloped fetus of sweet granary taste...
I think the liquor does not look like your ordinary 2010 tea either. However, worry not, there are no nefarious processings, or such things. I think that it's simply a blend of older and younger leaves. That is not uncommon in Dayi production. E.g., the n-th vintage of Spring of Menghai seems to contain material from years n-2, n-1 and n. My guess would be that the majority of the leaves in this Tiger could be from 2008 or so...
The taste is bold, strong and good. There is a light clay taste, along with dark sweetness; a combination that I enjoy very much. There are, as in the aroma, some yet undeveloped tones, which should become stronger with time. These are mainly the taste of sweet grain and honey. Even though the initial impression is good, I realize that while thickness and overall sweetness are good, they are not exactly stunning.
There's a slightly disturbing sour-ish component in the taste. It's ok, when the tea is not oversteeped. However, I would not put this into an overly dry storage myself.
Overall, this feels to me like a predominantly Lao Man'E tea. There's the typical taste, as well as that sort of persistent bitterness. It's not too unpleasant. I think, however, that it is not a pure Man'E. If I had to guess, I'd say it's 40% Man'e a, 30% other Bulang and 30% "Menghai blend". Anyway, it's certainly more appealing to me than a pure Lao Man'E tea.
The mouthfeel and vibrancy in mouth are good, considering that it is a factory production. On the other hand, it can not really talk face to face with fancy pure gushu production of these days.
This is a very solid tea, however, I'm afraid the Dayi tag increased the price beyond reason. Maybe the $50 ebay price could be considered feasible...
2012 Spring of Menghai
I considered tasting this one in expectation of a good bargain. And good bargain it is. You may remember me writing about that 2005-9 Spring of Menghai sequence sold by Finepuer/Sampletea. I enjoyed these teas very much. While possibly not the tea for deep meditation, the 06-09 specimen were very tasty, robust and solid pu. And for a solid price too. When I saw that Scott of YS has 2012 Spring of Menghai for mere $14, I thought it might be a good idea to buy that in quantity, if it's similar to the 06-09 stuff.
I did not tarry and asked Alan of Sampletea whether he didn't have the 2012 version and if so, if it is similar to the previous vintages. Not only he said that he had and that it is, he also packed a sample for me along my order. If this is not a great customer service, I do not know what is.
It was very educational to observe the 06-09 versions of Spring of Menghai (the 05 was a bit outside the cluster) and tasting this 12 version only furthers the educational experience by a mile.
I'm sorry I forgot to take pictures of the liquor. It was a generic young pu yellow/green, no surprise.
This cake is a blend of several years (I think 2010-12), which contributes to its reasonable drinkability, despite it being a 2012 cake.
The aroma of rinsed leaves is good, sweet, with meadow flowers (that "Menghai", heavier sort, not the Youle sort), with tones of future meadow honey and light ground after spring rain. There is still some unwanted greenness and floralness of too young pu, but these will go away soon, I think. As the liquor cools down, some berry fruits come out; I do not remember that from the 05-09 Springs of Menghai.
The taste is good, probably surprisingly so, given the low price of this tea. There is a faint young earthiness (yum), good sweetness, with actually a rather luxurious combination of light sweet grain, meadow flowers and hints of honey. It's all very well connected and works nicely together. A fast and long (very much so) huigan are a pleasant addition.
There are some remnants of "green" tastes, but they should transform in time, no problem. Also, there was a bit of taste/aroma, that I'd describe as "urine". But it's not really that bad. It sometimes happens in young tea and then goes away. Both astringency and bitterness are low and nondisturbing. On the other hand, the tea is by no means weak or anything. It just does not use the simplest ways of demonstrating its strength.
The feeling in mouth is light, but long and it feels nice and natural.
The leaves follow the trend of "the newer edition of Spring of Menghai, the nicer and more whole leaves". They look good.
I really can't say anything bad about this tea. It is indeed much alike the 06-09 editions of this recipe, which makes it a very promising candidate for aging. Its price is also very low, I'm glad that Scott keeps it that way. If it cost $30, I would not say it's overpriced (it does cost that on Ebay). Therefore, the price tag of $14 sounds very good.
I'm not sure if I'd rather buy the 2012 version for $14 or the 2009 for $18 (also at YS). Both are excellent buys, methinks. Had I not placed three big orders recently, I'd buy a couple of tongs of these.