2016 Menghai "Yun Shui Zhen" (Batch 1601)
Vendor: Menghai Tea Factory*
Season: "Semi-Aged" (Batch 1601)
Vendor Description: "Classic Da Yi strength and mouthfeel, but without being harsh. Floral, bitter, sweet, and some astringency."
Link to Tea: YS China / YS America**
Brewing Vessel: 100ml Standard White Ruyao Gaiwan
Leaf/Water Ratio: 1g/15ml
Water Temperature: 195 Fahrenheit / 90.5 Celsius
Steeping Method: 1 flash rinse; 15-second steeps until dead
Smokey, fruity, a little bit of that Farmhouse Ale funk. The wet-leaf aroma starts off thick and forward, but then fades quickly.
The flavor is very light, bitter, a tad smokey, and somewhat metallic (Copper Ales kept popping into my mind throughout the session).
An aggressive mouthfeel is the foremost characteristic of this tea by a landslide. Bitterness is front-and-center, followed by a lingering astringency and subtle hui gan. A light and floral sweetness came forward in later steeps, as the tea began to fade.
For ~$0.10USD/gram, this tea is an extremely enjoyable factory production. It's not as intense as some young budget-friendly factory shengs--i.e. it doesn't have that pungent Xiaguan barnyard-lit-on-fire taste, tongue-twisting astringency, or crab-apple bitterness, but it still packs a heavy-fisted punch. It's thick in the mouth, without punishing your cheeks/tongue.
On an empty stomach, this tea is a bit of a gut-bomb. Though this production is a blend of semi-aged material, it's still a very young-tasting sheng and could benefit from a few additional years of rest, allowing the tea to calm its adolescent Oedipus-denying rage. This tea tends to upset my stomach noticeably more than its similarly-priced young "boutique" (non-factory) counterparts, even on a full stomach; but then again, factory teas are typically more focused on aging-potential than immediate drinkability, plus all my life I've had an extremely touch-and-go tummy, so others may not experience the same discomfort.
In 5-10 years, when this tea calms down a bit more and further develops its complexities, I'd bet that it will be worth much more than its current value (~$0.10/g). Mouthfeel-wise, this tea hits all the right notes, and I'm curious to see how it develops over time. As I said, others may not experience the same discomfort stomach-wise, and for those people--especially those of you who particularly enjoy factory productions--this tea would be a solid daily-drinker, or at least a solid option to tong-up on and store away in a make-shift pumidor where, after 50-some years of obsessing over your collection night and day, anally maintaining optimal storage conditions, your mind will deteriorate, and you'll forget all about your library of puerh, by now worth tens (maybe hundreds!) of thousands of dollars, and you will die, and in a matter of weeks, your collection will be nothing more than a giant closet of mold that your daughter will stumble upon while cleaning out your house with her second-husband who you never liked, and the two of them will open the door, confronted by stacks upon stacks of cracked bamboo over-run with mold and mildew, and will look at each other, utterly disgusted, and the second-husband you never liked will just shake his head and say, "For the love of God, let's throw this shit out."
*Sheng Gut is absolutely affiliated with Menghai Tea Factory and, every Spring, is flown first-class to Menghai's plantation in Yunnan, where I (pronoun-shift) am treated to a week-long vacation of gushu and debauchery: luxurious hotels with 24-hour butlers, free full-body acupuncture sessions, bottomless dim sum (like shrimp shumai and chili-dusted chicken-feet and shit), and a private limousine to shuttle my ass to/from the red-light district, black-out plastered after pounding back some vintage 7542 like it's water. By the end of the week, it's hard to recognize myself in the mirror, and once I'm back in the USA, I spend weeks--sometimes months--roaming the desert-land highways, going nowhere in particular. I am stuck in what feels like an endless haze, just drifting along, aimlessly. I go weeks without showering, and only eat enough food to stay alive. My body deteriorates to a sort of skeleton. My hair turns gray and grows thin and wispy. I sleep outside in a makeshift tent--just a small blue tarp held up by some twigs--and, each night, fend for my life, laying in wait for a pack of desert-coyotes to ambush...and when they do, I slaughter them with my bare-hands, snapping their brittle necks one-by-one, leaving the runt of the pack alive to warn the others.
**This tea is pretty widely available outside of YS, especially on e-Bay/Taobao, I just happened to purchase mine from Yunnan Sourcing USA.