17 June 2010
1997 Menghai 8582
In the mood to drink tea tonight, and not in the mood to stay up late, I pulled out an acquisition bought via Will of teadrunk.org, a 1997 8582 he purchased on my behalf during his recent trip to Asia (thanks, Will!).
Upon inspecting the tong of tea Will bought, we quickly discovered the tea housed some insects. Evident in the photos below, but also by a couple of live ones found crawling around the packaging, and even a little critter in one of the cakes. Pictures of bug damage are below.
From upper left to lower left: wonky compression (my guess is, wonky decompression from stuff crawling around and/or wet storage), bug holes in wrapper, bug egg (?) casing on leaf, bug holes in nei piao. (click for larger pics)
Evident in the photos far above, the cakes face and back show the clear evidence of Menghai blending: tiny buds on front, big chunky leaves on the back. Da huang pian (big yellow leaves) and the occasional twig show the blender wanted to round out the tea. Forget your two-leaves-and-a-bud, sans-yellow-leaves, twigless, single-mountain fancy productions of today: this relic of the 1990s looks to have a bit of everything.
As far as the taste: the tea tastes younger and less wet than it looks. 13 years later, there's still a hefty amount of bitterness that ends in a classic hui gan. The woodiness of age appears early, sweet and aromatic, but not yet dark enough to have become earthiness. It gradually fades to a sharper floral note, which combines with the woodiness into a cedar flavor that reminds me of adolescent banzhang/bulang teas.
The tea makes me hot; perhaps the materials, perhaps the bug droppings, but something has made my hands into fleshy radiators and my brow perspire.
12+ infusions in, this 8582 continues to yield potent infusions. The tea is good, but needs more time.
More interesting photos: a dry huang pian leaf in the middle of this pic shows signs of being eaten; a wet leaf in the pot shows the telltale hole of feeding larvae.