pondělí 26. listopadu 2012

1990s CNNP Guang Yun tribute cake

After YS and Chawangshop, it's time for Finepuer/Sampletea again (Finepuer this time). I wondered what this Guang Yun is like, given the availability of 60s and 58 GYG at Essence of Tea. As far as I understand, Guang Yun Gong is not really a puerh so one can not expect it to be entirely puerhlike. 

Which it is not. I remember quite well when I had it for the first time, out on a morning bike ride. It felt very strange, almost disgusting to me, too strange to enjoy. I think that I pinpointed the reason for that - this tea hates to be steeped for too short time. 

When I steeped this too lightly, I got a peculiar, almost vulgar sweet woodiness, with something very strange which made the tea session not really pleasant. However, I think that this tea has something good about it when steeped for a bit longer than how I steep puerh.

The leaves do not look really like puerh from 90s either, they are darker and "more red" (please excuse the crappy photo, it gets dark quite soon and I do not yet have a good flash). The liquor also looks a bit different, it's deep burgundy red.

The wet leaves smelled like the weird aspect of this tea before they fell apart in the pot. I think that similar weirdness can be obtained if you take a chunk of shu puerh and leave it for a year on open air (indoors) - this happened to me once accidentally and the result was quite unpleasant, similarly to the aspect of this tea. The good thing is, that once the pot is full of soaked leaves, the aroma takes a turn towards dried plums, a pleasant, deep aroma which conquers the weirdness. It is not really that much puerh-like, but it feels aged and good. It has something in common with young-aged pu though - as young-aged tibetian bricks or Liuan do.

The taste reflects the aroma fairly well. Before the chunk fell apart, there was the strange sweet wood again, along with that "aired out shu" aspect. Also, the second half of taste was quite shu-like - along with the aspects I dislike about shu. However, since the 3rd steeping, when the tea went "full power" the taste of dried plums (quite strong and concrete) pretty much dominated the whole taste and made the drinking pleasant. "On the third hand", the full power lasted only a couple of steepings and after that, the tea settled into something inoffensive, decidedly dark and sweet, but without anything particularly lovely.

The taste holds reasonably well in mouth, the liquor is quite thick. I was not impressed by the aftertaste (there is not much to be impressed about, frankly) - there is also a some bitterness and some astringency (especially when I did the lighter steeping). On the other hand, I liked the good mouthfeel and throatfeel. It was not really cooling, but there certainly was an activity in mouth. Another positive is that it comforts my stomach.

I believe that this tea is kind of controversial, probably because of it's special processing. I have no problem excusing a certain degree of controversy in cheap 90s heicha, but from as expensive cake as this one, I'd expect more (well, less actually, in the compartment of negatives/strange aspects). Still, I'm glad that after the unpleasant first encounter, me and this tea found a way to each other and I learned to like some of its aspects and drinking it made me happy. On the other hand, there is still a good deal of strangeness which scares me. 

čtvrtek 22. listopadu 2012

2012 Mingshan TH Mangzhi Huan Shan

This is a very interesting tea. When I tasted it for the first time, it felt to me like a blend of Yibang and Xikong - it is not, but Mangzhi is very close to these two so the similarity is quite natural (even though it is closer to Xikong, it feels more similar to Yibangs I had than Xikongs I had). This is a white label cake, pressed for Mingshan teahouse. 

The issue with small productions/unknown producers is that they are plentiful and of very varied quality. What I appreciate about Chawangshop is that Honza takes the time and filters a huge amount of these. Of course, some are good only for someone (e.g., Mengma 2002 or Menghai Gu Cha 2005 tend to be loved or hated in general), but I'm quite sure that some of their offerings are all-around good. This little cake seems to be an example. It's from a region that is not that well known, but it is near Yibang which is quite famous. Yet it costs only $12.5 per 200g. What is it like then? The short version is - like today's fancy $50-$100 cakes, but much cheaper (tasted it along YS Yibang and Xikong, it's not only cost-conscious noob talk). 

The long version...

The leaves smell distinctly like young puerh, but it isn't just that green aroma of young Bulang/Mengsong/Nannuo - this Mangzhi has much better fruity depth to it.

