I bought this 400 gram beeng back in October of last year over at House of Tea, and have spent the intervening period trying to find adequate time to sit down with it, and to get to know it.
Straight off the bat I’ll have to confess that there are a few gaps in my knowledge about this beeng.
I think that the “Hai Laing” part of the name refers to Hai Lang Hao Pu-erh Tea (see here at Yunnan Sourcing), although that deduction is based upon the fact that in the same year, 2010, Hai Lang Hao Pu-erh Tea produced a beeng of shou pu-erh with a very similar label design that was also a blend involving Menghai area raw material.
Not the most comprehensive of supporting evidence, granted. If you know better, dear reader, then please put me right!
I’m also fairly confident that “Hui Wei” means “returning taste” or aftertaste (as opposed to the similar “Hui Gan“), and that the characters on the front of the label are those very same words in Mandarin.
What I do know for sure comes from House of Tea’s notes. This is a 2010 pressing of raw material harvested in 2008 and 2009. Furthermore the raw material is a blend of both plantation bushes and non-farmed trees, and that the leaves have their origins in the Menghai, Simao and Lincang areas.
The beeng hole was somewhat off-centre, and it was quite easy to insert my tea pick and free off a suitably sized amount of leaf thanks to a relatively light compression, which together seem to suggest that this cake was hand pressed.
|Water Used:||Willy’s Premier|
|Weight of dry leaf:||7 grams|
|Infusion style:||Gong-fu / Asian|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml unglazed clay teapot|
|No. & duration:||a flash rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 40 seconds, than @ 50, 60, 90, 120, 180, and finally 240 seconds for a total of 14 infusions|
The dried leaves gave away very little information as to what was in store for me once the session was underway, but post-rinse they started to sing at the top of their voice, an interesting melody that told me to expect amongst other things a sweet incense like smokiness and notes of dried mushrooms.
These leaves have nine years under their belt, and the ageing process is starting to show dividends.
The broth is starting to take on a deeper colour, and there’s already a sweet medicinal aspect to it, one that I’ve talked about before, one that reminds me of the inside of an old-school pharmacy near to where I grew up.
There’s also a strange peppermint like aftertaste here, one that hangs around in the roof of the mouth, and seems to extend down into the throat and the chest as a billowing, rolling, warming sensation.
The body could best be described as a light heavyweight – although it has lip smacking qualities it tends towards milky rather than melted butter.
There’s a hint of bitterness here, too, though nothing that ever gets out of hand or overpowering.
The qi was a slow roller, taking three rounds to show up, inducing a half dreamy, half awake state when it did so. The weather outside was grim – cold, wet, and windy, but this soup provided a nice antidote to the melancholy of a dismal Nordic February morning.
Radio Sheng was tuned into Bob Marley’s “Jamming” for the duration of the session. The power of sheng pu-erh to trigger musical memories is fascinating – I’d love to know what exactly is going on at the neurological level here. There’s a Nobel prize in there for someone, surely…!
The leaves showed the first signs of fading during the 8th steeping, and ramping up the infusion durations accordingly meant I was able to coax another 6 rounds out of them before it felt like I’d seen all they had to give. That felt like a good natural end to the session, because by then I was coming down with a bad case of the sheng munchies, even though I’d kicked off proceedings quite close to breakfast.
This is one of those teas that took a couple of sessions to get to grips with, and even then you’re still left with the feeling that there might just be something you’re missing, that there is more character left to discover by tweaking your brewing technique a bit.
As it stands right now, it feels like it is firmly in the Daily Drinker category, but towards the top end of that range. It’s not a swig while doing your chores type of a tea – it ushers in too contemplative a mood for that. No, this is more suited to the kind of a session where you pull out the third best teaware, and kick back for a medium length, ultra casual session, where you plan out the rest of your day but are prepared to let your mind off the leash for a frolic in the fields if it really wants to.
I think, then, that I’ll split this beeng into two lots, one to drink now, the other to set aside for a good while, to see what else age has in store for it, put it at the back of the cupboard to let the passage of time do its thing.
It’ll be fun to brew it up once a year or so, just as I plan to do with my beeng of 2013 Xiaguan T8653, to keep tabs on it, see how it’s progressing.
Watch this space, etc…