Can’t I Just Settle Down? Menghai County Raw Pu’erh [September 2015 Tea Drinking Report]

Shoutouts to Meng, Carolyn, Bellmont, and Dignitea for providing teas for this month and allowing the content to be what it is!

Menghai County Part 2! This is the last of the pu’erh reports for 2015. I’ll be traveling to Taiwan and Hong Kong in October and will finish up the year with a pair of oolong reports (more on this later week). It also probably represents the last young pu’erh report for quite sometime (more on this later in the report and next week). Similar to the last Menghai report, this is a continuation of the previous year’s Nannuo and Bulang reports.

Primary vendors sampled from:

  • Bana Tea
  • Chawangshop
  • Essence of Tea
  • Pu-erh.sk
  • White2Tea
  • Yunnan Sourcing

Approximate Brewing Parameters

~5g/70ml gaiwan. Single rinse and short steeps. The rinse was skipped for a few of the more expensive teas. Likewise, two rinses (or even three) were used for several of the resessioned cheaper teas.

Burning off all the Young Sheng +Reflections

I’m running out of steam with trying young sheng..Right now, I’m vastly preferring the profile of something with age. It’s been fun and my body/chest have far outlasted my own mental desire for the teas. This is of course a very good thing, as I’d much rather slow down on my own than be sidelined with a barrage of stomach punches. Right now I’m ready for something different.

It’s also unclear to me if this is a temporary thing. As one follower remarked to me, it may very well a one likely induced by consuming a large amount of drinkable/mediocre product that no longer excites me. Regardless… I’ll be taking a welcome break from the very young stuff, which frankly isn’t cheap either and will be reflecting on my own relationship with it in early 2016.

One other byproduct is the ridiculous amount of teas I have laying around, primarily in sample form. My young pu’erh drinking began pretty much immediately after my Yancha report and hasn’t let up. A good deal has been covered in some form on TeaDB, but there’s also a great number of shengs that I’ve consumed and never spoke of. Trying to stick to the monthly schedule of tastings and not wishing to overdo my own tea drinking has prevented me from completing alot of the samples. These teas will become increasingly not representative of their cake forms, motivating me to drink through/give away a number of these.

When compiling a spreadsheet of my purchases, I’ve also realized that there’s a big discrepancy in the teas I’ve reviewed in written/video form vs. bought. Despite a ton of very young sheng, I’ve been most drawn to teas in the 5-10 year range (these compose the bulk of my cake purchases). Part of this is due to the large amount of samples bought/sent in for my gluttonous brewing, which tend to be young. This lack of coverage (on the slightly older teas) is something I’m looking to rectify and will be working on.

Note #1: If I were to guess. For every 80-100 young sheng I sample I’ll end up targeting and eventually buying ~one tea. For slightly older stuff, I’d say this ratio ends up closer to 40 teas to one purchase. The young sheng buys are also the ones I’ve ended up coming the closest to regretting as well.
Note #2: Similar to the massive young Yiwu Report where I only ended up buying a single cake (the 2010 YS Autumn Yibang), I probably won’t be buying much from here either.

I make good compost.

I make good compost.

Tea Selection & Extras

This month the selection is mainly composed of the usual suspects, Chawangshop, Bana, Essence of Tea, Yunnan Sourcing, etc.

Cheapish Blends & Bulangs (~$0.10/g)

Perhaps obviously, there’s a definite tier to these teas. Banzhang is technically located on Bulang, but things like Denong’s LBZ brick (sold by Bana) occupy a totally different niche and level than something like White2Tea’s MCA or Crimson Lotus Tea’s Bulang sheng that hover in the $0.10/g range. I also don’t see a real reason to separate the teas marketed as Bulangs (YS Chaqi) from more generalized Menghai County blends (i.e. MCA).

Note: The days of super cheap thrills ($0.05/g) are seemingly gone unless you want to go for factory tea. Most of these teas are around the $0.10/g range and represents the bottom of western vendors pricing.

2011 YS Chaqi ($0.12/g), 2012 YS Guhuaxiang ($0.11/g)

Scott is usually solid in this price range and these teas are no exception. In contrast to just about everyone else, he also doesn’t really produce all that much Menghai County anymore making his teas featured a little older.

2011 Chaqi. Good thick body, reasonably dense. Pretty enduring bitterness. Depending on the sessions, smoke may or may not be present. Even with smoke after a few infusions it’s totally gone. Has floral bitterness and brown sugar sweetness accompanied with a quick huigan. Aroma becomes pungent and nutty.

