The 1998 "peacock", my first proper love in the world of tea - it was the first pu'er that I bought. Just a single tuo of it. One tiny, weeny, 100g peacock.
I looked back through my old diaries to find my original opinions of it: I had to go back to Book No. 17 (and I'm just starting No. 31). I notice on the original notes, some overwritten parts in a different pen as I have revisited it over the years. Some notes say "just straw - uninteresting", some seem more encouraging.
Noticing the remains of this tea on my shelves, that has such a singular place in my affections, I thought it time to revisit. How has it been doing for its years of English storage?
Unsurprising for Menghai tuocha, it's a highly-compressed collection of small leaves and small fragments (above). It has a gentle, sweet scent. The leaves have a proper darkness about them: not the darkness that one sees in modern leaves after a year or two, but the real orange-red darkness of leaves with some maturity (if only a decade, surely just an instant in some long-term collectors' reckoning).
The aroma in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup] is a crisp, dark aroma of caramel. I'm glad that the clarity of dry storage is proving to be possible, even out here in the barbarian Saxon wastes of England.
The soup (pictured above) is turning a pleasant orange-red hue. I've seen lots of teas with this colour (usually of around a decade or so in age), but this is the first tea that I feel a connection with, having partly reared it myself.
The flavour is sweet cedarwood, that high and sweet nature characteristic of Menghai. "Penetrating sweetness", notes my dear wife.
The real treat is the chaqi: this tea is developing a real flush as it ages. Up the spine, down the arms, it feels quite the tonic. Even more unusual, the cooling and almost numbing sensation in the mouth, indicative of real decency.
As the infusions wear on, it turns vanilla. After ten infusions, the leaves run out of puff, and the session draws to a satisfied close.
I've only got enough left for three sessions, but I can see myself treasuring each one... My old friend, the 1998 Peacock.