Experiencing Tea, Part Two

In the last post, we dis­cussed some traits tea drinkers focus on when eval­u­at­ing or com­par­ing teas.

In the sec­ond install­ment — we’ll call it the lab sec­tion — we can put these con­cepts to use in describ­ing the rel­a­tive mer­its of two puer.

Visual Inspec­tion:

left: 90s meng­hai grade 2 loose
right: 80s meng­hai white nee­dle golden lotus

The White Nee­dle Golden Lotus, a leg­end of the Meng­hai Tea Fac­tory, has tiny buds coated in a del­i­cate white frost.

Its younger brother, Meng­hai grade 2 loose puer of the 1990’s has a smaller per­cent­age of buds, a more thor­ough wo dui (wet pil­ing, the arti­fi­cial fer­men­ta­tion process), and a rusty coat­ing in place of the frost.

Visu­ally, it is not easy to dis­tin­guish between the two. In fact, the younger tea is often passed off as the famous White Nee­dle of years past.

There are other rea­sons to pair these teas, how­ever. The 90s Meng­hai rep­re­sents my favorite style of cooked puer (except­ing the WNGL), and is con­sid­ered a very good tea in its own right.

First Cup:

I brewed the teas side by side in a tiny pair of match­ing teapots, using only 2 grams of each.

The WNGL (right) brewed a darker cup, with a more dom­i­nant golden rim.

This dif­fer­ence was con­sis­tent across 10 or more infu­sions, not a result of slight dif­fer­ences in brew­ing time.

 

Hui Gan:

The hui gan of the WNGL is very sub­tle, and prob­a­bly over­pow­ered by the ‘richer’ cooked puer. I have just fin­ished tast­ing the WNGL in iso­la­tion and notice a very long but sub­tle min­eral fin­ish, com­bined with the sen­sta­tion of mint and a strong reac­tion from the sali­vary glands.

The 90s Meng­hai has a much more typ­i­cal coat­ing effect with a sweet, malty fin­ish. Some­where between grains and hay.

Down The Hatch:

With the WNGL, no strong pres­ence man­i­fested in my throat, which is just fine. I could feel the warmth go all the way down to the top of my stom­ach on the very first sip.

The 90s Meng­hai coats the throat nicely, but rarely ven­tures any further.

Cha Qi:

I have tried these teas sev­eral times in an attempt to accu­rately trans­mit the com­plete expe­ri­ence through writ­ing. I am pre­pared to admit now that it just isn’t possible.

I can offer that the cha qi of the WNGL is strong, but straight­for­ward. It leads me down to a quiet, med­i­ta­tive state — far deeper than my usual rock tea. I have a feel­ing that this alone is what makes it so sought after. In fact, it pro­vides more qui­etude than many of its aged sheng contemporaries.

It pro­vided some strong pres­sure on my brow, and a gen­tle warming.

The 90s Meng­hai pro­vides a stronger warm­ing, but in the end, it does not lead the mind nearly as far towards a con­tem­pla­tive calm as its older and wiser sibling.

Ver­dict:

The White Nee­dle Golden Lotus truly lived up to its leg­endary sta­tus. The 90s Meng­hai was a good tea we can enjoy with frequency.

Now that we have some prac­ti­cal exam­ples of what sep­a­rates a good tea and a great tea, I hope we can con­tinue to refine our sen­si­tiv­ity and share in the joy that comes from expe­ri­enc­ing tea.

7 thoughts on “Experiencing Tea, Part Two

  1. Who have ears to hear, let him hear. Who have eyes to read, let them read. Nicely done on both parts B! Tea gospel.

  2. The Higher realm of true tea tast­ing… no tast­ing notes, no mind. Its not about the taste, its a mem­ory : 0 ~ Bliss.
    T

  3. Hi Hek­tor,
    Very sorry for the tardy response. Nei­ther of these teas are easy to come by, with the 90s obvi­ously being orders of mag­ni­tude eas­ier. I have just ordered a very small leaf Meng­hai cooked puer from the 1980s from Bana Tea Com­pany, we will see how it stacks up.

  4. I’ve tried com­par­ing sim­i­lar or some­what sim­i­lar teas a few times. Unless I’m try­ing very dif­fer­ent teas, like black and green, I end up get­ting lost in the brews and fla­vors. I asked friends to give me blind tests, and I’d often get the teas wrong. I won­der how long it takes to get your palate to see the slight dif­fer­ences. More impor­tantly, how does one develop the lan­guage descrip­tive enough to get other peo­ple to under­stand what I taste…

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