22 June, 2007

2001 Shuangjiang Mengku "Yuanyexiang" Shicang

The Shuangjiang Menkgu factory is of course famous for its "Mengku Rongshi" [Mengku Rong-family] brand of shengpu. Today's "Yuanyexiang" [wild grass-field scent] is a special order from Chen Guoyi, the gentleman allegedly responsible for popularising gancang [dry storehouse], and claims to originate from old wild-style plantations.

Perhaps ironically give Mr. Chen's history, this "thick paper" version has seen only shicang [wet storehouse].

It was sold by Houde, and this sample came to me courtesy of the generosity of Dr. Mike Sichangpu (ne Psychopuncture) - thanks again!

Caledonian Springs @ 100C in 8cl hanwu [Han-dynasty tile] shengpu pot; ~5-6g leaf; 1 rinse

Dry leaves:
Surprisingly dark - shicang really does do the trick as far as giving the appearance of accelerated aging. A mixture of grades, from stems to tips, though no leaves of any obviously great size - it looks fragmented. The familiar, slightly clammy and earthy-sweet aroma of shicang is all about the leaves.

5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 60s, 90s, 120s, 150s:
What a trooper this tea turned out to be, weighing in at 12 infusions whilst still carrying a good flavour (albeit 8cl brews).

It's a simple tea. What there is present is very enjoyable - if shicang fits your personal taste. Xiaomao dislikes the whole damp feel of it, and limited her participation to a single cup, this time.

Oddly enough, the first few infusions are rich in colour, as shown in the photograph, though this rapidly dissipates to a lighter orange-red even by the third infusion. It is as if there is something short-lived and rapidly-infused in this tea that provides great opening colour and aroma, which quickly vanishes. What is left is pleasant (and soldiers on consistently for the remaining brews), but it's quite a change.

Also, those initial few infusions have a smoothness and slickness that one associates with tips. Looking at the dry leaves, while tips are present, they're fairly limited, and this corresponds closely with the limited number of smooth infusions given.

The overall feel is the familiar damp-library flavour and aroma of shicang, with a background of great sweetness. There is penetrating ku, which really develops in the fourth infusion, and then remains until the end.

Particularly once the tea has got into its swing, around the fourth infusion, it is very "traditional Chinese medicine": slightly minty, and very cooling in effect - so much so, in fact, that I needed to put on a jumper. This potency of effect is backed up by a considerable caffeine content (not really chaqi). The medicinal character wanes by the eighth infusion or so, but I'm impressed it got out that far.

At the end of the session, the fundamental characteristics of shicang and ku dominate, with a generically sweet background.

Wet leaves:
Chopped and bitty, it is not easy to find large leaves. There are some oddly circular examples present [pictured].

An interesting opening of tips and burgundy, which matures into a fully-fledged medicinal effect.
I would like to dry-store this tea for five years or so, to further develop the richness of the background flavours, reduce the ku, and hopefully shift the balance away from the quite dominant shicang effect. Its endurance bodes well for its long-term prospects.


Anonymous said...

after much consideration, ive decided to give this a few years in dry storage as well. It has some gusto, and im not concernced about it strength fading over the years. 4 or 5 should begin to smooth out the edges, i think.

Have you tried or know where to find the thin-papered variety?


Hobbes said...

I've not tried the thin-papered version, but would like to do so! Unfortunately, Houde have sold out of that one. I've not seen it available anywhere else, yet. Do let me know if you find something!



~ Phyll said...

I brewed this YYX last night, coincidentally, after having finally spent leftover of the 50's Hong Yin. Oy! Side by side, this YYX was rough on my throat. It's quaffable.

So I agree with your comment: "It's a simple tea. What there is present is very enjoyable."

I think I may have been spoiled this past week.

Hobbes said...

That would be like hanging a child's painting next to a Monet. :)

MarshalN said...

Thin paper can be had in China quite easily, actually. I bought 3 cakes. Should've gotten more at the very low price. Now it's not as low anymore.

Hobbes said...

Mmm, yes. I'm not interested enough to pay the current going rate for it, that much is clear to me. Just a minor curiousity.



perpleXd said...

Is there somewhere where you explain 'ku', 'shicang', 'chaqi' and all these terms? I'm curious...

Hobbes said...


Yes, it's a bit tricky when you are just reading my notes which are taken directly from my written journal!

"Ku" is bitterness, but the good variety - the positive strength.

"Shicang" is wet store-house, meaning that the tea has been stored at high humidity, giving it a "damp" flavour, but somewhat accelerated aging.

"Chaqi" is the "qi" (energy) in the tea - something a bit more hard to define. It is used in Chinese medicine and physical systems (taiji, qigong, for example) to denote the vital force that some believe is present in living things. In tea terms, this can mean getting a certain "feeling", tingling of the hands, prickling of the scalp, that sort of thing.



perpleXd said...

Cool! I even found these words in my chinese dictionary. It is hard to find the pinyin words without the tones denoted, but I did find fǔ = bitter, shī = wet, cāng = storehouse, and of course, qì and chá. Where did you learn these terms anyhow?

Hobbes said...

I drink tea with my wife, who is Chinese. Hence the journals that I sometimes also use to write tea-notes in get filled, hence the transcribed notes on here. :)