12 April, 2008

2006 Mingyuanhao "Yiwu 858 Puer Museum"

Courtesy of the generosity of Tuocha Tea's TA, this cake was the collaboration between the PRC's Mingyuanhao factory and an entity called the "858 Pu'er Museum" of Taiwan, where the goal was to recreate the traditional processing of 50s Hong Yin [red label].

The dry leaves (pictured below) look large, unlike the traditional blend of 50s Hong Yin: we have plenty of large, furry leaves, and luxurious darker large leaves for some rich base flavours. All are darkening nicely. The aroma is a gentle sweetness.

Into the wenxiangbei [aroma cup], and a rich, low molasses scent lasts well. The soup is a solid orange, as if older than its years.

The character in the cup shows evidence of unusual processing: it is low, sour, and tobacco-like. There is good acidity in the finish that makes my mouth water, with good activity on the tongue. That dark nature reminds me a little of the infamous 2001 Menghai "Special Reserve" (which I adore), though I recall Tea Logic's VL and MarshalN noting some hongcha characteristics in that which are criticisms one could also make of this 2006 tea.

It seems to respond best to being shown a strong hand: use plenty of leaves, and longer infusions. Even then, I found it quite hard to get some solid character out of this tea - it seems a wee bit "empty", with a disproportionately large presence of bitterness in comparison.

Plenty of actual caffeine ensures that I am wide awake by the end of the session.

Overall, I'm not tempted to buy this tea because of its lack of potency: it requires strong brewing, and doesn't last too many infusions. However, it's a pleasant, dark experience for those looking for something in that category. The processing doesn't really appeal to my personal tastes - I'm not one for monkeying around with leaves. That said, if this turns out to be as lovely as 1950s Hong Yin, I'll be ready to eat the proverbial humble pie.

In terms of value, this sells for £27 at Houde; in comparison to the rest of the Western-oriented Internet vendors, I would place this more in the league of £15 teas, given its "empty" nature and reduced potency. Many thanks to TA for kindly providing the sample.

(C.f. Tuocha Tea's review of this tea.)

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