2009 Meng Song Bamboo Sheng

2009 Meng Song Bamboo Sheng - dry leaves

I’d had my beady, thirsty little eye on this tea for a while, and while I was ordering an aged Oolong over at House of Tea I thought that this’un might as well come along for the ride.

The raw material had its origins in Meng Song, Menghai County, Yunnan province, and was hand plucked in the spring of 2009 by the indigenous Dai people.

After processing the leaves were steamed, but instead of being shaped into the more usual cake form, they were instead pressed into a bamboo tube. The tube was then roasted over a fire, and during this process the bamboo flavoured the tea. After roasting the tea was set aside for drying.

The first impression of the tea was that it was very tightly compressed, almost to the same degree as an Iron” cake. I had to take great care with the tea pick, going in at right angles. I always find that it’s best to take whatever the tea gives you – in this instance a chunk a little over 7 grams came cleanly off the main body of leaves. That’ll do nicely.

The dry leaves weren’t exactly giving much away aroma wise – there was a faint “default sheng” thing going on with a delicate floral background as well as a sweet wood-like note.

The fact that I was dealing with a 9 year old tightly pressed tea more or less made the decision to perform a quick rinse a no-brainer…

Steeping method
Weight of dry leaf: 7.3 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu / Asian
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: a 2 second rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 10 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 40 seconds, then @ 50, 60, 70, 90 and 120 seconds for a total of 12 infusions

The first infusion was a bit light on all fronts, not exactly a surprise given how compact the tea had been. Before I attempted the second steeping I gave the mass of leaves a gentle prodding with a bamboo spatula, which really helped in opening up the surface area of the leaves to hot water. Game on!

2009 Meng Song Bamboo Sheng - a cup of

Things really got into gear with the second infusion. The soup was exhibiting a fairly standard sheng profile – mushrooms, leather, wood shavings, but there was definitely something quite different there, too, a punchy sweet-yet-savoury something layered on top. The Qi made its presence known, inducing a dreamy, slo-mo state of mind.

By the time the third infusion had come and gone, the leaves had fully opened up, and I was able to get a really good look at them for the first time. There was chopped leaf with a fair bit of stem in the gaiwan, which if anything indicated that this session was probably going to fall into the “live fast, ‘cos it won’t last” category.

By the time the fifth infusion came around the tea was really getting into its stride, leaving a kind of hot, fizzy feeling in the mouth. This was one of those teas where you could really feel its passage down the throat and into the stomach, a tickly, warming sensation.

It has to be said that this was a bit of a scruffy tea. The strainer had to be scraped clean after each infusion.

Towards the back end of the session I started to experience a full on upper body sweat, especially on the top of my arms. Curiously, the tea was really starting to make my mouth water now.

Even though I’d feared a short but intense session because of the choppy nature of the leaves, I nevertheless managed to coax 12 decent steepings out of them.

2009 Meng Song Bamboo Sheng - used leaves

Despite the fact that this is a decent enough tea, I can’t help feeling that it and I haven’t quite clicked yet. It’s just a hunch, more of a gut feeling perhaps, but I don’t think I’ve had the best out of these leaves yet. I think my next session will be with a clay pot, see how that goes.

Watch this space, etc…

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