21 April, 2008

1998 Menghai "Peacock" Tuocha

The 1998 "peacock", my first proper love in the world of tea - it was the first pu'er that I bought. Just a single tuo of it. One tiny, weeny, 100g peacock.

I looked back through my old diaries to find my original opinions of it: I had to go back to Book No. 17 (and I'm just starting No. 31). I notice on the original notes, some overwritten parts in a different pen as I have revisited it over the years. Some notes say "just straw - uninteresting", some seem more encouraging.

Noticing the remains of this tea on my shelves, that has such a singular place in my affections, I thought it time to revisit. How has it been doing for its years of English storage?

Unsurprising for Menghai tuocha, it's a highly-compressed collection of small leaves and small fragments (above). It has a gentle, sweet scent. The leaves have a proper darkness about them: not the darkness that one sees in modern leaves after a year or two, but the real orange-red darkness of leaves with some maturity (if only a decade, surely just an instant in some long-term collectors' reckoning).

The aroma in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup] is a crisp, dark aroma of caramel. I'm glad that the clarity of dry storage is proving to be possible, even out here in the barbarian Saxon wastes of England.

The soup (pictured above) is turning a pleasant orange-red hue. I've seen lots of teas with this colour (usually of around a decade or so in age), but this is the first tea that I feel a connection with, having partly reared it myself.

The flavour is sweet cedarwood, that high and sweet nature characteristic of Menghai. "Penetrating sweetness", notes my dear wife.

The real treat is the chaqi: this tea is developing a real flush as it ages. Up the spine, down the arms, it feels quite the tonic. Even more unusual, the cooling and almost numbing sensation in the mouth, indicative of real decency.

As the infusions wear on, it turns vanilla. After ten infusions, the leaves run out of puff, and the session draws to a satisfied close.

I've only got enough left for three sessions, but I can see myself treasuring each one... My old friend, the 1998 Peacock.


Salsero said...

What a moving post, so personal and romantic. And a wife who can think of penetrating sweetness, well you better keep her too.

Wes Crosswhite said...

What Sal means to say is, "keep here (close)."

Pu-erh fiends are on the prowl this time of year.

Bill said...

So, this is the tuo that created all of this madness? ;)

Hobbes said...

Dear Salsero,

Many thanks for the kind words - my wife was very amused, too. :)

Dear Wes,

I'll beat them off with a pu'erdao ;)

Dear Bill,

Yes indeed, my little peacock. An old friend! I'm sure it's bias on my part, it being the first for me, but I do love it.

Toodlepip all,


Anonymous said...

a few years ago i bought two 98 MH peacock tuos. they qualify as two of most wet-stored cakes i have in my collection.

extraordinarily. wet. stored.

happy to send you a chunk if you'd like to compare to your lovely sample.


Hobbes said...

Dear Adrian,

That's really very kind, I'd love to compare them. Do please send me an e-mail (hobbesoxon at gmail dot com) and I'll put together something for you, too. :)



Anonymous said...

i emailed you at the address above.


Hobbes said...

Dear Adrian,

Many thanks - you've got mail!