Wednesday, May 2, 2007

TN: 2001 Menghai Yiwu Zhengshan & 2004 Kurt Darting Riesling

Embarking on a memory trip, last September Davelcorp sent me a generous sample labeled simply as "Mystery Yiwu". This was soon after I tasted M. Erler's 2003 Yiwu Pu'er. The "Mystery Yiwu" turned out to be the 2001 Menghai Special Production Yiwu Zhengshan "Collectible Leaf of Precious Grade".

Having enjoyed M. Erler's tea using the little-leaves-long-infusion brewing method, my 1st attempt with Davelcorp's sample was to employ the same technique. Somehow, I didn't like the resulting tea. This was my email to Davelcorp, dated September 14, 2006:
"Hi [Davelcorp], I just tried your mystery Yiwu Pu'er tonight for the first time (btw, thank you very much for the tea!). I used the "little-leaves-long-infusion" method. I hope you won't mind me being candid with you. It is my own very subjective assessment (I'm still learning, so forgive me if I'm off base).

Brewed this way, I think this tea is quite unremarkable in its overall quality. From the dry leaves, it looks like it is about 6-7 years old...but I'm not sure. The taste itself overall was like drinking a red tea...a cross of English Breakfast, 2nd flush Darjeeling and a hint of Red Keemun. Not complex...rather monolithic and unchanging from one infusion to the next, actually. Some woody-ness and an almost noticeable (but present) tingling. A bit cooling on the throat, especially when inhaling. Unfortunately, I found this tea to be a bit coarse. Somewhat astringent too.

In my very humble opinion, I'd give this tea at most a 2 stars (moderately good), if not less."

To which Davelcorp responded that he had never tried brewing this tea in such a way, and he recommended me to use about 7 gr of leaves with ~120 ml of water and shorter infusions. So I did that and got back to him saying:

"Hello [Davelcorp],

Remember the mystery Yiwu pu'er that you sent me?...So I played with lots of leaves short infusion time, and the tea came out pleasant and complex. Classic Yiwu taste in that the taste is mellow and unassuming, yet complex. Smooth liquor, but later I felt the fine dusty texture. Medium body. There is a just a tiny bit of astringency in the finish that makes it taste a bit fruity. The liquor is already quite red and I can taste the aging. What do you think about the finish on this tea? I thought it's a bit short.

I learned something new again. Not all pu'er should be treated the same way. While Stephane's 2003 Yiwu worked well with using little leaves short brew time method, your pu'er works better with the opposite brewing method."

In hindsight, a long infusion time extracted coarseness and astringency, which are detrimental characters if found in excessive amount.
I later learned that he acquired this tea from Jing Tea Shop for $45/beeng. Most recently, however, with the mad pu'er price increases in Guangzhou, JTS re-offered this tea again at $165/beeng, while Houde Fine Tea was able to offer the same tea for $80/beeng. Needless to say, this created quite an excitement within the LJ Pu-erh Community blog. Add the fact that Houde was about to increase its pu'er prices across the board by as much as 25%, the result was a buying frenzy. The '01 Menghai Yiwu was sold out within days at both Houde and Jing Tea Shop.

2 days ago was my 3rd visit with this tea (purchased from Houde). I used about 7-8 gr in a ~100ml gaiwan and employed short infusions of 10s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 1m,...

The experience strongly reminded me of my previous 2 attempts. The dry leaves look great and smell a bit herbal. The color and clarity of the liquor is excellent. The wet leaves gives a lively and energetic aromas. In the mouth, it is rather thin and with a dusty/sandy texture. Further aging should improve its taste and texture. The overall taste is quite assertive and bold for a Yiwu. Good chaqi. There is a bit of astringency in the finish.

A good tea overall but not quite there yet. I have high hopes that it will improve with further proper storage. 3.5 stars (g - vg).

Other reviews
Half-Dipper, LJ Pu-erh by Davelcorp and Xcuseme_sg, and MarshalN.

2004 Kurt Darting Durkheimer Nonnengarten, Kabinett, Pfalz
(9.5%. $14/1 liter)

Shimmering golden yellow color. A rich and expressive kabinett that comes across rather heavy despite its merely 9.5% alcohol level. Quince, lychee, peaches and honey. A bit too sweet and not lithe enough for my taste. 3 stars (good).

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