101 Tasting Notes
I had to add this tea because it has to be the most unique tea I’ve ever tasted. The material is ancient tree Assamica growing wild in the rainforests of Manipur, India. The tea is processed like a sheng and sold as such but it got oxidized while being transported for processing. If anyone got to try the Hua Tzu Pop Peak from Pu-erh.sk the processing flavors are similar but the material is quite different. This tea is sort of like a hybrid between an orthodox black and sheng but it’s own thing. It is definitely the most Indian tasting tea I’ve ever had. By this I don’t mean Indian tea but like Indian food and incense in a good way. About 10-20 years ago a Sunday morning trip to State College, Pa meant a visit to House of Kashmir, a hippie incense shop and t shirt owned by a guy from Kashmir followed by a Sunday brunch at the India restaurant across the alley. Take all the exotic scents from the incense shop, the flavor of the dosas and especially the rice pudding with grapes almonds and seasoned with cardamom and rose water chased with a mango lassi and you have the essence of this tea…sort of. You know how a good yancha draws an amazing parallel to many Chinese dishes or how a baozhong draws a parallel to a Bangkok curry? This tea combines the elements of fine Indian cuisine and toiletries in an amazingly pleasant way. I’ve been drinking single estate teas since 1991 and have never tasted anything remotely like it. The qi is also a blast from my past. In the early 90s, fresh out of high school and with little direction in life I smoked a lot of weed and worked in a boot factory. A typical workday started by smoking a little cheap ditch weed on the way to work, getting yelled at for getting there at 7:03, running to the cafeteria and chugging a quart of Folgers coffee. Yes friends after 10 steeps I can almost smell the ink and acetone and hear the drone of the burnishing wheel. Oddly fond memories for a middle aged therapist. The qi is a little too speedy and fogging for my tastes that prefer a sedating blissed out Yiwu buzz but it’s not jittery like a Jingmai. The closest I can compare it to is like an early 2000s fake Red Mark tea like the one sold by W2T…but like other aspects of this tea I really can’t compare it to anything else. For $.35g I recommend trying it and can guarantee you’ve never had anything remotely like it. Oh yeah and be sure to try the Nilgiri winter oolong. It’s like a tea version of a jasmine infused while Zinfandel in a tea…
I have a fairly long history with this tea. Since 2017 I’ve bought several samples with the nagging question of whether I should buy a cake. There is no doubt that this is the best LME material I’ve sampled. It’s the thickest, oiliest , has the most stamina and aggressive yet comfortable qi. It’s also outrageously priced and although there are those to whom this region is the be all end all. I’ve read articles in which devotees of this area claim there are universes within the bitterness, thickness and returning sweetness and those who complain of lack of complexity and top notes are noobs who just don’t get it. For me I love this tra but have to be in a particular rare mood to crave it. During these times I get almost as much enjoyment from the less expensive smaller cake teas like 2019 Bitter End Extra from Bitterleaf or the 2010 Jie liang from YS. Granted this tea is significantly better but significantly more expensive. If I liked tea from this area as much as I like GFZ or Yibang I’d have a cake.
So the tea itself? It’s retained the same basic character as when young and doesn’t shapeshift much through the steeps. Intense but smooth bitterness that quickly turns sweet in the throat. Notes of quinine, grapefruit peel and slate, sometimes fennel. Steeps forever. Intense yang qi that I find similar to other Menghai area teas but not jangly like a factory tea. If yea from this area is your thing or if intense thick bitterness is up your alley this tea is a must try. As for me I’ve been debating caking this for 4 years but have yet to jump on it. I’d probably split a cake but am content to have a few smaller cakes of somewhat less expensive tea that satisfies my cravings for this stuff but no matter what LME I drink I end up comparing to this tea and ultimately it falls short. Anyone wanna split a cake?
This morning I realized that this tea (at least the cake I own) is representative of my Puerh journey and perhaps my tea journey in general. Brief history. I got big into tea in high school in the early 90s after my parents brought back some loose tea and a Brown Betty teapot from a vacation in England that I still regret declining. Soon after my mom found an ad in a gourmet magazine for a company selling single estate teas. Hence begun my tea journey in 1991. I was particularly fond of black teas and the only puerh I’d tasted was in 2003 was a mini tuo of shou that the vendor instructed to brew western style. Of course it tasted like rotten mushrooms and I gave it to someone who’d drink anything and I never thought of puerh again until 2017 when my mom pulled out a Saveur magazine and told me about an article about people getting high on puerh teas and how horrible it sounded, to which I replied gimme that, snagged the magazine which contained the interview with Paul from W2T and quickly made an order. So this is 1 of the first cakes I’ve bought almost 4 years ago and it’s seen the evolution of my tea drinking tastes, storage methods and the ever evolving question of whether one can effectively age tea in the west. The answer is YES!!! When I bought this tea it was full of youthful citric, stone fruit, herbal, floral and minty notes with an uncommon thickness. I made the same mistake as many noobs and allowed it to dry out and lose character. It was then that I learned about crock storage and brought some life back to it…for a while. By 2019 this tea was in in awkward phase and while it still had good qi the flavor was meh. At this point I’d begun dealing with multiple vendors and my tasted leaned more toward the more robust teas of eastern Yiwu, Yibang and Gedeng so this tea got little attention. About this time I learned about experiments in heated storage and decided to use this tea (and my other 3-7 year old awkward teas) in the experiment. Briefly, for the uninitiated this involves heating a picnic cooler with a seeding mat to 85-90 deg f and placing cakes humidified to 60-70% into sealed Mylar bags and storing them in the cooler. Now I’ve had this method bring back top notes to say 3 year old teas and speed up the transformation of say 6-7 year old teas in which bottom notes were beginning to emerge but this is the only tea I’ve bought super fresh and was able to observe its transformation. I tasted this tea the first time this morning in the year that it’s been in heated storage and expected it to still be in its awkward stage as it’s still a little less than 5 years old. To my surprise I didn’t recognize it. I’ve been sampling a lot of drier Taiwan stored 7-14 year old boutique Yiwu teas from the likes of Yang Qing Hao, Chenyuan Hao, Biyun Hao etc and in its present state this tea fits right in with the more robust selections of the above. Woody notes have emerged and foresty camphorous notes dominate followed by sweet floral notes in the finish. Still super thick and stimulating mouthfeel. Still no plum notes but I expect these to arrive in perhaps another year. The qi, well I’m couchlocked and rambling about the evolution of a tea cake I’ve had 4 years and still managed to have 100g left when my reviews are typically short and sweet. It’d be interesting to taste this side by side with tea that’s been in Paul’s storage all this time. The point of this review, this tea is really good. You can effectively age tea in cool dry climates and heated storage can be very effective (at least in the relatively short term). No one has hotbox stored tea for a decade so who knows if adverse effects will arise.
