My hit rate with Mei Leaf teas hasn’t been the greatest. The teas I like from them I’ve really liked, but the majority of them have been rather disappointing and lackluster. Although there have been a few exceptions, generally speaking nearly all of their teas have also been rather overpriced. That might have to do with the British pound and them being based in London rather than China. I wasn’t planning on ordering any new teas from them, but as I ended up ordering some teaware from them, it made sense to throw some pu’er samples in my cart as the shipping was rather expensive and my goods not so much. This tea was one of them.
Supposedly from Bing Dao and gushu material no less (make of that what you will), I believe this is the most expensive sheng they are currently offering, although I could be wrong on that. Mei Leaf offers 5g samples of their pu’ers, and since that is a bit light for a proper session for the teaware I like to use, I ended up ordering two sample packs. My largest gaiwan is a silver lined one that’s 165ml. Ten grams would be a bit light for that, but weighing my samples I was very happy to see the first one contained 5.5g and the second 5.4g. That’s just about ideal. All tea vendors should take note: the first step in making me a happy customer is being generous with your samples. Small sign of good will can go a long way.
While transporting the samples from home to where I was actually having the tea with some company, I had them in a small ziplock bag, and while the leaves themselves outside the bag didn’t really seem to have that smell, smelling the empty bag itself at my destination I was smelling straight up strawberry marshmallows. That’s pretty rad. I rinsed the leaves briefly for five seconds, giving them a few minutes to soak up the moisture while I sipped the rinse. Since the sample was essentially in loose form, the wash was already quite strong. The notes were leaning toward dark and foresty, with your typical young sheng creamy hay notes present in the finish.
I proceeded to do a total of eleven infusions, the timing for these 6s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. respectively. Night Forest Muse starts off dark and mossy, subtle yet potent. This tea is a true depth bomb. The experience is extremely layered, without any clear distinctive flavors you can pick out. While no flavors jump out at you, the tea is very potent and the body thick. The aftertaste is long and stable, with cooling noticeable in the airways.
The strength continues to build up with subsequent infusions along with the body and mouthfeel, with the tea becoming very full and expansive in the mouth. Despite its strength, the tea never becomes overbearing, always remaining palatable. The enigmatic nature does not lift and Night Forest Muse remains a subtle and nuanced affair. At times the tea does develop some edge to it in the form of some acidity and astringency, but this never grows to a level where it starts to detract from the experience and in fact at times contributing to it.
In the mid steeps the tea soup is so viscous in the cha hai that shaking it sharply from side to side, the tea liquor moves in one direction, a little bit in the other and then comes to an immediate stop. It feels really heavy. It is in these mid steeps that you also start experiencing the huigan. People in the west often use the term very loosely and it can mean different things to different people. What I’m describing here is the closest thing to how I understand the term — a literal returning flavor, distinct from any other type of sweetness, originating from the throat and the back of the mouth. Some people seem to describe nearly every tea as having huigan, for me it’s a rare thing.
After a few more steeps, the tea develops an immediate upfront sweetness as well, which lasted up till the point where I stopped. Like with most teas, the other flavors started tapering off around this point, with some harshness accompanying the sweetness, but never beginning to dominate the tea. At the point which I stopped the tea was still going, but I was feeling pretty bloated so I decided to call it there.
All in all Night Forest Muse was a capital tea! One of the best teas I’ve had in recent memory. I wasn’t expecting that, given my track record with Mei Leaf teas. This is a tea that’s very hard to try to put into words as it really is more of an experience than anything else. This was only further confirmation that I should be focusing more on Lincang and Mengku specifically as I’ve always loved teas from there. Alongside Bulang it is definitely one of my two favorite regions.
As for the price… $0.77/g. Perfectly reasonable to me. This definitely falls in the $0.5/g to $1/g bracket and smack in the middle sounds about right. Even though my pumidor is short on space, I ordered a bing right after the session, so yeah, this tea is worth it for me.
Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Moss, Olive Oil, Sweet, Tart