Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Day 10, exploring the aging of puerh

Sharing tea and a tetsubin

My Tea Masters class had an early Christmas party with the incredible aged puerhs we tasted today! While each tea could have been the subject of a single class, we had 4!

The main challenge with aged puerh is to find the genuine ones. We started the lesson with a look at 2 raw cakes both claiming to be 1999 '7542' from Menghai Factory. (No pictures, sorry):
- One of them is from my selection, the one I tasted yesterday.
- The other one looked more greyish, as if it had spent more time in a humid storage. The brew was darker, but its taste and aromas were different and lacking. The mouthfeel was clean, but it didn't have the powerful aftertaste you expect from Menghai and the lighter scents of the more bud rich 7542.

Then, we also brewed the 1995 Yiwu brick. Despite being 4 years older, this puerh had even more strength and thickness than the 1999 '7542'! Brewed in gaiwan, my students were a little bit overwhelmed by this full bodied puerh that has only recently come out of storage. They found it more pleasant on the next brews, when it mellowed down.
1989 Menghai Factory '8582'
We continue our time travel with these '8582' leaves flaked from a cake that is thicker and rounder than '7542'. The leaves are also coming off much easier, thanks the impact of time.
Giovanni is responsible to brew this jewel.
The aromas are much deeper than with '7542'. It's also much more mellow, while still having a fresh and active taste. At the same time, the mouth remains pure despite a very thick coated feeling! An amazing tea.

This tasting demonstrated why the 7542 and 8582 from the Menghai Tea Factory are the most appreciated by puerh collectors for teas from the 1980s and 1990s. Established in 1940 under the name Fo Hai Chang by the nationalist government, the Menghai factory started with red tea production.
We finished the class with aged puerh dating back to the cultural revolution: my mid 60s loose puerh. During these times of unrest and political persecution in China, the factories were at a standstill. That's why very few cakes (or bricks) were pressed in Yunnan's factories. This explains these loose leaves:
This tea is so rare and precious that it's more fitting to use an Yixing zisha teapot to reveal is character:
The first cup is very concentrated. It feels even more mellow, smooth, deep and still fresh. The leaves open up.
My students looked very happy! A smile of contentment was painted on their face. Pure bliss. A relaxing experience for the whole body. I had a similar feeling during last week's class:
That experience sums up the amazing character of old arbor puerh: 50 years of refinement concentrated in a cup! The possibility to taste a sweet and pure past, a glimpse of the lost paradise! 

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