As mentioned, Will of the Teadrunk Forum, Roy, Davin and I met up on Sunday to taste six sheng pu'er bing from 2007-2008.
Six 150ml (?) tasting sets and spoons. Preheated with boiling water and decanted. 3g of tea would steep for 5 minutes, then be decanted in succession. We preceded the session with some roasty oolong to prepare our palates, and kept hot water around to clean our mouths between teas. Will also provided some olive oil, which he and I took shots of when we felt our palates began to converge the flavors of the different teas.
The candidates all came from Will's Yunnan Sourcing sample collection. Included in the mix were the 2008 Yong Pin Hao Lan Xiang, 2008 Xiaguan FT Nanzhao Round Cake, 2008 Xiaguan FT Exquisite Elegance, 2008 Shuang Yi ("Hai Lang Hao") Star of Bulang, a 2007 Yong Zhen Qing Bing, and 2008 Menghai 7542-801.
We all remarked on the smoky smell of "factory" green pu'er when we decanted the teas. The smell threatened to become too strong, so we left the leaves in the lidded tasting mugs, lid on, to limit its influence our olfactory perception.
I had some fun trying to guess which were the "factory" cakes--the Xiaguan FT and Menghai 7542--and which were the smaller productions (Shuang Yi and Yong Pin Hao). While I couldn't place exactly the factory, I guessed from the smoky roughness of teas B through E that they were probably the large factories, with A and F having the least smokiness and a more gentle strength.
It turns out I was mostly right. Tea F was the Yong Pin Hao cake. Tea A was the Yong Zhen Qing Bing, which I know nothing about and don't see on the YSLLC storefront. What surprised all of us most of all was that the Hai Lang Hao / Shuang Yi cake was one of the smokiest and roughest teas. Here are our notes:
Sample A: 2007 Yong Zhen Qing Bing
Scent of after processing smoke. Not too bitter. Nicer flavor than the initial scent. Good after taste. Perhaps a blended leaf? Medium-sized and broken leaf.
Sample B: 2008 Menghai Dayi 7542 Batch 801
Smells and tastes like factory tea. Smoky, fruity, and a little sour. Not that bitter, though. Tastes similar to C. Wet leaf is tiny little bits.
Sample C: 2008 Hai Lang Hao Star of Bulang
Thick. Broth transitions from oily in the mouth to dry. More interesting after taste. Little bit sour? Tastes similar to B, but more bitter. Side note - according to Scott, the maocha in this is actually from 2005. Also, it’s not really a Hai Lang Hao cake; it’s a joint production with another vendor. Small leafed.
Sample D: 2008 Xiaguan FT Nan Zhao Round Cake
Bitter. Smooth. Smoky. Round citrus. Bitter aftertaste. Jason guessed it as a Menghai factory tea [oops!]. Distinct after taste. Roy says it tastes like the Pacific North West. Mix of little bits and medium leaves, but mostly the former.
Sample E: 2008 Xiaguan FT "Exquisite Elegance"
Sour with some cigarette. Light scent. Bread mold or dust. Same as D in leaf quality.
Sample F: 2008 Yong Pin Hao "Lán Xiāng"（兰香）Wild Arbor
Least like a factory tea. More herbal. Astringent at the end. Most whole leaf of any of the teas. Largest leaves of the bunch.
Personally, I liked teas F, D, and A in that order. I disliked teas C and E. I thought B was good but maybe too much like dianhong to be convinceably wholly da ye varietal.
But this opinion probably doesn't amount to much: none of us are particularly accostumed to competition-style tasting. I yoinked Will's samples to brew them gongfu at home, and will post anything interesting later.
From top to bottom: C, D, E, F