I came across this 400 gram beeng over at Green Tea Guru.
Green Tea Guru’s YouTube channel has an interesting video about the Mengku Tea Factory, and what makes their teas a bit special.
To quote Scott Wilson of Yunnan Sourcing “..their teas have become renowned for both their distinct crisp tastes and reasonable prices…“, something Olli of Green Tea Guru echoes when he says that during a blind tasting he assumed that this tea was “…higher than budget calibre..“.
Clearly this factory are doing something right, because as Scott observes “…they have become one of the top tea producers in the country“.
The fairly light compression and slightly off-centre beeng-hole suggested that this might well have been hand pressed. I don’t know why, but there was just something about the appearance of this cake that made me think I was going to get on well with it…
|Weight of dry leaf:||7.5 grams|
|Infusion style:||Gong-fu / Asian|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||a 2 second rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 60 seconds, then @ 75, 90, 120, and finally 180 seconds for a total of 16 infusions|
Post-rinse the leaves were giving off that classic youngish sheng aroma profile – dried mushrooms and freshly planed hardwood, oak springs to mind. One notable thing was the complete absence of any hint of smokiness – even though personally I’m OK with a touch of camp-fire for many sheng drinkers this seems to be a real turn off. In the Green Tea Guru video I link to above Olli has an interesting theory about why Mengku teas are smoke-free.
Colour wise the first infusion was on the light side, not totally unexpected for such a young tea. The soup was low on bitterness, and already showing good signs on the mouth-feel front. The aroma left clinging to the inside of the empty cup was a mixture of granite cliff, blackboard chalks, and a hint of plaster of Paris.
I know that given my less than perfect colour vision I am not the most reliable of witnesses, but these leaves looked to be very green indeed, with super-light green highlights here and there. “That might make things interesting later on,” I said to myself. I thought it might be a good idea to put the Intestinal Defence Initiative on standby – potential incoming bitter-bombs.
The second steeping saw a hint of bitterness pop up to say hello, along with a sweet, vegetal, garden pea sort of thing, together with what I can only describe as an almost lemony note. That came as a bit of a surprise, I can tell you.
One round later the bitterness level was rising, becoming a tip of the tongue tickler that also did interesting things to the roof of my mouth. The next infusion saw the bodily effects head south, starting off as a warming glow in the throat that went on to induce a kind of prickly heat sensation at mid-chest level.
This was proving to be one of those teas that I had to let cool down significantly in order to dig all the subtleties the soup had to offer.
Any concerns I’d had about the bitterness level proved unfounded. It never really rose much beyond the third round, and by the seventh it was on the retreat.
By the 11th. steeping the tea was slipping a tad, so I upped the infusion times accordingly, and by doing so managed to coax another 5 rounds out of the leaves.
It was only when I glanced out of the window and saw the sun alarmingly close to the horizon that I realised how long this session had been – 4 hours! Clearly this tea is one of those that need to be filed under the heading “Time Dilation Potion“.
In conclusion, then – quite a nice bit of kit, this, and no mistake. If this beeng is a good indication as to the overall quality of their stuff then I can certainly see why Mengku are becoming such a major player.
In his video Olli briefly covers a few other Mengku teas he stocks. Given how much I like Spring Tips, I definitely think I’m going to have to check the other ones out, too…