29 October, 2009

2009 Menghai - Dayi 7542 (901)

I really love the release of the traditional Menghai recipes. I couldn't sleep properly one night, and found myself awake at 3 a.m., downstairs at the tea-table, ready to taste the 2009 version of this old favourite.




As always, this is a blend of maocha from the previous two years. This gives it a somewhat less green appearance than one might otherwise expect:




This being 7542, the leaves are medium-sized fragments from medium-sized leaves. You get a few tips in the blend, but mostly it's just middle-grade leaves. This isn't a bad thing, because they taste great.




Even under the artificial pre-dawn light, they look appealing. The smell is pungently sweet. The consistency of the blend from year to year is quite remarkable, given the variability of harvests.




The aroma is encouraging: it is crisp, sweet, powerful, long, and, perhaps happiest of all, familiar.

Familiarity is half of the charm of this old friend, along with its uncompromising brutality. After spending too much time drinking cakes that have been tweaked this way and that in order to seem more instantly appealing, I appreciate the down-to-earth honesty of 7542, which is a figurative kick in the groin as far as potency goes, but nonetheless enjoyable.

After drinking "dumbed down" tea for so long, it's really refreshing to have the 7542 shouting at you from the cup and calling you rude names.




It's yellow with a hint of orange, courtesy of its one- and two-year-old blended maocha. This year's 7542 is definitely 7542, but it is the tinest bit sweeter, the tiniest bit higher, the tiniest bit less chunky than previous years.

As always, the kuwei [pleasant bitter-taste] always stays just on this side of enjoyable. They say "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun", and I'm sure something equivalent can be said of people that enjoy drinking 7542 while young - but I count myself among their grizzled, crazed number. I love the freshness, the challenge, all wrapped up in that delicious Menghai fresh-straw-and-sweet-mushroom character that they manage to recreate so successfully each year.

While having plenty of kuwei, there is no sewei [SIR-WAY, astringent-taste], even though I used tons of leaf. It has all of the complexity that one hopes for in 7542, with all manner of floral hints tucked away in the finish. Aged 7542 and 7532 (first son, and first daughter) are some of my favourites for just this reason, as they often seem to have more to offer than, for example, elegant little 8582 (second daughter).




I sit on a tiny little stool in the conservatory, lights dimmed. It's raining hard outside, and I sit in the peace and quiet of the 5 a.m. morning listening to the raindrops hammering against the windows, the wind howling through the treetops. No-one else is around to hear it, no cars are on the roads. Wind, rain, and me.





Another good year for 7542, for all is minor nuance of character. I often wonder why I bother chasing other low-end teas, when the inexpensive Menghai classic recipes thrill me so greatly.



Addendum
October, 2013

I have been drinking various Dayi cakes from 2008 and 2009 lately, stored in our house, and this is by far the most fragrant.  It has a low, thick sweetness that lasts well in the wenxiangbei.  Similarly, the flavour is dark, thick, and rich.  Perhaps I am just in the "right mood" for tea - it is 4.30 a.m. and I cannot sleep.

Dayi tea is fascinating: it is obviously basic, and yet it is so obviously good after a few years of aging.  I even like it raw.  It is a work of considerable skill to make a decent tea, and one that is so stable and reliable, from such raw materials.  This 7542-901 is deep and husky, and has the heaviness of Dayi aging.  Sentence after sentence, the huigan endures in the throat.  It has roughness, because it is taidicha [plantation tea], but it is so very enjoyable that we must forgive it such flaws.  It is, after all, extraordinarily good value.

12 comments:

Tony Shlongini said...

My first experience with the '09 version of this classic corresponded with my single worst brewing session ever. I don't know what I did wrong, but for the life of me I couldn't coax a damned thing out of it. Bleh. Subsequent efforts have been delightful. For so young a sheng, it's very approachable, with its assertiveness more than offset by its lovely floral components and fruit.

I hope all of their 09's fare as well.

五行雲子 said...

I feel suitably teased as I have two 7542 samples from two different decades on their way to my front door.

Who would of guessed that insomnia could be so rewarding?

Hobbes said...

Dear Tony,

I remember reading your initial impression, and being concerned! It is different, but still within the broad 7542 range. rest of the year!

Here's hoping for good things from the
rest :)


Dear Yunzi,

Insomnia isn't any fun, but it gives you time to read in the morning!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Jack M said...

I've been pondering over which Menghai beengs to include in my next order, this one sounds interesting so will certainly consider giving it a go! Any other Menghai recipes you would strongly recommend?

Jack :)

Hobbes said...

Dear Jack,

It would be uncontroversial of me to suggest that the 7542, 7532, and 8582 are good shengpu for the money!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Jason Witt said...

I also like teas with this kind of kick and I too find the rude treatment rather refreshing. At times. Perhaps it doesn't endear itself to me as an everyday tea then, but an aggressive tea can be a good thing. What's good about this tea is that it proves itself by not changing much from season to season. --Spirituality of Tea

Lew Perin said...

Familiarity is half of the charm of this old friend, along with its uncompromising brutality.

Now that I've been reading your blog for years, familiarity is half its charm, along with its intermittent spikiness.

Maitre_Tea said...

If you started a session of 7542 at 3 am, I'm guessing you probably didn't sleep that night...or the night after. This stuff is massively potent, and truly a great value for what it is. I'm curious as to how these larger factories manage to store their maocha over the years, since non-factory cakes that use aged maocha seem to taste dodgy in my opinion.

PS: Off-topic, but I saw that Dragon Tea House just put up a ton of Douji bricks (but knowing you probably already knew that). Might pick up the smaller less expensive bricks to see what the hub-bub is all about.

Terje said...

Inspired by you late night adventures I brought one of mine 7542 cakes to my studyroom - while I was in the library someone stole it! The Great Pu'er Theft of 2009, and it happened at the theology faculty! Luckily Menghai have made several of these.

五行雲子 said...

Who on earth steals pu erh?

Anonymous said...

"After drinking "dumbed down" tea for so long, it's really refreshing to have the 7542 shouting at you from the cup and calling you rude names."

Best sentence ever!

Thanks so much for sharing your opinions on tea. I have learned much by reading them.

Cheers!

Hobbes said...

Dear Lew,

Yes, I aim for the familiar comfort of a slipper into which you suspect a pet has left some unsightly business: friendly, yet disturbing. Glad to have you along for the duration.


Dear Maitre_Tea,

Thanks for the notice regarding the Douji bricks - like Menghai's standard productions, they are cheap but very cheerful. I have a set of all of Douji's productions from this year coming from Taobao, incidentally, which seem to be taking their time!


Dear Terje,

Sorry to hear about the great pu'er theft; at least it wasn't an ancient cake!


Dear Anonymous,

thanks for the kind words - I'm very glad that you enjoyed reading the ol' Half-Dipper.


Toodlepip all,

Hobbes