The wet leaves smell positively great. The aroma is sweet, embracing, quite lovely, a lot like YS Yibang. It's a mixture of fruitiness, floralness, without the annoying greeniness which a lot of 2012 teas posesses. An interesting and unusual component is spice, mostly clove which makes this tea different from any Yibang or Xikong I know.

When the liquor (ordinarily yellow) enters the mouth, it immediately coats it in super-thick gushu sugariness with light fruitiness (Yibang style). This slowly transforms towards slight "chewing-gum-ness" I know from Xikong. This quickly transforms into fruitiness again - I'd say it's closest to pineapple. In later steepings, the progression is not as dramatic, it sort of blends all these components together.

The taste diminishes very slowly, it changes into flowery-fruity aftertaste (quite correlated to the aroma of dry leaves), the whole process being accompanied by good cooling of older trees. Fast huigan follows shorly after. An interesting feature is warm sweetness which stays in throat for a while after swallowing.

There is pretty much no bitterness; some astringency is present, but nothing too bad. It certainly does not get in the way of pleasantness.

Some of the leaves look like from older trees (no wonder, it's quite obvious from the taste), a part seems more ordinary. However, the overall performance of the tea does not diminish with further steepings, it's not like some "gushu" cakes which feel remotely gushu in the first three steepings and then you get harsh plantation.

As I said at the beginning, I think that this tea is quite comparable to other fancy cakes of that area, while being much cheaper. I won't say it's a super-bargain in general because I think that being a lot cheaper than today's fancy cakes can mean that it's simply reasonably priced. For what it gives, I'd gladly pay $20 per that 200g. However, comparable teas cost $40-$60 per 200g, being a lot more expensive. Thus - if you like young Yibang/Xikong and are willing to pay the money, have a look at this one.

pondělí 19. listopadu 2012

2001 Gu Puer 6FTM Nannuo

I previously wrote rather favourably of the 2001 Gu Puer Banzhang - another of the 6FTM serie (which is kind of funny as 6FTM is obviously something different for Gu Puer company than for the rest of the world). In the meantime, I tried Yibang (and wished it was better) and Yiwu (which was quite good in my opinion). My overall impression of the set so far is, that it is mid-quality material with excellent storage, resulting in a very nice tea probably worth the price.

Also, inbetween the Yibang and Yiwu, I tried this Nannuo for the first time. I tend to dislike Nannuo when young and I wondered how it would be after 11 years of aging.

I wanted to enjoy the almost-last session with stove water - this is how the charcoal looks when being lit up:

And this is the leaves of the Nannuo (flashed, they are actually darker brown):

Smelling and drinking this tea is most illuminating - of all the teas from the set I've tried up to now, this has the most of "classical agedness". A pessimist could turn it the other way and say that it has no distinctive features as other areas do.

Most younger Nannuos I drank were hard, often heavy on tobacco smoke and generally not quite pleasant. Some 2011 and 12 made from fancy material were reasonable though. No tobacco or anything similarly nasty is in this 2001 Gu Puer one.

When smelling the wet leaves, one gets dark exotic wood and wet forest (not only purely clean - after rain, it's as if there is some transformation of humus (i.e., rotting)). And a most peculiar aroma in a tea of this age (and in puerh in general) - marigold. 

The taste is mostly composed of tones related to young agedness and it is quite full. There is certain minerality that I'm not sure I enjyo too much, but it's not that notable and it goes away soon. I'd describe the taste as a combination of mixed forest floor and roots (the aroma when you dig up a tree with roots - the aroma is here). It's overall quite deep and sweet, while keeping a good degree of cleanliness.

What I did not enjoy that much was a rather high astringency - very "smooth", it's like a very fine sandpaper in mouth. It may not sound like a huge deal, but when it is stronger, it feels quite weird. Could it be pesticides? I do not know.

The leaves seem to be a wild mixture of young and older trees, which is reflected in mouth too - some steepings give a good cooling feeling, some are weaker. The tea does quite well in that aspect overall.

I like this tea (loved it for the first time, expecting nastiness and getting a good drink) - it feels the most like "standard aged" tea from the set and was there no astringency going in the way of peaceful taste progress, it would be a pure delight to drink. Nevertheless, when one minds the steeping procedure, the astringency can be reduced to a very reasonable degree and the tea is quite pleasant then.

