Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Advice On Buying Fresh Sheng Puerh, 2008 Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King And Catching Up With The Ones That Got Away

Have you ever sampled a puerh, liked it, but by the time you go to buy it’s sold out?  Of course you have, its happened to all of us.  You never forget it do you?  But have any of you had a chance to buy that same cake 9 years later?  This is a story about making wrongs right again…

I have a long history with this cake.  In fact, I wrote a review post on it when it first came out 9 years ago here (link).  I was given a generous sample by a man who taught me almost everything I knew about tea at that time, my teamaster if you wish to call him that.  I call him Mr. Kim.  This was one of the wholesale cakes that Mr.Kim brought into his shop for sale in 2008.

I spent many hours in my week sitting cross-legged drinking tea at Mr. Kim’s table talking, discussing, and learning about tea.  In Korea this means Korean tea, Japanese matcha, and (Chinese) sheng puerh tea almost exclusively.  Mr. Kim taught me a lot.  One of the most important things he taught me about puerh was his advice on purchasing fresh sheng puerh (which I haven’t done for years and years now).  He said that the puerh should have a full feeling in the mouth and especially the throat, it should feel good in the body now and make you feel good, it should be something that you could enjoy now not something that was so strong and bitter that you would have to age to consume, and it should be to your liking regardless of what others think about the tea.  If it is a quality sheng its taste will also develop and change throughout the gongfu session and through many many steepings.

I feel like this is really good advice and has done my puerh collection well over all these years.  This advice might seem obvious to some now but back in the mid-2000s it was contrary to the mainstream belief that a puerh should be bitter and strong to age well.  I know there are lots of people out there sitting on tones of bitter, harsh puerh that is hard on their body, that they never really enjoyed and that isn’t aging so well in dry storage- so I am grateful for this early advice.

When I first tried Mr. Kim’s sample back in 2008 it didn’t quite meet all the purchasing criteria for me.  Check out my first impressions here.  For me it had too much typical puerh taste too early in the session.  Even so, I would often drink this fresh sheng puerh with Mr. Kim at his tea table.  After a while this tea started to grow on me, I liked the way it made me feel mainly.  So when it was time for me to depart from Korea in December of 2008, I made a stop at Mr. Kim’s shop to buy a tong.  Unfortunately, he had sold out.

After my first purchase of six 1 KG bricks of the 2006 Wild Arbour King I was still in no mood to purchase this 2008 version of the same namesake.  After all, I much preferred the 2006 anyways and I didn’t think I really needed any more Licang puerh.

Yunnan Sourcing sure makes it difficult to just make one off purchases.  About a month after my big purchase and after acquiring a large sum of loyalty credit it just happened to be that Scott is offering a 12% off the Big Four Puerh Factories promotion (Mengku Shuang Jiang is one of the four).  Still feeling the sting of a dwindling puerh stash, I throw in a tong of these bulky 500g cakes, ($62.00/500g or  0.12/gram before both discounts now it is currentlypriced at $76.00 per cake or $0.15/gram), a single cake from one of the other four factories and a few new Mengku factory samples of some offerings they never had back in the day just for fun.

The old Yunnan Sourcing website says these cakes were dry Guangdong stored. 

So there we go.

Please gather around the tea table as I had done with Mr. Kim and let’s enjoy this tea…

The dry leaves smell of slight cherry fruit in semi aged mushroomy puerh odours.

The first infusion has a clean, sugary-sweet, slightly metallic taste with a nicely semi-aged base taste and nice slow to evolve, cooling sweet, crisp aftertaste.  This tea is immediately fresh but yet grounded with aged incense-like tastes.  There is a floral taste in the throat appearing minutes later.

The second infusion has more lightly deep medicinal tastes, mushrooms, and vanilla tastes initially then finishes with a slightly floral, slightly metallic aftertaste.  There is a vegetal even, sour if overbrewed, taste in the middle of the profile as well which strings things together.  A cool metallic aftertaste remains.

The third infusion presents with more mushroom and slight medicinal tastes up front then slowly transforms into very faint metallic and floral in the throat along with a faint long cooling sensation.  This tea has more of a slight throat opening feeling than an actual mouthfeel.  The sensation in the mouth is thin but full and slightly sticky.  In the throat feels opening even into the mid-throat.  The qi of this tea is slight and relaxing, it floats the head and relaxes the body.

The fourth infusion has some lighter florals up front mixed in with soft semi-aged medicinal tastes.  These light tastes stretch past soft vegetal notes and into a muted metallic and floral aftertaste.  There is a nice packaging of solid simple and somewhat unique tastes in this tea.

In the fifth and sixth infusions this tea starts to thin out holding a nice bouquet of florals in semi-aged medicinal tastes.  The aftertaste is a metallic, slightly cooling taste.  The mouthfeel becomes a very fine grit here and saliva pools in the mid-throat.  The qi is really noticeable in the chest and heart and gives this area both an opening feeling and a stimulating sensation- the heart gallops gently.

The seventh is much the same as is the eighth but the taste becomes much more generic aged puerh at this point.  It has a nice incense-like taste to it.

It brews out like this even in overnight steepings.


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