Modern Menghai

One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Modern Menghai

Postby bryan_drinks_tea » Jan 5th, '12, 23:56

Personal experience with some modern menghai cakes, both sheng and shu, have revealed a pattern.

The sheng seems to use more aged material, and the shu at times has seemed like it's not fermented very much. Case in point - the 2011 V93 that I posted the other day. I had a 'contemplative' session with this tea tonight - 7 grams in the gaiwan.

It got plenty dark, but never really felt like a shu, nor did it have the normal range of flavours present. I usually drank one small cup per infusion, and dumped the rest in a jar for later. When I was finished with the leaves, the aroma coming from the half-full jar was actually pretty close to sheng, which was odd.

Looking at the leaves, a good number of them were dark green, while the rest were the typical brown/black. Seeing the leaves answered the question of why I felt like I was smelling sheng with a hint of shu mixed in.

My question is, why is Menghai doing this? Any ideas?

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby tingjunkie » Jan 6th, '12, 00:35

Long story short... no idea. Maybe the market is reflecting an impatient world where folks want the taste of aged sheng, but aren't willing to pay for it or age their own? That's really why shou was created back in the 70's anyway, right? To "fake" the aging process. Maybe the factory is trying to fine tune their fake aging, rather than just accept shou as its own unique type of tea?

Does their current offering of V93 taste more like an aged sheng than previous years, or does it just get lost in the middle ground of mediocrity?

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby bryan_drinks_tea » Jan 6th, '12, 01:42

I like those ideas, TJ. The V93 was definitely in the realm of mediocrity. My guess is that they think that the Shu will get better if you don't ferment the leaves completely. Also, yes, maybe Menghai realizes that they have impatient consumers who want aged tea now. Since some of them taste so mellow right off, they might just fade into nothing. For me it's a scary thing to think about. It looks like I'll be buying older sheng and shu in the meantime, but I'll still dabble in the newer stuff just for the experience.


Happy Drankin'.

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby Drax » Jan 6th, '12, 07:20

Hrm, I'm pretty sure the light fermentation is intentional (and desired) in the V93? From Scott's notes on the 2010 V93:

Yunnan Sourcing wrote:It is fermented just enough to break down the bitterness of raw pu-erh while lightly fermented enough to preserve the stimulating cha qi and hui gan of a raw pu-erh.


On the plus side for you, Menghai offers plenty of other fully fermented recipes to choose from...

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby bryan_drinks_tea » Jan 6th, '12, 09:56

Drax wrote:Hrm, I'm pretty sure the light fermentation is intentional (and desired) in the V93? From Scott's notes on the 2010 V93:

Yunnan Sourcing wrote:It is fermented just enough to break down the bitterness of raw pu-erh while lightly fermented enough to preserve the stimulating cha qi and hui gan of a raw pu-erh.


On the plus side for you, Menghai offers plenty of other fully fermented recipes to choose from...



I should have read that more closely. :roll: :oops: That explains the V93, and I'm going to guess that the newer raw pu-erh uses aged maocha, which might account for it's 'softness'. For example, this years Mengsong tuo was quite soft in it's flavor, but this could be due to the fact that it's a special production.

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby Drax » Jan 6th, '12, 12:24

bryan_drinks_tea wrote:I should have read that more closely. :roll: :oops: That explains the V93, and I'm going to guess that the newer raw pu-erh uses aged maocha, which might account for it's 'softness'. For example, this years Mengsong tuo was quite soft in it's flavor, but this could be due to the fact that it's a special production.


On another plus side, it's a good sign that you noticed...! :D

I think that if you go with the "standards," you'll find them to be what you would expect (for example, I tried the 2010 or 2011 "grade A" tuo, and it's a straight-up sheng, no softness whatsoever). The special productions are (often?) meant to give alternatives to the standards, and are more likely to have blends, mixed ages, etc... or at least, that's how they seem to go...

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby TomVerlain » Jan 6th, '12, 19:49

Not sure what makes modern modern, but a 5 year old 7262 I have has a good variety of fermentation going from tobacco golden to chocolate brown. One advantage of a large factory is they can take teas from a range of years and processes to mix together in quantity. I have not bought a current cake of 7262, so I don't know if it is the same though. I really do like menghai shu as it does seem to use older and newer tea, giving a tea that does not give up everything quickly and die.

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby tingjunkie » Jan 6th, '12, 23:09

TomVerlain wrote: One advantage of a large factory is they can take teas from a range of years and processes to mix together in quantity. ...I really do like menghai shu as it does seem to use older and newer tea, giving a tea that does not give up everything quickly and die.


+1. A lot of folks get down on shou, and given how it's produced at smaller places it can be suspect, but I'm a big fan of Menghai's top shelf stuff. Sometimes it's nice to just enjoy some cheap stuff that really performs, and not sweat the price, or whether it was produced by some 10th generation master. I really can't think of any other type of tea that costs so little, and can give an evolving session of 8+ fairly complex infusions. It's like the comfort food of the gongfu tea world.

Kind of makes me wonder if Menghai's current crop of classic sheng recipes might actually turn out pretty good in 20 years (to the contrary of most expert's opinions). I'm personally not about to invest in a few tongs of 2011 7542, but who knows...

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Re: Modern Menghai

Postby zencha » Jan 7th, '12, 00:07

It's like the comfort food of the gongfu tea world.

Good one !

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