Tuesday, March 3, 2015

1990s Menghai Orange Label (HK Private Commission)


Hong Kong is known as one of the four Asian Tigers (the others being Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea). The rapid growth and wealth of this port city made Hong Kong one of the wealthiest Asian cities in the nineties and remains so to this day. This private tea production made for the Hong Kong market highlights the important role Hong Kong played as a consumer and trader of puerh tea. To satisfy the local taste and preference this batch of raw teacake was aged under HK traditional (wet) storage.

The white frost is a familiar sight amongst teacakes that have been through wet storage. For practitioners of Chinese Medicine such teas possess a warming energy (Yang) and is believed to be beneficial for the digestive system. From personal experience and as someone with a weak digestive tract I find that wet stored tea and especially this tea in particular have eased my discomforts many times. - Read my perspective on combining the understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and tea for optimizing the benefits of this healthy drink under the tea entry for 1990s Menghai Green Label

Puerh tea that has been stored and allowed to develop under HK traditional storage is known for a having a mildly sweet Chinese medicine character that is presented in a dark, smooth and full bodied brew. The best examples of wet storage are often represented by teas from the famous Menghai Tea Factory that can range from the 1940s to the early 2000s. During this period of time Menghai Tea Factory was known to produce heavy, strong and potent raw puerh teas that would be very suitable for wet storage. The degree of wet storage can be generally categorized into 3 levels, mild, medium and heavy. Mild and medium wet storage will retain the tea’s complexity within the dark brew whilst a heavy degree of wet storage will tend to smooth and mellow out the tea to the extent that it will become very similar to ripe puerh.

 Observing the appearance and feeling the elasticity of the wet leaves is a way to gauge the level of wet storage. The final assessment is in the brew.

This teacake represents a higher quality of tea comparative to what is generally available in the market. There is much to like about this teacake. The medium wet storage has developed and enhanced the age characteristics of this tea very well. The brew presents an almost perfumed aroma of talcum powder followed by a pleasantly sweet and nicely textured brew providing strength, complexity and notes reminiscent of much older puerh tea. A double flushing of hot boiling water is used to wash away the surface layer of white frost accumulated from storage on the leaves. The tea begins to open up and shine from the 4th to 5th steeps onwards. The main notes I find are Chinese medicine, talcum powder, herbs, jujube, red wood, bark combined with other dark and age characteristics are presented in this enjoyable age brew. The tea is comforting and warming to the body.

See more teas from the Tea List

Additional Note: Hong Kong has a rich and eventful history as a trading port for Chinese tea. Starting in the 16th century Chinese tea was traded for mostly silver with European countries. The British especially became heavily involved as a result of their fondness for Chinese tea. The trades were highly profitable for the merchants involved and annually many ships would risk the long voyages across the vast Atlantic and Indian Oceans in a race to be the first to bring back the precious cargo. Tea was the most prized commodity to come out of China and the first ship to bring back tea for the new season would have the market at their mercy and could command astounding prices for their cargo. The problem for the British was that trade with China was severely one-way. The Chinese wanted little else in return for their goods other than silver and as a result vast amounts of silver flowed into China. As silver became harder to find the British turned to opium as a solution to their growing trade deficit. This would cause the Opium Wars and lead to Hong Kong becoming a British colony until 1997 when the port city would be officially returned to The People’s Republic of China.

The Cutty Sark was a British clipper used mainly for the purpose of transporting tea from China to England. Designed for speed, the ship could cut through rough waves with great efficiency and make expedited delivery. The high value and precious cargo of Chinese green and black teas at the time led to the formation of the ‘Race of the Tea Clippers’, an annual event where various crews competed to bring in the first tea shipment of the year.


  1. Very nice and historical data included. The sad part of the tea trade was the addiction the opium and the damage that was caused by it.

    1. Hello Mr Mopar,

      Perhaps the takeaway history lesson here is >> Get addicted to tea, not opium :)

      Best, VP

    2. I agree 110%! Love my tea for sure!