I think that this Nannuo, as the rest of the set, fits into the "too young to drink now" box to me, this one especially, but it is quite good as it is already.

pátek 16. listopadu 2012

2012 Waishan Xiaozhong (Lapsang Souchong)

There was a big certainity back at home, when I lived with my parents - there was always plenty of black tea (Ceylon, Kenya, Assam,...). When one became thirsty, there was a big teapot filled with black tea and when it was finished, the person who drank the last cup automatically refilled the pot. This way, I became acquainted with a lot of black tea and I liked it a lot. However, there was a single can of something beastly, a weird, smoky substance I really loathed and ran away screaming when my father prepared it for himself - it was Lapsang Souchong. 

Since then, I came to know real Lapsang Souchong with all its delicacy - it's actually my most favourite red tea by far. There is a huge difference between "real" LS and "commercial grade" (i.e., fake weirdness) - the former is subtly reinforced by good smokiness, while the latter is brutally dominate by a rather nasty smokiness. Obviously, the difference is huge.

It's not that easy to get a reasonable LS on "common" internet. I know of three sources - Thechineseteashop (whose LS was quite lovely, although lacking in some areas), Chawangshop (that's the one I'm writing about now) and Jingteashop (I hope to get some of that later).

The last tasting of this was a welcome opportunity for cleaning the dust off my bamboo porcelain set. I used to use the set a lot, but do not anymore:

The tea itself has quite small leaves (even though it's Wu Yi, its leaves are way smaller than, e.g., Da Hong Bao), brown-whiteish:

When I sip the tea for the first time, tears of happiness appear in my eyes (almost) - this is the Lapsang Souchong I know and appreciate.

First, there is the intense taste of dried fruit - apricots mostly, and lychee. In the first half of the main taste, it is nicely complemented by a taste which I'd describe as "coconut milk" - it is not that common outside LS, but I have met it in a couple of different red teas too. In the second half of the taste, a gentle, rich smoke appears and improves the soothing, warm taste even further, with further cocoa tones.

The "overall character" is quite similar to the LS from Thechineseteashop, but I remember distinctly how I missed more sweetness and fullness of body of the Thechineseteashop one. This LS by Chawangshop does not suffer from the problem - sweetness (dark sugar) and fullness are amply present.

Also, this tea brings something extra: orchid taste and lychee taste occasionally appear and bring further complexity to the drinking experience.

Another positive, which I found common to most of the Wuyi teas I tried, is a certain manifestation of their fiery essence. After swallowing, a feeling of "fire" appears in mouth. I know it probably does not sound pleasant, but I do like it. It's rather similar to tingling that some puerh brings.

I think that this is, for now,  my LS no.1. Compared to the one from Thechineseteashop LS, I'd say it's strictly better and costs a third of their price. It's quite cheap at $8 per 100g. 

středa 14. listopadu 2012

2001 Qian Nian Gu Cha by He Shi Hua

The tasting token goes back to Finepuer with this one. Being from Jingmai and being from 2001, it goes along well with the Gu Puer set of single-area teas from 2001. 

I often asked myself "how is this great fresh, juicy Jingmai going to age"? Of course, I know a few vendors who will assure you that they will age great. Due to "expertise" of such people, I'd advise a truck of salt ready for taking their advice. Actually, I think that this He Shi Hua's tea, along with some older Jingmais from YS I have tasted but not yet written about, suggest that Jingmai lovers should be wary of what will happen to their teas in 10 years.

I'm not saying that these older Jingmais are bad, but all of them aged in a way that could be unpleasant for some. I think that while many other regions are unpleasant when young and get good with age, Jingmai is quite pleasant when young and while it is still pleasant as it ages, it becomes quite differently pleasant.

There are some white flecks but given the rather dry storage of the cake, I'd attribute them to neifei.

Rinsed leaves smell quite good, slightly nutty, with a good deal of blackberry jam (not pure, it's as if some red berries were added in there).

There is certain "minerality" in the first few steepings, but it goes away quickly. The taste is rather full, fruity - the taste is of forest fruit, mostly blackberries. It's funny how easy is to draw the line to young Jingmai's taste, even though the taste has advanced significantly via aging.

