After some discussion with MarshalN and his recent blog post ("It’s not about the flavours"), I remembered with humorous self-deprecation the days when my tea reviews focused almost entirely on flavors. At the time, pu'er was new to me and its flavors unlike any I had drunk before: complex and dynamic, changing across infusions, its strange flavors colonizing regions all over the mouth.
Now, as my sensory appreciation of the tea I drink continues hours past when I've finished drinking it, the same question that hung over my hunt for pu'er tea in 2005 continues to haunt me when drinking pu'er in 2011: which teas will make great, ageable pu'er?
Today's contender for the label of "great, ageable pu'er" is Dayi's 69th Anniversary cake, of which I purchased a sample at Yunnan Sourcing. The leaves pictured above and below show some rather broken, probably machine-harvested, low elevation, plantation leaf: pretty typical for the factory (I digress to note that, despite the fact that many Dayi cakes share this same appearance, no two cakes taste exactly alike).
It brewed up yellow and clear, without smokiness, and with a fertile, stemmy fragrance. Flavor-wise, Dayi celebrated their 69th anniversary with buttered biscuits, green olives, and root vegetables. So much time has passed since I last drank a Dayi tea, I'd nearly forgotten what they can taste like. The olive note reminded me of many Lincang teas I've had, and the vendor's description of the cake indicates the blend contains some Bada mountain leaf, which is on the border with Lincang. Coincidence?
Beyond flavor and fragrance, the texture of the brewed tea struck me as neither thick nor thin, though water temperature has an effect, with rapidly boiling water thickening the tea somewhat, and below boiling water thinning it. It sometimes hit the roof of my mouth and soft palate, and at its thickest hovered its flavors and fragrance by the root of my tongue. On the whole, though, it felt weak in the mouth.
Between infusions my tongue felt like a sponge soaked with the aftertaste of this tea: ashen, mildly sour, and bready or yeasty. Writing this blog some 45 minutes after drinking the tea, I still have some olive and ash drifting out of my tongue.
The verdict? It's another Dayi factory tea, solid but unremarkable, not too pricey but not cheap. "Middling" describes most of its qualities, the exception being the aftertaste, which was appreciably lengthy. Ageable? Probably. I should revisit some of my earlier purchases of tea in this style and check up on their aging to get a better answer.
One final note: the tea's sticker says something about how Menghai is located on a volcanic/seismic belt that produces a soil rich in volcanic nutrients and a magnetic field. Not sure what all that means for your tea, but thought it interesting they included the information to market the tea.