It feels as if every old(er) Menghai that I drink comes from 1998. This is most definitely not a complaint, because they have all been entirely delicious. Looking back at my tasting notes for 1998 Menghai tea brings back a lot of woody, sweet flavour memories.
This example comes from KC, my longtime Hong Kong chum who seems to be well-steeped in pu'ercha. His house must smell brilliant.
Of course, one stops smelling ones own house after a while. I was amused at the reaction of my mother, who was visiting us recently, who observed "This house smells like tea and Chinese food." I rather wish I hadn't become accustomed to the scent, because it sounds rather appealing.
The scent of this old fellow is of some quality south-China storage. There is plenty of humidity in this cake's past, and it has been kind to the leaves. As you can see in the image above, they have aged delightfully.
(This is a distinct contrast with the 1999 8582 from Tearoma, that I recently described - they seem separated by much more than a single year.)
Did you see something interesting in the above photograph? Allow me to show you a close-up image of the same leaves...
These are jinhua, golden flowers. I recall with a burst of ungainly pride how CB once put her jinhua-laden leaves under the microscope to determine that they were crystalline, and not anything more unpleasant (and lively).
The above image tells us all we need to know about this tea. Consider its depth of colour. Note its golden meniscus, creeping up the side of the glass like a good, old wine. We can almost taste its viscous body in the mouth, the sweetness of old rosewood left behind in the nose.
As befits its yesheng [wild] status, this tea has plenty of content, and the years have been most generous to its development. I drink it as long as time and water supplies allow, and thanks KC once again for a real treat. Menghai make some rather great cakes.
I was impressed three years ago, when I last tried this tea, and I am ready to be impressed again. The jinhua that I noticed before are still present - they are tiny, yellow crystals. "This is spectacular", I have written in my diary: its aged, humid character lends it the sweetness of vanilla. Much of this is after-scent, left in the senses after the tea has been swallowed. It has a clean, red-orange soup that looks as if it might, one day, become burgundy in colour.
After eight or so infusions, it has faded, but it is charming while it lasts.