I purchased a bing of this after reading Hobbes' blog on it. Menghai is obviously well known - it's easy to find, and quite affordable when young. Yunnan Sourcing describes this bing being made from "semi-aged sun-dried yunnan tea".
I've tasted this tea quite a few times in the past, and found it quite good. Recently, this tea has taken on a rough aspect. It is plantation tea, after all. I found the compression to be slightly tighter than some of the other Menghai bings that I've tasted. It wasn't too much of a problem, but it did result in more broken leaves.
The first and second infusions carried on as I remembered them - mostly notes of leather and sweetness with a pleasant amount of ku. The brewing on the third infusion was a mistake on my part. Given that the ku had not become overwhelming on the previous brew, I decided that an extra second would be fine. I was wrong. The ku was now the dominant flavor, followed by an incredibly rough mouthfeel.
Every cup after that was pretty rough. I took fifteen minute breaks between them to try and find any huigan, the only one popping up at the third infusion - Sweet, with acidity that tended towards spice, such as nutmeg and anise. The fifth through eighth infusions faded slowly. The ku did as well, thankfully. "Mushroom and sweetness - typical menghai" I noted.
For some teas, I use Cloud's method - about 75-80% chunk to 20-25% loose. This tends to work well with stronger teas that have a lot of ku, but not with the mellow stuff. Previous notes on this tea told me that it was mellow in comparison to some of the younger (2009) material. Given that information, I brewed this stuff all loose. That was most likely my first mistake. The water temperature was rather low as well, from about 180-190 degrees - I really wanted to avoid excessive bitterness.
Overall, it was a mediocre experience. The roughness present greatly detracted from the tea, but there was some flavor underneath it. The thickness of the liquor never became anything special, either. All the leaves in the gaiwan were broken - no surprises there! In the meantime, I will give this guy another shot and place an addendum towards the end. Thanks for reading!
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