Thursday, May 25, 2006

Geraldo on 1990 Uncooked Zhuan Cha #9062 from TenYee Tea Shop, Penang

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Note: I visited TenYee Teashop, on the Island of Penang, in November 2005. I struck up an acquaintance with Kailey, the young English-speaking daughter of the owners. She has access to a computer with Internet connection. After much very serious e-mail negotiation, I agreed to purchase some pu’er from her. Since Malaysia is not yet set up for Internet transactions using credit cards or PayPal, and since the cost of sending an international bank transfer exceeded the price of the pu’er itself, I actually sent her American cash in an envelope. This tea was recommended by her mother. It arrived in my home on 20 January 2006.

Dry leaf appearance: From a distance it appears black. Close up it appears brown-red, with colors ranging from dark brown (almost black) to deep reddish-brown.

The zhuan cha is fairly tightly compressed, but I can flake it with a butter knife.

Vessels: 3oz gaiwan and 5 oz cup.

4.3g of tea to 3oz of water.

Very fast rinse—rinse water at 168F. Two minute rest.

1st steep, 192F, 20s. Red, clear, very mild, not much strength or character. Very little aroma in the cup—more in the gaiwan—slight camphor arising from the leaves. Clean taste—tiny hint of mushroom, no wet laundry. Some wood. Fairly thick in the mouth—good body, make the top of the tongue slick.

2nd steep, 193F, 10s. Much darker. Stronger aroma. More wood flavor, more earth flavor. No crisp bite as in the 1960s Guang Yun Gong. No flood of flavors as in the old Liu Bao. I am searching through the experience looking for wet laundry as evidence of wet processing, and now I’m wondering when “earthy’ becomes “wet laundry.” The mild nature of this tea makes it hard to parse. Other wet-storaged teas come on really strong, and this is a subtle brew. I am thinking it was stored in some humid part of the world (Penang, within spitting distance of the equator). I do not think there are many places more humid than Malaysia—at least none that I have encountered in my travels through the subtropical lands of the world.

3rd steep, 190F, 20s. Liquor less red, more brown. In this infusion, the mushroom-earth flavor more closely approximates wet-storaged flavor as I think of it. Also, I may have tasted this pu’er or one very much like it before: Stephane’s sample from his “1990 Jiang Cheng Yunnan Wild Pu’er Brick.” With that tea, too, I was surprised that an uncooked pu’er could be as dark as this and have many of the nuances of a cooked pu’er.

4th steep, 194.5F, 30s. Overall, in this steep the tea tastes like a mild, smooth cooked tea with more wood flavor than most cooked teas possess and a touch of camphor tossed in. The flavor has not diminished appreciably from the 3rd infusion. The tea also retains its fine, silky texture in the mouth.

5th steep, 200.5F, 45s. The color of the tea is the same brown-red. The slight camphor is a tiny bit stronger. The strength of the flavors is undiminished from the 4th infusion. I will continue to drink this tea to see how long it retains its flavor, but I’ll cease taking notes unless there is some striking development down the road.

Conclusions, Part 1: Overall, the package looks to be legitimately Meng Hai. I looked at my notes from a conversation with Jing almost a year ago; regarding "9062," according to Jing’s explanation, 90 would indicate the year, 6 the recipe, and 2 the factory (2 being Meng Hai).

The tea is too dark for its age—I think. I have seen several tuo chas from the early to mid-eighties, and they were dark tan, not a very dark brown like this brick. Uncooked pu’er from the early seventies and sixties I would expect to be this dark.

I believe it was moderately or mildly wet-storaged. I thought the same of another 1990 brick sample reviewed here at CHA DAO, and this might actually be exactly the same product. Perhaps the incredible humidity of equatorial Malaysia produced this wet-storage effect. I have tasted tea that was more heavily wet storaged; the first was 1001 Plateaus aged uncooked loose leaf and again with the Liu An from Yunnan Sourcing, since discontinued in favor of a better product.

This tea is better than those. It’s good. It’s almost quite good. But it sure as shootin' is not in a league with the incredible aged teas I had in China, nor with other aged pu’er samples I’ve ordered from China and Hong Kong.

Conclusions, Part 2: I tried this pu’er again the next day. I used 1.25g per 1oz vessel capacity. I employed a full minute of wash and three minutes of rest. Then I flash infused the first six infusions of the pu’er: I poured the tea from the vessel as fast as I could set the kettle down and pick up the gaiwan. The results of this procedure were much improved, but still the pu’er does not taste like good sheng.

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