The liquor is one of lighter, given the age of this tea. At least for my self, I would prefer 2001 teas to be at least as this dark. 
Returning to the taste - the taste starts with heavily transformed Jingmai fruitiness and then evolves into... something like hongcha - at least certain sorts. Now I drink tanzanian black tea from a mug I recalled to be similar and there are definitely significant similarities. Another tea which is partly similar in the 2nd half of main taste is good English breakfast. It is this aspect of this tea (and the 2003 Jingmais I have tasted) that could be repulsive to some. I do not mind it - If I drink red/black tea different from Lapsang Souchong, I drink it for precisely this aspect - but it is not as expected in puerh. Also I would not attribute it to "hongchaization" or anything fiendish - first, it was in all the older Jingmais I have tasted, second, one does see how it may evolve naturally from taste of young Jingmai.

There is still a good deal of bitterness, but being the Jingmai-style, it's pleasant in a way. It also leads to good aftertaste which is more similar to young Jingmai than the main taste (which is obviously related, but quite different. 

The positive after-taste performance is heavily boosted by good old tree cooling feeling (it seems that for once, the "gu cha" claim was true).

As the steepings go, the fruitiness changes to woodiness (slowly) and light honey aspect do appear - quite a satisfactory development. Also, I believe that the honey quality may be emphasized by future aging.

Overall, the tea was a bit light and "dry" to my tastes - I prefer the heaviness of the Gu puer set from YS, on the other hand, this Jingmai is quite a clean tea with good taste development. To me, such "reasonably dry stored" teas are like if you listen to complex music with boosted high band - it's good for analysis of the music as you can hear the details, various techniques employed by the musicians and all that, while enjoyment is still possible. However, if I want to listen to music for pure pleasure, I prefer more balanced setting. 

Nevertheless, I do not want to sound negative - I enjoyed this tea a lot, partly for its educational value, but the larger part is formed by its interesting taste and very good mouthfeel.

The leaves are a mixture of medium and large - it is not true that Jingmai tea would have to be from small leaves:

Also, looking at the leaves, their thickness and the thickness of leaf-stalk, it supports the hypothesis of gu cha proposed by the mouthfeel.

The take-home message for me is - buy Jingmai for drinking, but not for more serious aging.

neděle 11. listopadu 2012

2001 Gu Puer: SFTM - Banzhang

I believe that many people saw the $490 price tag at Yunnan Sourcing where the set of six cakes from Gu Puer tea company is available and thought "that's a lot money for puerh". However, if one considers that the price means some $82 per cake, the price may not be all that bad if the teas are good. I have spent more time only with this Banzhang so far, but if the rest is of similar quality, I'd say the price is sound. Of course, the problem with such sets is that if you like two of six cakes, the price suddenly becomes a lot less sound.

Obviously, the value of the cakes is not only their immediate quality, but also they show how certain areas may age when alone (or inter-area blends, of course). Although I think that these "single area" 2001 teas will be far from today's even more single-area teas, they may be a good guide to aging nevertheless.

The leaves are of most agreeable light brown color, yet without traces of wetness - this did not age in a too dry environment, it seems.

The wet leaves sport a light woody smokiness, a bit of animality, some clay with a bit of BZ fruit. However, the mixture of fruit and clay/stone, where the fruit tends to dominate in younger BZ, is dominated by the clay/stone here. After a few steepings, the smokiness tends to join the wood, resulting in a cedar aroma with its innately smoky woody aroma.

This is how I like 2001 tea looking. Just for a reference, this tea went through drier storage than the 2001 Jinchanghao from EoT, there is no trace of shicang in this Banzhang. I wonder where this tea has aged as I'd try to look for more tea from there.

Cedarwood is quite strongly present in the taste, which I do not enjoy terrifically, but it is not bad really. Another notable component is the "stone fruit" commonly found in Banzhang, however, it is much more stone than fruit. There is not that much fruitiness left really, it probably aged away and left its place to subtler clay tones. However, any earthiness starts rather light in this tea.

The sweetness and thickness are good and in-line with the rest, it's not like with some teas where you get nothing but big fat sweetness.

When I used short-ish steepings, I got no bitterness, nor astringency, however, using longer steepings, quite powerful bitterness appeared and it tends to go away reasonably quickly. 

