It seems that every time I open an article concerning Mengyang Guoyan, I have to remind myself that, once or twice, they have produced good, complex cakes that I enjoy. The reason for this odd statement is that their usual productions are bland, mainstream mulch, to my humble tastes.
The cakes that I own from this factory typically derive from the blissful naivety of my early pu'er-drinking days, when I bought them from Yunnan Sourcing, Royal Pu'er, etc. If I've learned one thing, it's that the cakes that are the cheapest of the cheap very often turn out to be fairly unimpressive. Surely a profound revelation!
I have also learning that several years of storage in Singapore can do wonders for even the most mediocre cake. Our entirely-too-generous tea-friend, Keng, has so kindly provided us with cakes from across the spectrum, over the years, and yet almost all have been entirely delicious. The depth of flavour imparted by proper storage is something to behold.
I remember visiting a shop deep within the cavernous belly of the "Chayuan" shopping centre, at the southern end of Beijing's Maliandao, some years ago. There is a photograph of the shop somewhere in the old pages of the Half-Dipper, but I cannot recall where. A smiling hostess and her daughter sat in front of a wall of Mengyang Guoyan cakes, the wrapper of each of which was of a similar style to that shown in the upper photograph on this page: a series of ethnic minorities in local dress.
The tippy, flat leaves have a reassuring scent of humid atmospheres, and they are correspondingly dark without being red. As you can see in the images above and below, this is a rough-and-ready blend, incorporating all sizes of leaves. Perhaps that will give it stability and complexity.
I am unsurprised to be greeted by a thick, orange soup, the charming product of humid, warm storage. As ever with cakes from Keng, this has a fine body filled with the powerful, sharp woodiness for which one would hope. It is great fun, and pulls me to wakefulness.
As with good cakes, it has some inertia: it resists making itself fully available until a few infusions have passed, and it is similarly reticent in the mouth, building slowly. The result is an excellent, solid huigan, when it eventually appears.
The 2006 version of this cake is available for a mere 80 RMB via Taobao, and that strikes me as being particularly low: I recall that the original cakes, in the Maliandao shop, were also priced quite humbly. I am confident that this is a fairly basic cake, and yet Singaporean storage has worked its familiar magic upon it. Of course, the Taobao version, being two years younger than this 2004 cake, and probably stored in different conditions, could prove to be more prosaic.
Thanks, as always, to Keng for yet another satisfying tea session.