Three Menghai Tea Factory Teas Between 1997-2001

Thanks to Nug, I had the opportunity to sample a few older and thereby quite expensive Menghai TF teas. I no longer sample as often as I used to, and try to be focused on very interesting teas when I do. These teas were sold to us by Taizhong based vendor Wang JF who will sell samples of some of his more expensive teas. The teas were naturally stored in Taiwan, and while I do suspect there were some differences in the storage of these teas early on, I think they all fit easily into the TW-natural storage category.

1997 Green Mark
1997 Green Mark.

I did not view these teas as an opportunity to sample and decide to buy the teas in greater quantity. Rather I knew that the value would almost certainly be worst than other options, at least for my taste. These are older, scarcer name brand teas. But that does not mean that the sessions wouldn’t have significant educational value.  Here’s a few reasons why I wanted to try these.

  1. Dayi is the standard of this era which is still very much factory dominant.
  2. Dayi is thought to have changed significantly in 2004 (and then again a few years later).
  3. Most teas I own are younger, usually 2003-2010. The Dayi teas I do own are on the younger end of that spectrum.
  4. While I’ve had my share of teas purportedly from the late 1990s and early 2000s, I have tried only a handful of Dayi teas in that range. These tastings were also done over the course of several years making comparison difficult.

These teas were all tried with bottled, low TDS water picked up locally and were brewed at least twice each. I also did not know the individual cost of any of these teas when I tried them.

Teas

2001紫大益4號餅(103) Purple Dayi No.4

A very impressive tea and definitely one of the best early factory teas I’ve had. It’s also the youngest and most aromatic of the batch. Hay, minerals, an impressively strong huigan. It’s also lightly textured and powdery. The soup is moderately thick. There’s a bit of smoke, especially early on. The depth of the tea is also much better than the other two teas. Some qi/flow through the body, it does not leave me in a stupor but it is there.

While there’s a lot of things to enjoy about the tea, the two standout attributes are the tea’s overall potency and the huigan. I’d definitely rank this towards the very top of factory teas I’ve tried in this era. It’s very solid and enjoyable now and it’s strength makes me think that it will only get better.

2000大口中雲南野生大葉餅茶 Yunnan Wild Daye Qing bing

The first tea I tried, and it nearly tripped me up right out of the gate. The Wild Daye QIng Bing is easily the least familiar and most difficult to figure out of the three. The tea is lighter, sweeter, hay-like, and woody. There’s some powdery texture there. Later steeps there’s some dry fruit and mild astringency when pushed.

I think for me the most damning flaw is the lack of overall potency and strength that the other two teas have. There’s some nice characteristics here, but it’s mainly just decent and slightly weird.

1997大口中小綠印 97 Little Green Mark

I believe this tea was stored a little more humidly than the other two. The profile is a little smoother in a way that I don’t think the 3-4 year age difference alone can totally account for. It’s not anything close to a heavily traditionally stored tea, but there is a difference there.

The profile is a familiar one. It is woody, earthy, and fruity. There’s some light bitterness but this tea is the most ready to drink now. Later steeps are a little milky and creamy. The huigan and depth are pretty good but don’t match the 2001.

My second session is similar and helpful to confirm my initial impressions. Creamy, thick, somewhat soft. Maintains that same woody, earthy profile. I’ve been told that this tea is somewhat like 7542, and compared to the 504 7542 I own a cake of, it’s certainly believable.

Dayi Teas Tasted

TeaMakerRating
2001 Purple Dayi No. 4Dayi7.4
2000 Yunnan Wild Daye Qing bingDayi6
1997 Little Green MarkDayi6.7

Expanding Views & Takeaways

I think people sometimes use overly broad statements on teas they are less familiar with and have only sampled a little of. I am certainly guilty of this at times. My understanding of Dayi teas from this era coming in were pretty basic. That the teas were: (a) decent quality, strong teas made for the long-term and (b) bad value. While neither (a) or (b) have been proven wrong, I was able to fill in the details much more with my own perception and understanding of teas from this era.

There’s More Variation Than I Previously Assumed

One issue with using an overly broad brush is that even when you get the big details of the category right, there’s still a lot to be learned from other aspects of the tea. Dayi makes a ton of teas now (in 2019) and they are definitely not all created equal. Even though they made less tea, this was also very likely true in this earlier era as well..

The three teas are actually far more varied from one another more than I suspected. I also personally ranked them quite differently. This serves as an important reminder that I should take teas on a case to case basis and not judge too much into my preconceived notion of the label and era.

22 Year Old Tea Soup
22 Year Old Tea Soup.

Strong Tea & The Future

One of the reasons I tried these teas was to see if it would impact how I feel about my own slowly aging teas. This sampling really made me think about and consider the importance of overall strength and potency. So how do my semi-aged sheng compare with these and do I think they will be? Some teas like Yangqing Hao I just put into a totally different box. They’re not really easily comparable and are aiming for different things.

What about my factory teas? They’re younger and greener. I doubt any of them will ever be close to as good or as strong as the 2001 Purple Dayi, with its potency and enduring huigan. The 2000 Yunnan Wild Daye Qing Bing is frankly weird and tells me that even a reliable producer in an earlier era doesn’t always crap gold. Of the three, the 1997 Little Green Mark, while enjoyable and probably the most drinkable teas seems more ordinary and something possibly attainable.

Oddly enough I’m not sure that it really impacted my prior feelings on my own teas. I bought many of them with ~10-15 years in Guangdong or Taiwan which gives them a nice boost, but they are now in the much slower storage of Seattle. The teas tried in this tasting are between 18 to 22 years old, whereas the bulk of my teas are at least a few years younger. When my own teas are 20-25 years old or so, I’ll probably have a better idea where they stack up.

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8 Responses to Three Menghai Tea Factory Teas Between 1997-2001

  1. Chadrinkincat says:

    Nice selection of teas! How does one order from this vendor?

  2. shah8 says:

    People have compared the 01 n.4 and the simplified yun over the years. Do you remember your session with the Malaysian stored well enough to compare anything at all with the n.4?

    • shah8 says:

      Also, which n.4 did you try? There are three pressings, and at the very least, the third is meaningfully different.

      • James says:

        Third batch.

        I need to rewatch that episode with the 2001 MY storage to jog my memory, I’ll respond back when I do.

    • James says:

      OK. Rewatched episode. The Jianyun was definitely fruitier. I also think it had seen relatively more humidity than the 2001 Purple Dayi 103, which I think maintains a lot of its greeness and smoke.

      I recently met up with my friend Meng who provided the sample of the 2001 Jianyun, and he was saying that the tea has turned another corner since we had the tea and it had mellowed into a very drinkable state in the last few years since we had the tea. We should be revisiting it when we meet up for tea next time. I’m especially curious to see how the huigan strikes me when we re-drink it.

  3. Jonny山內 says:

    Hi James
    Do you think there may have been a storage issue with the Wild Daye Qing bing?
    It sounds like you are describing a tea that has gone a bit flat and tired due to inconsistent storage, perhaps being moved from too many locations over the years.
    I have come across this in some of the older Dayi bricks that have just been circulated too much between different vendors. I call this phenomena “travel weary”.
    I’m always cautious that the older to material there is a chance this may have happened. Its always good to have had a sample first though.

    • James says:

      I considered that when I was first trying the tea. But based off my tasting with it, I’m skeptical that the primary culprit is storage.

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