This tea is multi-faceted - with short steepings, it is mostly woody, with some clay and only starts to feel a bit aged. With longer steepings, the tea becomes a lot darker overall (not only in color, but mostly in character) and develops some serious aged tones and that aged nuttiness, which I enjoy a lot. But it comes at the cost of weaker "Banzhangness".

It has a good aftertaste, paired with mid-strong, long tingling which makes the whole drinking experience better. Although the cooling does get a bit weaker as steepings go on, even in the 10th steeping, it is fairly reasonable.

The tea is an interesting mixture of strength and relative short-livedness. The taste and overall feeling is quite strong, but after five steepings, the taste gets less complex and interesting and after I finish 9th steeping (i.e., 1 litre of water), I do not feel the urge to add more. Not that a litre would be bad, but teas of this age often give more. I once tried to make shorter steepings to make more of them, but I do not think that it lead to a better session, on the contrary.

In general, I liked the tea for the good mouthfeel and the partial Banzhangness (which was very fun to observe and compare to the vector of 2010, 2007 and 2005 Banzhangs I have tasted), while I could live without the cedar woodiness&smoke, but it's nothing I could not deal with. Also, I liked the aging of this tea, I think that teas of this age&aging give good insight into how young puerh transforms into young-aged puerh.
Although the tea is good in many aspects, it is not particularly "friendly" or "kindly embracing" - it is like cats I'd say - strong, fun to be with, but it has its mind and it won't slavishly listen to you and warm you up whenever you want.

The leaves are strong (thick, do not break upon rubbing), they look like a mixture of older and younger trees.

čtvrtek 8. listopadu 2012

MarshalN's curated samples 1: Tie Guan Yin

I believe that most of you are familiar with MarshalN's recent project (e.g., http://www.marshaln.com/2012/09/curated-sample-1/). Even though I do not drink nearly as much wulongs as I used to, I thought it might be a very interesting opportunity so I went for it. I do enjoy roasted wulongs much more than greener ones so I was looking forward to observing my favourite process as it progresses.

For those who have not read about Curated samples, this serie is 5 Tie Guan Yins - the same material, but roasted for 0,15,30,45 and 59 hours.

I'll just show you the pictures (green goes first) and mention what I thought when drinking - I do not have enough wulong experience to make any big claims.

By the way, I used the following procedure - steep 3g of tea in 150ml for 5 minutes, then move it into cups.

Dry leaves:

Although it seems there is little difference in color between 30-59 (it is little, actually), the aroma is clearly different, and, of course, the taste is. If you roast chicken for 20 minutes or for 20 minutes + several hours of slow cooking, they will both look quite similar, but the quality will be very different, obviously.

Aroma of dry leaves:
0 - a rather classical green TGY, floral, with a bit of cinnamon

15 - smells quite strongly roasted and darker.

30 - baked chestnuts appear, maybe some of freshly baked gingerbread? I don't know and it matters little. The difference is there.

45 - some "burnedness" appears. At this stage, it starts to resemble the Ali Shan I wrote about a long time ago (at least from the point of view of this blog) and loved. However, my passsion for that has been shared by precious few.

60 - the "burnedness" is smoother, the tea smells dark, sweet and fiery.

Pictures of the liquor:

The progression of colors is much more obvious here.

0 - a generic green Tie Guan Yin - very flowery (acacia, lily of the valley), fresh and sweet, with a bit of cinnamon. There is no sharpness found at the end - some TGYs do have a weird "sharp green" aspect to them. Overall, it's one of better green TGYs I have had, although I have little fancy for it. On the other hand, I don't quite understand the number of people bashing green TGY for being awful just because it is simple to appreciate, girls tend to like it and it is not the "traditional" thing. 

15 - just as MarshalN said, this is probably darker than what you commonly get as "strongly roasted, traditional Tie Guan Yin". And it's better too. It is interestingly similar to the 0 in sweetness and smoothness, but the floral taste is more or less gone, the roasting/baking taste is there instead of it. However, the green and roasted components are really not together. The roastedness gives the tea a touch of smoky taste, but in a very positive way.