As it thickens, there’s some mild sour nutty notes. Despite these rough-sounding notes the soup remains relatively smooth. A little bit of dried peaches/apricots in the taste on the middle steeps. Starts to get a bit thinner around steep 8 or so and hits the wall around 10 or so. It’s a step beneath the YS Jieliang (covered later), but it’s probably the better deal.

2012 Guhuaxiang. It’s nice to drink now without being overly rough and has a decent base, good strength and bitterness. Brews up a very healthy yellow with good clarity. Aroma-wise it’s got a sweet grainy/raisin scent. It’s got a herbal tinge that I enjoy but is otherwise lighter in aftertaste than the Chaqi or other alternatives from Scott.

2014 CLT Bulang ($0.10/g)

Sweet sugarcane aroma. It’s got a fairly basic sweet taste. It’s higher and less dense than the New Amerykahs which I brewed it after. After the first couple steeps it thickens and becomes more bitter and slightly tangy. Inoffensive and an appropriately priced alternative to teas by other vendors. I’d put it around the same level as the Guhuaxiang.

2015 Pu-erh.sk Xiaoshu Huazhu ($0.14/g)

A little more expensive, this would probably be my pick of the cheapo litter. It’s not anything exciting yet, but it’s well-made and has decent body and a light, but decent bitterness. It’s a straightforward tea that is good for the price but not totally exciting to drink now.

2015 W2T Little Walk ($0.10/g) & 2015 W2T Green Shroom ($0.11/g)

Little Walk. As advertised. Very nice leaves. When it first arrived it was a little too barnhousey for my taste but is a decent drink-now tea.. The leaves and material look great and could probably masquerade as something better. I will note that I had one reader drink the Little Walk and complain about severe stomach pain. If you’re looking for silver lining he did like it enough to endure a good number of brews.

Green Shroom. I’ll be honest, I don’t really like these rough & tumble sorts of teas to drink. There’s good thickness and floral bitterness that hint at things to come. The compression keeps the aroma nice but that’s only one plus point for me. It’ll probably turn out to be decent at some point but this is something that I’d really prefer never to drink until it gets some serious age under it.

Aging Cheapish Tea & Recs?

Menghai County is probably one of the safest bets for aging and it’s easy to see why. Even at the lower range, you can find teas with good punch, a dense body, that will improve with time. Assuming you don’t select something that has a sweeter teas that’s more intended for drinking now (i.e. Little Walk), you could probably safely pickup a number of these teas and assuming no storage mishaps end up with something alright if you have the time. In this cheaper range, I don’t have much of a preference between any of the teas… So where’s the dilemma?

The fact of the matter is that teas (while cheap) can also be acquired with some age for not much more money. In other words, assuming a reasonably sized purchase… Would you rather buy 20 2004 Jianshen Tuos or 10 MCAs (both teas being potential proxies)? It’s a fun  ideato buy a cake from the start, but disregarding that charming aspect and minor difference in cost…

I’d vastly prefer drinking 10 year old well-stored, functional factory tea to just about all the teas listed above. What about after 10 years or so? Would I rather drink 10 year old MCA or 20 year Jianshen, with 10 years of home storage. That’s a little less clear as it’s hard to project how either tea will turn out, but I suspect I’d still take the factory tea. This makes the question of what I should be buying more of clear. At least at this lower price range.. One last caveat.. I also don’t enjoy drinking the more brutal teas so perhaps your opinion on what to drink now will also differ!

Recommendations:

  • 2015 W2T Little Walk, 2014 CLT Bulang, 2012 YS Guhuaxiang (drink)
  • *any of the less sweet teas* (storage)

Note: I’m only applying this logic to cheaper tea, as the premium tea marketplace is a different marketplace.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2015 Xiaoshu Huazhu Pu-erh sk Pu-erh sk $36.00 250 $0.14 Good.
2014 Bulang Crimson Lotus Tea $36.00 357 $0.10 Good-.
2012 Guhuaxiang Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $42.00 400 $0.11 Good-.
2015 Green Shroom White2Tea White2Tea $28.50 250 $0.11 OK+.
2011 Chaqi Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $48.00 400 $0.12 Good-.
2015 Little Walk White2Tea White2Tea $19.50 200 $0.10 Good-.

