This 1997 loose leaf is an intriguing puerh tea. What caught my attention was that this tea represents one of the few very clean dry stored puerh teas of the 1990s going against the trend of traditional (wet) storage which was the general norm at the time. The character of this tea reminds me of the famous Menghai 88 Qingbing dry stored teacake. It is my belief that the combination of dry storage and leaf material made to the standard of Menghai Tea Factory are key contributing factors to this resemblance.
Earthenware containers are slightly porous and make great containers for storing and aging puerh tea.
The story of these leaves are that originally they were intended for the Menghai Tea Factory but became lost and forgotten along the way. As a result the tea was never compressed into a teacake and remained in loose leaf form. Assessing the physical appearance of the leaves I find them to be in line with Menghai blended materials. The leaf material consists of tender plantation shoots that have been finely chopped and heavily rolled in the same style that can be found in Menghai’s famous recipes of 7542 and 7532.
The aged character of the 1997 loose leaf is representative of a semi aged tea. Tasting this tea I am immediately drawn to make comparisons with the 2003 Purple Dayi from Menghai Tea Factory. The difference in age and maturity of the 2 teas becomes obvious in the brew. The 1997 loose tea shows considerably more maturity and age than its younger counterpart. The brew is visibly clear with the orange brown hues of age. The tea has noticeably softened and mellowed with age but retains some aspects of astringency and possessing considerable complexity and nuances. Most of this are found in the top notes and can be accentuated by sipping noisily to the purpose of adding air bubbles to the brew as it enters the mouth. This vaporous effect enables our senses to better and more easily pick up on these higher notes of wood spice, camphor, plums, wild honey and others that are intermingled in this complex and vibrant brew. Permitting the brew to slightly cool and deliberately letting the tea soak into the cavities of the mouth allows the senses to fully immerse in the appreciation of this tea.
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Additional Note: From my observations the mainstream recognition of dry storage started around 2003 when the Menghai 88 Qingbing would emerge on to the scene. This teacake was specially stored by Mr Chan Kowk Yee the owner of The Best Tea House (Hong Kong) who is most famous for being the pioneer for dry storage and introducing new parameters for puerh tea storage that would employ the use of "a clean and airy dry warehouse" (in their own words) as oppose to the more traditional (wet) storage.