30 - There is still the strange conflict between the former "green" taste and the roast. A good "mini-wildfire" happens in mouth when drinking this. When you light up some gas, it briefly burns out and when I swallow this Tie Guan Yin, there is a "brief explosion" of certain fiery aspect of the tea too. I guess it's easier to recognize that than to describe it. It is remotely similar to tingling found in puerh.

The aftertaste starts offering good roasted tones. It is also a lot longer than the aftertaste of previous teas.

45 - It is, again, smoother and sweeter than the previous one (but the sweetness changes, it's not only its amout, but its quality). Certain "caramelized burnedness" finally dominates the green taste aspect which is nearly completely gone by now. The taste is allright, but the best comes after it - the aftertaste is long and good. It's like a finish of good whiskey. It really is similar to that Ali Shan I wrote about a year ago. 

59 - the strongest of all. With the greenness gone, there is no conflict and there is deep, fiery and sweet liquor - I believe I understand what is ment by that this is the "finished product". The "mini-wildfire" is the strongest in this one too. I like it very much overall, just as I liked that Ali Shan. However, it is very different from what is usually sold here as Tie Guan Yin, even the "heavily roasted".

I think that the tea is a bit of an acquired taste. My whiskey and cognac friends did enjoy the tea as I did, as well as few other people. However, it was "burnt" or "weird" for the rest (I guess that several people just needed their favourite vendor to tell them that this is the real deal and that big tea bosses and 150 years old HK tea masters drink that).

My thanks to MarshalN for giving me the opportunity to observe the roasting process as it gradually transforms tea. These "themed" sets are really one of the best ways how one can learn about tea.

neděle 4. listopadu 2012

2000 & 2003 Lantingchun Yongde

2003's leaf
Lantingchun is not a that well known factory, I heartily recommend reading about it here: http://www.puerh.fr/article/lan_ting_chun.htm (a site worth reading in its entirety).

I got two samples of their tea - 2003 ($42/357g cake) and 2000 ($52/400g cake). What is it like? The 2003 first:

The leaves smell sweet and nice. They seem/smell similar to the 2009 Da Xue Shan from finepuer. Both are Yongde so it is not that difficult to understand. 

Yongde generally feels very "autumnal" to me - both the taste spectrum and overall feeling. The wet leaves of this 2003 tea are no different - it's like a sweet autumnal mixed forest - wet, but not yet rotting. 

The liquor is rather light for a 2003, aging rather slowly, but it does not yet have the problems of too dry storage. There certainly is some aging process going on.

In the first steeping, there is a good sweet granary taste, very wide, which channges into tender floral and light fruity tones. The lattter tastes are already slightly aged, it's not like floral and fruity of young sheng.

The second steeping is darker and deeper. It actually has a lot in common with the 2009 Da Xue Shan from finepuer. On the top of Yongde fruit and overall "thingness", there is something like cherries, which I never found in a tea before yet.

The cherry part changes to plums later through the session. 

I quite like this tea taste-wise, it full, sweet and rather complex.

After swallowing, good tingling is there, quite persistent. There is a solid long-term aftertaste, mostly woody, a bit dry. There is a tiny hint of smoke and some fruitiness.

Overall, the 2003 piece still needs some more aging to be really really good, but it seems to be doing very well so far. The price is very fair, especially if you like Yongde.

The wet leaves are strong and large (some are quite huge actually).

Right after finishing the 2003, I brewed the 2000.

The major difference is that the 2000 has some smoke in taste. It's the sort of smoke one gets when burning fallen leaves - i.e., it's not the worst sort of smoke, but I do not like it that much nevertheless. The tea is definitely not pure smoke, the Yongde thickness/darkness is underneath, but it's not as simply pleasant as the 2003 version.

It is obviously darker than the 2003 version, but I feel it should be even darker. There are very few aged tones and bitterness should also be lower at this age. I think that where the 2003 was dry but ok, this 2000  version is a bit too dry.

So, although the 2000 was a fine tea, I liked the 2003 version more - it's a really tea and I guess that if Yongde was one of my favourite areas, I could have been even more enthusiastic about it.