Middle Chunk (~$0.20-$0.30/g+)

Take note that these cutoffs are somewhat different than the ones in the Yiwu report. The entry point is seemingly a little higher for those teas.

2012 Mini Bulang Cake (W2T, $0.19/g)

I don’t like this cake for many of the same reasons as the Green Shroom. It’s just not the sort of cheap thrills that I enjoy.. Small leaves. Some smoke, dense aroma. Hits fast with bitter + sour. It’s got a fair body, a dense form to it and is beginning to develop some fruit flavors but I find it difficult to enjoy now. It’s also not really that cheap. Perhaps it’ll be more enjoyable in the future.

2013 W2T New Amerykah ($0.21/g), 2014 W2T New Amerykah ($0.19/g)

DId you know that these were in the same price range as the mini-Bulang? They’re all sold out now so the point is somewhat moot, but the small cake size is deceiving! Anyways, these would’ve made much better buys IMO. I suspect these were intended for long-term aging, but those with great stomach courage have taken to drinking these young. I can’t totally blame them as there’s some fun times to be had.

2013 New Amerykah. Pungent pine, floral aroma. It’s more generic and less immediately appealing, similar to the Denongs. A little less bassy and dense than the 2014 but would never be classified as weak. I actually do notice more throatiness and huigan in this tea.

2014 New Amerykah. Bitter and full bodied. A very dense mouthfeel. It’s a strong tea and makes my cheeks very flushed and thirsty. Aroma is pungent, nutty, floral. A little tangy in the middle infusions. There’s a little huigan and some light qi but those aren’t reasons I’d buy the tea. I’d buy it for its sheer power and forget about it for a long while.

Note: Quick W2T price comparison for the 2015 harvest/modern cake size. How much would the 2014 New Amerykah cost if it was 200g? $38!

2010 YS Jieliang ($0.23/g)

Own a cake of this (acquired blind). I think this tea is heading the right direction, although it’s also alot more expensive than it used to be. Good thickness and sweetness. Sort of a generic brown sugar, lightly floral sweetness. Developing maltiness. Tanginess comes in when pushed but can border on herbal. Texture softens up in a pleasant way late in the session.

2010 Gumingxiang Banpen (YS, $0.21/g)

I own a cake of this (blindly acquired again) but have a hard time trying to figure it out and in the end decided it wasn’t worth the effort. The tea in its current form clearly has flaws and it’s far beyond the point of consideration. On the plus side there’s decent mouth activity, a mild throatiness and huigan. More negatively, it’s not particularly thick and smells and tastes like bitter, smoky vegetables. This very well could be stuck in between stages. Or it just sucks. I’m not really sure.

2010 Bulang from Richmond, BC ($0.18/g)

A sample made by a local tea friend, Meng. Thanks! I believe this is from Spring Cottage Tea House, Meng liked this to pickup a pair of cakes for $70/400g.

Very solid tea. This is essentially better version of the Crimson Lotus 2014 Bulang Tribute Tea (it’s supposedly 2x the cost) in the sense that they both balance the sweet/bitter aspects well. Starts out with a kind of syrupy sweetness before it thickens and starts smashing more face. Pine and smoke in the aroma, dense stable body. This is a well made tea that is plenty drinkable now and has a strong lasting presence in the mouth. A pleasant florality takes over the tea on about the 7th steep as the bite of the tea wears off. If you trust my memory of single sessions, this is approximately the same level as the 2010 YS Jieliang. There’s no qi and the huigan isn’t particularly exceptional, but it’s very pleasant to drink.. It’s $70! Very solid and worth checking out if you’re in Richmond.

Note: This tea was said to have a very unique floral aroma. I do agree with that but also have a confession.. I don’t know crap about flowers or types of flowers. Orchids, potpourri, lotus… I usually visualize them after using google image search. Am very much looking forward to google aroma search in 2020. Yay for being cultured.

2014 TU Bulang Beauty ($0.28/g)

Picked up somewhat haphazardly at the beginning of 2015 around when I filmed the inbetweenisode. I’d sampled, and enjoyed it but my thinking was that this is from Xishuangbanna in an area that have historically done well. I very well could’ve bought a New Amerykah, but the order to Tea Urchin came first.. Coming into the session I was a little nervous as I hadn’t tried the cake since then and was worried it might’ve made for a $100 regret.

