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11 May 2006 @ 11:13 pm
Mengku Large Leaf Raw Bing (Sevencups)  
2001 Mengku Large Leaf Raw Bing - closeup

You might notice I don't list the year for this cake in the title of the review. The vendor quotes it at 2001, and I don't believe it. I have had several teas from 2000-2001 and if this tea is actually from 2001, it still tastes like it was made no more than two years ago. I don't mind that I don't believe it: I didn't notice the year when I bought it (too much sake!), but I do feel it's kind of deceiving?

2001 Mengku Large Leaf Raw Bing - face

Year: Quoted at 2001...more likely 2004-2005
Producer: Mengku (Shuangjiang? Rongshi? not specified)
Region: Lin Cang, 1000+ year old trees
Bought at: Seven Cups (Direct link to cake)
Leaf: Very dark green, large-ish leaves, mostly rolled, many broken. No hints of aging/brown, though some leaves are so dark green as to be black. Twigs here and there but not many. Not much aroma when dry.
Infusion Parameters: 6g in 90ml gaiwan. 10s rinse, 60s+ rests, 15s, 15s, 15s, 25s, 30s, 45s, 60s, 85s. Boiling water.

Leaf aroma when wet is vegetal and without smoke. Sour in the 1st infusion, with vegetal notes and some straw. Leaves have already un-chunked themselves. Liquor is clear honey gold and very smooth.

The subsequent infusions are full of flavor but still mild. Completely without bitterness, the sourness is surprising. Early notes of tobacco fade away as quickly as they came, replaced by some well-hidden floral notes and woodiness. The last brew was mentholated, with a fruity overtone on a mostly woody flavor, like the stem of an apple. It held a consistent strength across 7 infusions; it could have lasted longer, but I tired of it. It never gave me dry mouth like many other cakes do after so many infusions.

One last suprise was that the leaves weren't all that big afterall. They were more middle-sized.

Overall: It's not the best of its genre, and it's certainly not the worst. Its flavors were unexciting, but it held its strength and lacked smoke. I have only done one tasting, however, so I will revisit this review in the future if my feelings change.

Ageability: I can't really fathom. I have lingering suspicions that it won't age well beacause its flavors are meeker. Also, if this is from 2001...(pause for disbelief)...it hasn't aged well, as nothing dramatic has happened in five years, and the only evidence of age is its lack of dry-mouth. But, I am no expert, and I am open to the cake aging into something unique, mostly because I don't think I'll pick it up again to drink.

Would I buy this cake?: Well, I already did. I don't think that, had I had a sample of this tea first, that I would have bought it. For $40, I could get a better pu.

2001 Mengku Large Leaf Raw Bing - dry leaf

2001 Mengku Large Leaf Raw Bing - wet leaf
Current Location: 90004
In My Cup:: Winter Yellow-Green Cake from Seven Cups
danica521 on July 3rd, 2006 07:52 pm (UTC)
Large Leaf Puers
I have this puer at home, and I also have another large leaf from Yunnan Sourcing LLC. I asked Scott about the mild, straightforward flavors and he said that these large leaf cakes are often this way when they are young, but when they age 10 years they achieve a rich sweet flavor. What I will say in favor of this cake is it has a strong, clean, direct note of dark green wood and olive, and the mildness which may be expected. It almost disappears in the aftertaste, except for a lingering astringency in the front palate and a faint sweetness in the back. By the color of the brew I would say it is not as young as you think, probably a 2001 as Keiko and Austin of Sevencups have advertised. The liquor is a rich gold after a short infusion, which would not happen with a young puer as tightly compressed as this one. From observation I do think this is a high-quality cake, albeit its flavor is unusual (although typical of this type of leaf). My guess is it will age extremely well.
[satyriasis] - Jason: teabearsbearsbears on July 3rd, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Large Leaf Puers
"Olive" is a good description of the flavor I get from this cake. I didn't manage "rich gold" infusions; mine never varied far from very pale yellow regardless of the leaf ratios I tried.

As said above, I can't speak to the age of the cake, which is an unfortunate meeting of my inexperience with this genre of pu'er and the cake's lack of "aged" flavors and aromas typical to the more standard variety of pu'er. With most pu'er producers in China unwilling to accurately label their own cakes, it will continue to be a problem for me.

What ratio of leaves to water did you use? What kind of steep times? How does this compare to the other large leaf cake you got from ysllc?
danica521 on July 4th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC)
Re: Large Leaf Puers
I used 4 g or so in a 4 oz gaiwan with water at around 200F. I timed it using breath because I didn't have a timer. One breath is a count to 'four one thousand' in and out (8 seconds total). I stir the leaves for one full breath before putting the lid on every time. My first brew was four breaths (after stirring it around for about 1 breath), second 3 breaths (again after stirring), third was four, then five, then six, then eight, then twelve full breaths etc.

I actually got a great rich brew, and variations in flavor each steep, although the vegetal flavor that we both have noted was dominant each time. It's hard to imagine that I could get addicted to that flavor, I think the cake is too young for me personally, but perhaps some people might like it (e.g. a sencha drinker). I did get better flavor when I let the liquor cool down, room temp was in fact my favorite way to taste the tea. There was more sweetness and variety that way.

The cake I got from ysllc was actually much milder, similarly oily, and had a bit more sweetness. I didn't have that overt olive note the way this cake does; in a way, it didn't 'know itself' as well as the Mengku does. Although I think the overt note of the Mengku cake is strange to my Western palate, from what I understand about tea in general, the more 'confident' a tea is about its identity and flavor, and the longer this identity lasts in brews (each successive brew being a play on the original note, kind of like jazz), the higher quality the tea.

The other indicator of quality in a puer is the oily sheen on its surface, and the 'ring' around the rim of the cup. This tea has both. Therefore I think it must be of very high quality, and probably good for aging. I can imagine the olive and wood will tone down and become more fruity over time as the green youth of the cake gives way to a more mature sweetness.

I'd love to know what happens if you try your cake again using these parameters!