Most of my experiences with Nannuo teas have been fairly ho hum. Either humid stored and lacking in huigan or discernible attitude or fresh and fruity but not interesting enough to get me to pounce on a cake. Some have had nice energy but not enough to lure me in. This stuff otoh, yum! 11 years of Kunming storage must be what makes this stuff shine. Early steeps give notes of berries, mint and old wood. Middle steeps are more floral and herbal. Later steeps give off notes of candied orange peel and basil. This tea kept getting sweeter throughout the session. Weirdly I first felt the qi in my arms before it radiated through my upper body. It was a very vibrant and somatic energy that inspired me to go out hiking on this 35 degree day. 2 faults I have with this tea: 1, the soup could be thicker and more concentrated for my tastes. Instead it is rather thin and has a drying throat feel. 2. It’s sold out. I went back to price and full cake and it’s gone. There is a 2012 cake from the village next door that I may sample.
On the tea side site this is actually spelled Ming dee. There is also a special storage version that less expensive and wetter aged. This is an interesting HTC production. More floral and has notes that remind me of a hongcha and aged white as well as a sheng. I get nice florals and cocoa along with the woody aged sheng thing. This seems to have more bite than the typical HTC sheng. The qi is the deep calming yet alerting content feeling I get from most Thai teas. I still prefer the 0802 as it has more similarities to a nicely stored Yiwu at a reasonable price but this tea is very solid and gives lots of steeps. It would be a good choice for a black or white tea drinker who wants to try some sheng as it’s not overly earthy and has some nice top notes for a semi aged tea balanced by chocolate and wood. I can recommend sampling any of the teas from tea side
This is definitely the best Mengku area tea I’ve had. Big woody, minty notes, super clean storage, thick as oil and steeps forever. Calming, euphoric and clarifying qi…but is it worth $450 a cake? I’d have to compare it side by side with a 2008 Bingdao and the 2011 Mushucha from YS that I’ve had in heated storage (that’s really done wonders) both for which I paid a fraction of this price. I’m not a big Lincang drinker and usually drink it to change things up a bit. It is amazing tea but for that kind of coin I’d prefer to spend it on a high end Yiwu. If Mengku area teas are your thing this is a must try.
Holy camphor Batman! Throw in some pine needles, pine smoke and pine tar and you have this tea. Very resinous old school Yiwu. None of gentle smoothness I expect from Changtai. Early steeps are dry, thick and resinous. Later steeps are sweeter. None of the florals or gentle relaxing qi I expect from an Yiwu, even an old school resinous Yiwu like the Naked Yiwu from Teas We Like. This stuff is very medicinal tasting and leaves me feeling stoned and jangled in a not so groovy way. Interestingly it was dry stored in Houston. This sample only arrived 2 weeks ago so perhaps I should let it rest before making a final judgment but as it was ground shipped over 3 days I doubt it’d make much difference. If you like aggressive lapsang teas or jangly unnerving stoner qi you may dig this stuff. I don’t see myself caking it anytime soon.
If you are wanting to throw $500 at a 200g cake of tea, this is an excellent choice but a tad too rich for my blood. Very glad I tried the sample tho. I’ve drunk a fair amount of young WanGong and it’s one of my favorite tea areas. This is my first with a bit of age (Xishuangbanna I’m guessing) on it. Big camphorous forest flavors and deep woody notes…exactly how you would expect this tea to age. Big stoner qi with all the muscle relaxation and sweating you’d expect from such a tea. It’s very costly but considering there are vendors selling 2016 teas of unknown origin for almost as much it’s not out of line. If you share my love of border tea and can swing it I recommend sampling this and any of the teas on this site.
I’ve been drinking a lot of Thai teas lately and this one is among my favorites. Like the other Thai shengs I’ve had this one benefits from a bit more leaf and pushing a bit harder than you would a Yunnan counterpart. I get about a dozen steeps and am rewarded with caramelized nuts, Red Man chewing tobacco, curry spices and a mild cedary note I typically only get from Yibang teas. Medium bodied, very clean storage and evidently very high quality old tree material. Deep meditative qi. Doesn’t have quite the depth of an Yibang tea but at 1/4 the price or less I’m in. If I drank this blindly and you told me this was a Taiwan stored Ding Jia Zhai or something similar I probably wouldn’t argue. Interesting thing is I’ve been sampling a good bit of young Thai and Laotian material and they taste nothing like Yiwu to me. They remind me of lemongrass soup. I’ve also sampled the 0803 which is priced the same and a similar tea but has a more bitter up front taste and lacks the cedar notes. I recommend sampling any of the teas from this vendor.