The cake is very loosely compressed and flakes easily. Aroma starts out as sweet/floral then becomes fruity/leathery (similar to alot of other TU productions).The body is dense and the tea is properly low and bitter. Powerful mouthfeel that flushes my cheeks and leaves me salivating. Decent throatiness and a quick huigan. A little qi. In the end, I’m happy to report this purchase wasn’t a mistake. It falls into the category of decent tea that I won’t be upset about, but probably wouldn’t buy again. At least in this case my logic held up. I’ll try this again in several years and see how it’s come.

Note: What makes me more confident in my evaluation now? Mainly more experience, especially with young pu’erh. I’ve been smashing my face against young pu’erh for 75% of 2015.
Note #2: What in the world am I doing in the pose for the Bulang Beauty youtube video? Cat style kung-fu?

2010 Chensheng Yihao (TU, $0.32/g)

I expect this to be overpriced and it most definitely is not a deal. Still it’s pretty alright. Generic smoke and pine aroma. Medium body, relatively smooth, dense and honey sweet. Compared with the 2010 Bulang from Richmond this is less bodied, more vegetal, and less sweet but has more promising throatiness and huigan.

As in the case of a few of these 2010-2012 teas I think there’s a fair deal of transitional/mid-fermentation flavors going on that aren’t particularly nice. In the current state, I’d drink that 2010 Bulang over this 9 times out of 10.

Recommendations?

Similar to the last section I don’t find myself leaning heavily towards any particular tea, other than the 2010 Bulang from BC (the only tea I’d drink regularly in its current state). For drinking, I’d choose something from the previous Menghai County report.

A few options.. Buying young tea up a tea grade from the previous level (stuff like New Amerykah/Bulang Beauty/Jieliang) for storage will hopefully yield better results in the long run. I’d guess these will probably be a few steps up above the 10-year old factory tea currently available for affordable prices.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2012 Mini-Bulang Cake White2Tea $18.50 100 $0.19 OK.
2013 New Amerykah White2Tea White2Tea $75.00 357 $0.21 Good+.
2014 New Amerykah White2Tea White2Tea $69.00 357 $0.19 Good+.
2010 Jieliang Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $57.00 250 $0.23 Good+.
2010 Gumingxiang Banpen Yunnan Sourcing Gumingxiang $85.00 400 $0.21 OK.
2010 Bulang (ML) Richmond Tea Shop Richmond Tea Shop $70.00 400 $0.18 Good+.
2014 Bulang Beauty Tea Urchin Tea Urchin $99.00 357 $0.28 Good+.
2010 Chensheng Yi Tea Urchin Chensheng Hao $129.00 400 $0.32 Good-.

Medium-Upper (Random Regions, ~$0.40-0.50/g)

This price-range seems to be the going rate for decent quality “gushu” that’s a bit further away from the ultra hyped.

2014 EoT YunYun ($0.46/g), 2015 EoT YunYa, ($0.43/g)

2014 YunYun. Heavier bitterness. Grassy, smoky aroma, and throughout most of the session. Good body. Despite the smoke, the tea is fairly smooth. Good staying power in the mouth, I note some throatiness in some of my latter sessions, good huigan. Very solid base but I think I prefer the YunYa, at least for now.

2015 YunYa. In general a very nice, well-balanced tea. Vegetal with plenty of soft bitterness and bite. Clean, medium body, crisp. As it brews out it becomes floral. I’d prefer this to drink now over the YunYun (smoother, nice aroma), but the heavier YunYun may do better in the long-term.

2015 Pu-erh.sk Gushu Mannuo ($0.48/g)

Sample provided by Bellmont. This reminds me of a few of the Mengsong teas. Sweet, lightly bitter, floral. As the tea steeps out, the aroma and body thicken the taste becomes more pungent pine nuts. Good quality leaves. Solid sheng base. A little tangy, great longevity. The tea lasts a long time and the noted ripe fruit sweetness comes in late in the session.

2014 W2T Colbert ($0.40/g)

Larger leaves. Its sweetness reminds me of some of the Tea Urchin productions. Interesting combination of bitter/sweet, that’s different from the other bittersweet teas this month. Sugarcane, sticky and syrupy sweetness. The bitterness is also different with a couple different stages to the taste. It starts out sweet, bitterness comes in, and then fades out to more of the sweet character.

Looking at the leaves it looks like a blend of sorts. There are some leaves that are light vs. dark. Good thickness (bigger than Pound Cake and If You’re Reading This, less than Bosch) throughout, although it doesn’t do much to my throat. This is a fun tea, but I’d probably actually go for the YunYun or YunYa around this price range.

