Menghai Dayi teas may not be all that exciting on average (not bad, just not overly exciting), but there is one part of the factory's offering that I find rather interesting - it's their "Zodiac" series. Not that I'd fall madly in love with all of these teas, but it's merely because of a certain preference for character/taste profile, rather then them being bad. I sampled the series ages ago via Sampletea, but full cakes were not offered at the time, so even though I liked some of the teas very much, I couldn't get more. Therefore, I was extremely pleased that the Kingteamall
shop started selling these, and when the opportunity has arisen, I went for several cakes. Would they live to the sweet romantic memories of the samples?
Yeah, pretty much.
First the Rabbit
cake. I'd say this tea is an essence of rock solid and representative Menghai puerh. It may not have an unusual taste or character, but it does what it does extremely well. It's a very classical character of puerh, with a rich mixture of deep fruit, herbs, and wood. It is long-lasting, has good mouthfeel, and while it can be still quite harsh when oversteeped, it's very pleasant when treated well. I think also age-wise, the tea is in a good spot (and will be there for at least 5 years) - it's gone through the unpleasantries of overt youth, while it's not yet going into the aged phase (with which I understand some people lament the convergence of tastes towards earthy). This is a tea that's never disappointed me and I could drink any day.
cake. Unlike the Rabbit, which is very classical, this one is going further from the typical taste. While the base is also robust puerhiness, it adds a lot of leathery/animal tones. I really like St Emilion wines (or rather used to, as I cannot drink red wine health-wise now) for this characteristics, and finding a tea with this type of taste developed so strongly was great. I think it's fairly unique to get so much of this in puerh, an it's very characteristic - when I tasted the cake, I could immediately link it to the sample I tasted some 5 years back. I could call this tea Duke for sure.
Given that both these cakes are around $100, and seeing for how much new teas sell, I think it's a great moment to grab some extra cakes of these teas (which I'd have done if I didn't have enough tea already). They are very good, well-stored, and stable. It has happened with some newer cakes that they were full of fireworks when young, but after a couple of years, they can go bland and/or unbalanced - there is always a risk.