čtvrtek 1. listopadu 2012

2005-2009 Menghai TF Spring of Menghai

I'm currently bogged down by samples - still about 20 to go from Finepuer, some 20-30 came from YS recently and today another 15-20 from Chawangshop, not mentioning some others from fellow bloggers. And I wanted to have all the spring stuff sorted out before autumnal teas appear. On the other hand, I've heard that the autumn season won't be much good and not that much tea will be made probably - so I may actually end up well having all these samples. But what to taste now? It all looks so good. I guess I'll run a Round-Robin.

This serie of five vintages of Spring of Menghai is yet another excellent thing available from Finepuer - it is rare to get such a consecutive serie of a tea without paying crazy money. 

I think that such an effort helps a) to observe the effect of aging, b) to look for subtle differences between vintages - after all, the tea should be "the same", so one has to pay greater attention to details.

Nevertheless, I was not only happy about the set because it is a set, but because the Spring of Menghai blend seems to be quite a pleasant one. I like it a lot actually (certainly more than Peacocks). I wonder where it comes from. I'd say there is a lot of Bulang, but there is definitely an Yiwu-esque element, which is unlikely as it is "Spring of Menghai", not a "Spring of Menghai and Yiwu" (right, that would be a weird name. 

In general, there is a good deal of honey sweetness, sweet granary taste, fruitiness (which gradually changes to nuttiness), no smoke at all. The tea loses bitterness with age reasonably, the liquor is quite thick and "embracing" - that is the Yiwuesque part I guess. The sweet Bulangs I know tend to sort of lack that feature to an extent. The sweet aroma of cup is present in the taste too.

What I lacked (only the 2007 sort of had it) was the feeling of cooling/activity in mouth. The qi is also quiet. I guess the teas are mostly about taste now and further perks may appear in future.

Now, with the general description of the tea finished, let's get down to details.

Please pardon my ignorance when setting up the camera - I fixed the exposition parameters too late (in the 2007) so the {2008,2009} and {2005,2006,2007} are not really comparable.

I used 3g in 200ml, steeped for 5 minutes.

2009 is on the top, 2005 is on the bottom (click to enlarge):

In reality, it is interesting that the 2008 is lighter than 2009 and 2006 is lighter than 2007. Also, the 2005-2007 leaves are a lot more broken than the 2008-2009 ones. One could hypothetize that the more broken will be more bitter, but the opposite is true - it seems that the aging factor contributes more to the loss of bitterness than breaking up the leaves contributes to bitterness gain. There is slight residual bitterness which, I believe, will contribute to the meizi aftertaste which I like so much. The hints are there already. 

What I noted about the teas:
2009: Light honey sweetness (meadow honey) and a good deal of mixed garden fruit (spiced with bitterness). The bitterness does transform rather slowly, but it is not a huge deal, especially not if you're used to young puerh.

2008: The honey, although still light, becomes deeper and meadow flowers appear. It is less fruity and with the exception of the honey, lighter and gentler than the 2009. The bitterness is weaker and "not as full" if you know what I mean. It's like if you took a wide-spectrum bitterness and removed most of frequencies.

2007: Darker than both 2008 and 2009, it is the single tea from the serie with a bit of camphor taste in it. The honey has changed from meadow flower to forest honey - that is an important observation to me - I always thought that these two tastes were different qualities, but now it seems than the former can become the latter via aging. The fruitiness in the 2007 gets slightly weaker, it becomes a bit more nutty. And certain hints of clay start appearing - I guess that this will eventually make stronger sweet granary taste in the future, or it may be starting tones of agedness. There is slight cooling feeling after swallowing. It is possible that it has something to do with the camphor taste, it seems really connected to it. 

2006: It gets more nutty, it is clearly in the aroma and rather in taste too. Compared to 2007, it feels like 2008 to 2009. It is good, but I prefer the odd year.

2005: The darkest overall from all, with a bit more bitterness than 2006 and 07. However, what semi-ruins the experience to me is the presence of wooden smoke. It is not really that bad, it does not make the tea disgusting or anything, but I clearly prefer the more recent versions without that unwanted feature.

This is a most commendable serie - I wish more vendors had series like this - of 7542, 8582, etc. One learns a lot this way. And the Spring of Menghai seems to be a genuinely fine blend, if you give up the mouthfeel and more powerful qi, it is really quite good.

I got to rush off now, another tea session with a teachum!