2011 Che Ma Xuan Pasha (TU, $0.43/g)

Sample provided by Bellmont. Thanks! A generically decent tea. The price has risen quite a bit recently.

It gets bitter on steep 3 and has a soft, smooth body. Lasting strength on the entire mouth. Generic Menghai County base, with some hay/pain. Much more enjoyable than the Nannuo. The aroma becomes more floral later on.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2015 Yunya Essence of Tea Essence of Tea $107.75 250 $0.43 Very Good-.
2014 Yunyun Essence of Tea Essence of Tea $92.40 200 $0.46 Good++.
2015 Gushu Mannuo Pu-erh sk Pu-erh sk $119.00 250 $0.48 Good+.
2015 Colbert White2Tea White2Tea $79.00 200 $0.40 Good+.
2011 Pasha Tea Urchin Che Ma Xuan $153.00 357 $0.43 Good.

Upper-End Tea

2015 W2T Tuhao ($0.70/g)

Big and more flavorful than the Bosch. Fairly smooth throat feel with a quick huigan. Good, solid base to it like the EoT YunYun/YunYa. I could see it forming a similar function to the YunYa with a bit more bitterness and throatiness, but worst longevity. Both teas are clean without much smoke. Qi is pretty easy to grasp here. Floral bitterness in most of the middle steeps that is more normal than the Colbert. Thick lump in the throat remains after it has steeped out.

2012 Denong LBZ (Bana, $1.95/g), 2012 Denong Young Jade (Bana, $0.93/g)

So you want a hit?? Let me introduce you to Linda Louie and Bana Tea..

*Fake* Bana Tea Marketing Copy (by TeaDB): So you want to learn pu’erh? Hate shopping around 27 different pages of raw pu’erh teas to pickup three samples that all ended up being fake anyways? Don’t want to pay that shipping from China? Welcome to Bana Tea, where only the real deal is sold. Legit pu’erh dating all the way back to the 70s, featuring several famous productions. Samples are available of course (just email us).. And we ship US domestic with free shipping (orders of $100 or more!).

Linda Louie’s hit ratio is the highest around, probably even higher than White2Tea. There’s not much in the way of deals and the prices just aren’t cheap, but it’s not inappropriate either. Her teas are simply put the real deal.

2012 LBZ. I’d guess that this is probably about as appropriate of a benchmark as you can find for young tea.

  • Taste/aroma? Bitter, pungent, and later floral and nutty. Fairly generic Menghai County. Not particularly remarkable. (Linda remarked to me in an email that she brews it 8-10 degrees cooler and it comes off far sweeter.)
  • Body? Medium.
  • Aftertaste/throatiness? Really fast huigan. Can feel a various amount of feelings activities at the bottom of the throat. Excellent generally.
  • Qi? Yes and not subtle either. Much heavier than even the Tuhao. Wakes you the hell up. Good thickness in the throat.

In the end, it represents an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, the taste isn’t really all that exceptional. But on the otherhand, aftertaste and qi are both strong and very much present. Needs to be pushed pretty hard after about 10 steeps. Veers towards sweeter flavors after the first 9 or 10 steeps. In the end, I’d highly, highly recommend people email Linda about a sample of this tea. The education it offers will help set a benchmark for other supposed teas from LBZ or surrounding areas.

2012 Jade Brick. Generously provided by Carolyn. Many thanks! Smooth, very pleasant. Not very rough for a young tea, especially a brick that is compressed so heavily! Aroma is fairly generic Menghai, nuts, floral. Feel like I can taste/smell a little Nannuo in here.

Definitely a decent deal of bitterness which is expected given the high compression of the brick. All-around it’s a well-rounded tea with a nice, but not overpowering qi and a full body. Huigan is very fast. Aroma veers towards the very floral around the 9th steep or so. I’d prefer drinking this to the LBZ 7 or 8 times out of 10 due to it’s general smoothness, although the attributes of the LBZ are obviously more rare.

Note: As Linda noted on a previous video, samples can be created. You don’t need to buy the full $195 brick. Shoot her an email!

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g
2015 Tuhao White2Tea White2Tea $139.00 200 $0.70
2012 Lao Banzhang Bana Tea Bana Tea $195.00 100 $1.95
2012 Jade Brick Bana Tea Bana Tea $93.00 100 $0.93

Nannuo

2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo (W2T, $0.11/g)

These have been sold out for a while but I picked up a pair at the end of its shelf life. This is probably not a good time to taste these as they aren’t particularly pleasant now.. Still, I wanted to get some notes down before burying them in the back of my pumidor.

