25 May, 2011

2011 Essence of Tea "Mannuo"

This time of year is somewhat special - the new season's pu'ercha starts to become available.  Hello, new tea.  Goodbye, money.

In particular, I look forward to the arrival of cakes from Essence of Tea, which are heavily represented on my shelves.

2011 Nada Mannuo

The first aspect of this year's productions that struck me was the increase in price.  The 2009 cakes were £12-£20 (averaging around £18) before discounts, the 2010 cakes were £17-£40 (averaging around £25), and the 2011 cakes are £38-£51 (averaging £44).  These are no longer "impulse purchases", and I spend some time debating about what to do.  The comparison of these cakes to others becomes a touch harder each year, as the prices increase.  For me, I realise that this is Nada's sole livelihood, and I don't mind paying a friend for what is typically rather awesome tea.  I'm sure that we will all reach different conclusions.

Being entirely selfish for a moment (do forgive me), I am a touch relieved that I had managed to buy some of these cakes in quantity in previous years.  Some of the new 2011 cakes were obtained from the same farmers as in previous years, and so I won't buy too many more at the higher prices.  Some of the cakes, however, are entirely new.  This "Mannuo" is one of the new types.

2011 EoT Mannuo

Nada's notes indicate that Mannuozhai is a village in Mengwang district of Xishuangbanna.  The leaves were picked from trees that are 400-500 years of age, and, based on previous experience, I typically take Nada's word for it when it comes to such claims. 

I find myself excited about the prospect of trying something that is, if Nada remains true-to-form, a proper old-tree cake from a region that I have come to adore for its tea.  I don't have enough solid "Banna" tea in my collection, apart from the usual hotspots, and so there is a chance that the Mannuo will be very well received.

2011 Nada Mannuo

It starts yellow, as do virtually all of Nada's teas, because they are processed properly.  The leaves are on the small side in this cake, and are furry, shining, and whole.  The aroma cup delivers a potent scent of caramelised fruits: it is the darker, lower scent of real Banna tea.

It reveals similarly heavy, charming characteristics in the mouth that I recall from some Menghai cakes: it is fruity and sweet, and yet has a heavy, low ceiling of darkened oak and leather.  Left lingering in the nose, a complex of tart fruits and late-summer sugariness.  I love it.  This really is very much "my cup of tea".

Fresh vibrancy on the lips, a thick body - it arouses my blood and brings me fully awake, despite the early hour. My diary has "A cake like few others.  This tea is an instant favourite.  Perfectly timed.  Just enough of everything to keep me engaged throughout."

2011 Nada Mannuo

Zidu [purple-belly, my teapot] shines brightly, which I take to be his nod of approval.  Although my birthday will not arrive for two months, I think I've found my "birthday gift", and order a tong.

It is entirely possible that this, my first tea from 2011, may turn out to be the best tea that I try from 2011.

June, 2012

Having gone through a patch of drinking fairly rough teas of late, I returned to one of my favourites from 2011.  Happily, the cake is doing well.  This year, the soup is yellow with a slight hint of brown.  The aroma remains low and rich; the soup is as vibrant on the lips and as cooling on the breath as I remember it.  My diary notes "What a lovely mixture of sweetness and rich, complex flavours.  The menthol finish is first class, and puts many of the 2012 cakes to shame."


Anonymous said...

Mannuo was always notable for it's fragrance, I believe. Not common on Taobao and usually cheap bricks. I had been hoping that this would be cheap.

How's the huigan? It also sounds like you don't have much of a "too clean" problem with this bing Acccchhh, I'll find out soon enough since I bought a small sample. Alot of emotional frisson here. I'd love to have some but $65 for a cake forces me to be conservative since I have very little idea of how it will age.

The miracle of Nada's pricing in earlier years was that I could buy enough tea that I could graze on an odd bing whenever I just felt like a nice tea--it will feel strange to hoard my new Nannuo bings like XZHs.


Wojciech Bońkowski said...

I've yet to try any of the EoT 2011s but agree on the price jump.
On the other hand the previous' years prices (especially 2009) were just unrealistic with today's market. I was late buying 2009 cakes and ended up paying 4x the release price from a private guy I found on Teachat.
I've yet to try any of the EoT 2011s but I'm curiously confident they will be worth the increased price.

Hobbes said...

Dear Shah and Wojciech,

There is a decent huigan, yes. I agree that Nada's earlier cakes were certainly underpriced, given the Western scale. Like you, I am treating the productions from more recent years carefully, and not drinking my way through them too quickly, in order to help them last into their middle-age.

I'm amused to read that there is a black market in Essence of Tea cakes from previous years!



Anonymous said...

Well, the 2009 Bulang seems to really impress their owners. The 2010 is on the level of or better than the Jin Mei Tang 2007 equivalent. We are really, really, really limited on boutique sheng in the US. For example, how many boutique Nannuos have been available in the West? Bada? Jingmai? Hmmm? If we didn't have XZH or Nada, well...I suppose 12 Gentlemen is okay, but...it'd just be acorns that Scott, Jim, and Guang sorts through and gets bought up as soon as peeps recognize the quality because you know, only a tong or two at a time...

Let's not kid ourselves. I will not ever be selling my Nadacha, and I think there are few who's bought enough to even think about it--and many who didn't get the chance to get any who really wants some. Hence extortionate prices for Bulang and Nannuo from '08 and '09. Heh, can you even get the Mahei '09 at all?


Anonymous said...

Well, who know, Nada's tea might be tomorrow 88 Qing or even Red Mark. No matter what, it certainly much nicer than a lot of stuff I tried.


Jackie said...

I clicked through to your post because Chan Teas mentioned you in their blog.

Just have to say; I was blown away by your photographs. The tea pics are an absolute visual pleasure. Really stunning. I'm going to bookmark your blog, so I get to see more of your pics in future.

But yes as you said: "Hello new tea, good-bye money." At least the money is going towards a good cause ;)


Hobbes said...

Hi, Jackie,

It's nice to have you with us - thanks for the comment.

I haven't come across Chan Teas before, so thanks also for mentioning it - perhaps I'll give them a go.



Giri Mandi said...

Amazing Pu! Unfortunately sold out now, gotta ration two bings... grrrr!

Hobbes said...

Two cakes will last you ages, fear not :)



shah8 said...

Yeah, you might want to retry this one. Mine is absurdly sweet.