The Menghai Tea Factory is the standard bearer for ripe puerh tea. Menghai is one of two factories that pioneered the production of ripe puerh and first introduced the tea to the market in the early 1970s. Over the decades Menghai Tea Factory have established a reputation for producing reliable to exceptional aged vintages of quality ripe puerh. Since the start of their operations Menghai remains the biggest and most reputable factory in China and internationally for ripe puerh tea.
The 2003 Chienyun Red Dayi ripe puerh is one of the better Menghai productions that I have come across. Personally I find the tea to be very pleasant with some Chinese medicinal notes and utterly satisfying. It hits all the right buttons for a ripe puerh tea being smooth, mellow and presents a nice mouthfeel. The tea progresses with an escalation of sweetness after each steep and reaches its high point for appreciation on the 4th and 5th steeps. Pushing the last steeps for 15-20 minutes brewing can bring out more of the lovely sweet herbal taste. My best praise for this tea is that it always makes me feel very comfortable and at ease.
Referenced from the Profound World of Chi Tse 1950-2004 on the 2003 Chienyun Red Dayi from Menghai Tea Factory.
Additional Note: It is from my experience with drinking (and spitting out!) various white wrappers and other less well known products by other factories that makes me believe the production of ripe puerh can at times be tricky to get right. Experienced and well trained experts are needed to best ensure consistency and a standard of quality. Otherwise the wet pile fermentation (similar to composting) that is the key towards producing good ripe puerh can easily turn bad and quickly deteriorate. Established factories such as Menghai and Kunming Tea factory are often seen as the most reliable brands for ripe puerh tea due to their history and proven track record.
The most appalling aspect about ripe puerh tea is that when it gets bad it can be horrific. Negative characteristics of sourness, fish odor, rot and other unidentified funkiness and even chemicals are not uncommon. The quality of ripe puerh tea varies greatly from other factories so it is important to be vigilant. I urge you to always use boiling hot water and a standard double rinse for all ripe puerh teas and always nose and assess the tea before deciding to sip the brew. On a final note, in my humble assessment ripe puerh does improve with age (although less dramatically than raw puerh) and the negative characteristics of the tea can be mitigated and lessened with time. However from my experience the presence of any sharp sourness or chemicals makes it simply not worth the time and effort.
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