The impressive thickness is still there, but I find that’s one of the few attractive things still in the tea. Other than the dense grain base, the tea is bitter, vegetal, and somewhat smoky. There’s a few floral teases and a little bit of fruit in the taste and aroma in the middle steeps. But for the most part it’s just the bitter base. Not much throatiness and a little huigan. Like the Bulang Beauty, now that I have my notes this Ruiyuan doesn’t require visitation for several years (2020?).

Note: Please note that the ratings of the tea below rank my current enjoyment of them and aren’t necessarily intended to rate how it will be in several years.

2012 Nannuo Duoyizhai (YS, $0.23/g)

Reviewed this last year. My opinion has changed and I think this is a good tea. Makes me curious to retry some of the other YS Nannuos I knocked.

I stuck this one in my pumidor for a month but I think my palette is the primary change. Touches of both floral and fruity notes, with a nice softness that balances against the harshness. It’s plenty strong and it causes some serious sweating. I think my general adverse reaction to tangy/sour notes can partially be explained by all the aged oolongs I quaffed in 2014. Becomes a little more fruity as it brews out. Slight throatiness to it. Decent huigan.

2010 Che Ma Xuan Nannuo (TU, $0.18/g)

Got the center of the beeng. Wears the Nannuo label well. It’s got a leathery texture and a floral/fruity aroma. Still plenty of astringency, although it isn’t super thick. It gets a little herbaly/tangy in a way that I don’t love. An alright tea, but I prefer the YS and HLH cakes.

2010 HLH Bama Gongchun (YS, $0.26/g)

Floral nose, slightly fruity in the taste. Fairly similar to the YS Duoyizhai. A nice softness at the start but still plenty of strength/pungency. Slight throatiness. It’s too bad the price of these cakes has risen alot as it’s a very decent tea.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo White2Tea Ruiyuan $39.00 357 $0.11 OK+.
2012 Nannuo Duoyizhai Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $92.00 400 $0.23 Good+.
2010 Nannuo Spring Tea Urchin Che Ma Xuan $64.00 357 $0.18 OK+.
2010 Bama Gongchun Yunnan Sourcing Hailanghao $105.00 400 $0.26 Good.

Mengsong

2014 Mengsong Qiaomu (W2T, ?)

From the initial tea club. This is the sort of tea that I’d like as a daily drinker of young sheng.

A little mouth-cooling. Fairly smooth and decent thickness. Light bitterness that builds and culminates on the 4th or 5th steep. Slightly citric and tangy. Leaves a buzzing feeling in the mouth. Aroma becomes a little more vegetal as it brews. I would guess this would’ve sold for around $8/50g.

2014 Yuanwei (EoT, $0.47/g)

Tangy, hay. Clean, crisp. Good aroma. Starts out light and a little thin, but the body quickly thickens up. Very floral/perfumey brown sugary. Decent huigan and relaxing qi. Small leaves. Brews for a long time. Overall it’s got a very pleasant, smooth profile. This sounds similar to the other Mengsong from this month, but I think it’s a grade or two up. Not quite up to Bana Tea’s but this is decent and I’d take it over the TCJ Mengsong.

Episode 127.

2013 Baotang (TU, $0.16/g)

I’m not really a fan of this. It’s singular and too rich for me.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, vegetal aroma. Brown sugar/floral taste. A light bitterness + tanginess comes in on steep 3 or 4. Most of the taste is mainly restricted to the mouth. Could see this either as a casual brew or a good intro tea. Alot of initial favor, this steeps out really fast without qi or huigan.

2013 Bana Tea Mengsong ($0.46/g)

This is the stuff!

Good aroma. A clear taste progression, sweet, sour, then herbal. Calming qi. Some light throatiness. Softer than all the other teas, but still with an accompanying light bitterness. Not quite as heavy as the Yuanwei or TCJ Mengsong. The huigan is a little slower but eventually grabs the throat. Aroma becomes less pungent and more vegetal/floral as it brews. Good stomach feel and longevity. It’s more expensive, but in my opinion worth it.

2012 Taochaju Mengsong (W2T, $0.10/g)

Would’ve made a great, affordable daily drinker if it were still available.

