This is the second of two pu'ercha samples kindly provided by Daniel, of Vancouver's aptly-named Chinese Teashop. Like the other sample (which was a 2005 Yichanghao), this comes from a brand that I have come to appreciate for making solid tea. While it may not stop the clocks, the brand usually provides me with decent tea at a typically low price.
I recall ST being so kind as to provide me with a sample of the 2004 version of this cake, whose name, of course, refers to "Big Snow Mountain" in Yongde County, of Lincang diqu [prefecture]. Shuangjiang, which is where the Shuangjiang Mengku Tea Co. is based, is also in Lincang. That whole area reminds me of beany, savoury flavours, which I find entirely adorable.
The sample comprises medium-sized leaves in large fragments. Daniel is generous with his quantities, and I believe that some of this sample has since made its way in a care package to Matt. This is a fitting end for it, because Matt was the reason I have these samples from Vancouver in this first place - so thanks again.
I found the 2004 version to be somewhat reddened, but this version from a year later does not appear to be too cheekily processed. Yes, they are a mainstream brand not known for their hand-crafted extravagance, but they are well-known for being good blenders. When you have good Lincang leaves to work with, you can work wonders, it seems.
This is a very appealing tea. It is sticky, sweet, and leaves behind a candy-like aroma and a gripping kuwei [good bitterness] in the mouth. I wrote that it is "enjoyable, sweet, and nicely mouthwatering with no obvious flaws".
It marches on well, and delivers stable, honey-like tones with a thickish body, and a good grip of the tongue. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking, but I even detect a little bean-like character, in the Mengku fashion.
There is just enough fun and tantalising naughtiness in this tea to keep my coming back for more infusions. At $40, it's well-priced, and compares well with other 2005 cakes. Shuangjiang Mengku tea is seldom very expensive, but, like this little fellow, provides plenty of interest for the relatively low price.
Apache and I have bought some trial cakes of this old classic, via Taobaowang. The price was approximately 30 USD after everything, which compares very well with the 40 USD price from 2011, quoted in the original article above.
This is a very (very) pretty cake. The image below may not do it justice, but it exudes raw bingcha appeal.
While the neipiao is getting old and knackered, the glossy ATI sticker looks as if eight years have not touched it, pictured below.
I didn't quite realise how beautiful the leaves of this rather humble cake actually were. Pictured below, the majority are long and very attractive.
The dry leaves exude a charming scent of sweetness, tobacco, and humidity. It is a wonderful combination.
I must confess to being rather excited, at this stage. A tong would cost under £140 (approx. $200), which is good for an eight-year-old tea. The quality seems surprisingly high...
It is the story in the cup that gives me pause for thought, and dials back by hyperbole a little.
This is a very clean and accomplished little tea, and there is no doubt that it is priced well. That said, it is quite mainstream. That is, it does not scale any particular heights, but offers a base of solid sweetness and a woody character in keeping with eight years of good storage.
I was ready to go a little wild over this cake, because everything was so very "right", from the start. However, while stable and quite full in the mouth, it is definitely a down-to-earth tea. Ultimately, that is where I currently sit: undecided. I have rather a lot of down-to-earth tea, and probably don't need much more. Dayi cakes, for example, do the mainstream-plantation genre very well, and we have plentiful inexpensive Dayi for such drinking.
However, if you have not yet reached saturation point with very solid cakes that you would like to enjoy on a very regular (daily?) basis, then this is a reliable candidate. I wrote in my journal that "It repays attention, but is easily overlooked."
There is a cooling vibrancy to this cake that you wouldn't otherwise expect, but most of its kuwei has been aged out of it, and exchanged for sweetness already. You would hope for a little more left in reserve, if you were going to age it further, and I suspect that we may be witnessing "peak Mengku", more or less, for this cake. What you get for £19, though, is something of a bargain.