Brown sugar, lightly floral aroma. Nice, mouth-watering effect and a consistent, solid body. Aroma gets a little maltier. Some dried fruit and slight cooling. A slight citric bite steps in during later steeps. A step up from the Mengsong Qiaomu.

2012 Autumn Bamboo Naka (CWS, $0.04/g)

If I were buying at the $0.10/g or less range, I’d probably buy exclusively from the Chawangshop. This is the sweetest of the teas in the Mengsong area and makes for an easy casual brew. It’s lack of a real bite makes this a decent young pu’erh for the beginner. I’d also take this over a few of the teas here with supposedly more serious pedigrees.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2014 Mengsong Qiaomu White2Tea 50 Good-.
2014 Yuanwei Essence of Tea Essence of Tea $94.00 200 $0.47 Good++.
2013 Baotang Tea Urchin Tea Urchin $58.00 357 $0.16 OK+.
2013 Mengsong Secret Garden Bana Tea Bana Tea $58.00 125 $0.46 Very Good.
2012 Bamboo Naka Chawanshop Mingshan $19.00 500 $0.04 Good-.
2012 Mengsong White2Tea Taochaju $37.00 357 $0.10 Good.

Bada

2015 CWS Bada Old Tree ($0.10/g)

This is easily my favorite “Bada” tasted this month (not that I made a very comprehensive tasting). This came from a sample directly from Meng’s cake. Thanks!

Light, grassy/pine nuts especially in the aroma. Very small leaves. A slight tang to it. Not as thick as other teas but it’d be perfectly decent for young sheng consumption. Develops a grainy, cereal quality in the aroma. Bitter, nutty notes starts to come in on steep 3. For the $$ it’s hard to beat. Easier to drink than the other Badas, it’s approximately the same level as the Little Walk and would accomplish more or less the same thing.

Note: I do wish I could’ve given Chawangshop more attention this year. In my experience their teas have been decent in consideration with the price. I would not fault anyone from patronizing their shop.

2012 Sen Zhi Kui Bada (YS, $0.04/g)

This was good for the cost. Soft, smooth, astringent. It’s still bitter but is counterbalanced with some nice fruity characteristics. Easily the most currently enjoyable of the three YS Bada teas. It isn’t as dense as the tuo and a little beneath the standards for me to drink regularly, but I can see the appeal.

2012 Bada Tuo (YS, $0.05/g)

Of the YS Bada teas this is the one for storage. Strong, interesting aroma. Dense body, Grassy, a touch fruity, slightly floral. Not bad and fans of the W2T green shroom may also like this.

2011 YS Bada ($0.14/g)

I think I caught this tea with its pants down (mid-transition). Session was not good..

The tea is smoky and singular. It has some signifiers of quality.. It’s smooth, has decent looking leaves and it hints at substance. We’ll see what this is like in a few more years.

Note: Picked up a cake/tuo of all three YS blindly a year ago. Do I regret this? Only a little, they’re all pretty cheap. We’ll see how they are in 5 years or so.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2015 Bada Old Tree Chawangshop Chawangshop $20.00 200 $0.10 Good-.
2012 Badashan Tuo Yunnan Sourcing Unknown $12.00 250 $0.05 OK+.
2012 Bada Yunnan Sourcing Sen Zhi Kui $8.90 200 $0.04 OK+.
2011 Badashan Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $57.00 400 $0.14 OK-.

Bonus Teas

2015 W2T Bosch ($0.60/g)

I am the owner of two of these. Why? It comes down to personal preference but I prefer it currently to the Tuhao and all the cheaper options. I (of course) think the Last Thoughts is several grades better, but in the end cheaped out a little and went with the Bosch.

Outwardly light and soft in the mouth, with some mouth cooling. Thick in the throat and bassy. Plenty of bitterness still especially in the middle steeps. Brewed harder gets more fullness in the mouth and brief bits of fruit sweetness but also a little watery. The qi is decent, and sits heavy in the chest but is less pronounced than a few higher-end teas. Excellent longevity, it’s interesting for a long time with consistent throatiness. The Tuhao is probably the safer bet for the long-term (heavy/dense + Menghai County material), but I am more entranced the Bosch.

2011 TU? Xin Banzhang Huangpian (-)

Sent in by Dignitea, thanks! Supposedly from Tea Urchin, I can’t find it listed on the site.

Simple profile. Broadly gentle and fruity. Simple, but it also has some nice things like some throatiness and a quick huigan that coats the throat. A nice tea to have laying around.

2009 XZH Yiwu/Banzhang Brick (Houde, -)

Weird tea. Take the rating with a grain of salt, although the reviews of this don’t seem particularly helpful. Very difficult to understand in the only session I had time for.

Developing earthiness. Lots of throatiness and huigan. Then it gets very astringent and drying. Relatively dense with woody and maltiness. Sweet fruit flavors. Some qi. Longevity is particularly bad for a premium tea.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2011 Xin Banzhang Huangpian Tea Urchin Tea Urchin Good.
2009 Yiwu/Banzhang Brick Houde Xizihao 400 Good+.
2015 Bosch White2Tea White2Tea $119.00 200 $0.60 Very Good.

I just want to settle down to the countryside..

No not literally. But this summer has been alot of playing around with hot young sheng has me yearning for a simple life on the countryside with just a few more matured cakes… I’ve talked before about slowing down my sample pace. Well this year it simply hasn’t happened. I don’t regret it and my stomach still hasn’t exploded, but I’d especially like to be drinking sheng with at least 7 or 8 years of aging under it and be a bit more consistent in my tea diet.

My standards for raw pu’erh have also gone up and I’ll be likely raising my bar for teas that I try as well. Life’s too short to drink mediocre tea..

In an effort to get more repetitions with pu’erh I concluded the month with a purchase of a about a kilo each of a pair of semi-aged cakes from Houde to use as daily drinkers.

Anyways, that wraps it up! I’m off to Taiwan and Hong Kong! Upon my return, I’ll finish up the year with the long awaited oolong tea of the month reports.

Coming next.. Aged Oolongs (November).

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10 Responses to Can’t I Just Settle Down? Menghai County Raw Pu’erh [September 2015 Tea Drinking Report]

  1. Ian says:

    A commendable report as always. I definitely can relate to the feeling of wanting to simply chill out and enjoy the old favorites after a period of hardcore exploration, I think it’s a natural phase in connoisseurship (that word is gross but whatever). One of the many beautiful things about puer, though, is that you could drink the same tea from the same vintage every day, like forever, and it would continue to provide interest and a different experience with age, brewing, your body that day, water, &c. It’s kind of cool too how different styles of puer really jazz different people, I don’t think we all simply graduate to preferring classically aged teas. You’re stoked on 5-10 year stuff. Personally, I can appreciate good aged teas but if I could choose one tea to drink every day I would probably pick a high quality dry stored tea that’s 5 years or younger. I love love Scott’s Wuliangs and the ’14 New Amerykah. Anyways, here’s to finding one’s own happy place in the wide world of puer. Tong up!

    • James says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for the comment. Totally agreed re: exploration of tea and pu’erh. Many different things to tackle. I feel guilty about having piles of young pu’erh samples laying around and not wanting to imbibe all the time :). A spoiled tea person problem I know.

      I’d also add one last comment/clarification about my own preferences. It’s not so much that I’m stoked on 5-10 year stuff, just that I find it most satisfying for the price, and the base material to be comparable (if not better) than stuff being produced now! Beyond that 10 years I also enjoy the tea alot, but the price seems to rise a good deal as well!

      Cheers,
      -James

  2. Puyuan says:

    Will you still be there in November, James? I arrive in HK around Nov. 8.

  3. shah8 says:

    One of the weird mysteries of the day. It’s harder to get top notch Western Banna tea from recent years compared to Eastern Banna. Way back when, it sure seemed a lot more equal and people who preferred one style or another had roughly the same size pile to choose from.

    • James says:

      Hi shah,

      I think I’ve heard you say that elsewhere. Quite interesting. Makes that YQH Bulang sound potentially appealing..

      Cheers,
      -James

  4. Hello James,

    It’s all part of the journey. Drinking lots of young sheng is hard but doing it when you’re young is easier as it gets harder when you’re older. Personally I’ve found that once you hit a certain number and make that breakthrough it pays off in its own way. By exposing and essentially training your senses to the wide range of characteristics of puerh tea you are slowly conditioning your senses to better grasp the nuances and little complexities that puerh offers. The journey of puerh tea is fundamentally about connecting the dots and it all becomes easier and clearer once the tools are sharpened and all the different starting positions identified.

    Best, Varat

    • James says:

      Hi Varat,

      Thanks for the comment. Solid points and thanks for sharing your experience. Perhaps I should think of all this young pu consumption as my kungfu/sports movie training montage :).

      Cheers,
      -James

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