Right up front I’ll say that the hardest part of putting this post together was attempting to find out more about the tea.
The Lübecker Tee Kontor site didn’t have any information about the cake, so I fell back on my old method – a label picture search. In this technique you search on the name of the tea, but then switch to image view and look for pictures that match the label on the packaging or in this case the wrapper of the beeng. You then follow those image links to hopefully find out more about your tea.
This led me to quite a few pages that offered a slew of information that didn’t quite add up.
For example, several of the pages hinted that this tea came from Menghai county in Xishuangbanna prefecture, with one going as far as to name a village in Menghai – Man Nong.
That’s a bit out of kilter as far as the name of this beeng goes, because Jing Mai mountain is in Lincang county of Pu’er prefecture.
The wrapper itself wasn’t giving much away, either – there was no “QS” information or anything to indicate a pressing date, etc. The only indication of a date at all was a hand-written year of “2013” added to the price sticker.
Once I unwrapped the cake I could see that the beeng hole was quite a bit out of centre, which together with a fairly light compression kind of hinted at a more hands-on approach during manufacture. So light was the pressing that once an initial loosening of the cake had been achieved with the assistance of my trusty tea-pick it was easy enough to just pull leaf out of the body of the cake by hand.
Although I can’t quite put my finger on why, this cake just gave me a feeling of “badge production“, i.e. that it was pressed somewhere or other by a small, less well known factory, and then bought by a wholesaler and put into a generic, off-the-shelf wrapper that just happened to have a “Jing Mai Mountain” tagline, maybe because that would be a better sales pitch, who knows?
So, there were a fair few unknowns attached to this tea before I got down to the business of tasting it for the first time. One side effect of that is of course that when you are going into a tasting almost blind, there are very few expectations biasing your judgement or opinions, with the possible exception that the weight of experience tends to, on the whole, lead you to not expect great things from mystery tea. This tea was going to have to sink or swim purely on its merits alone.
|Weight of dry leaf:||7½ grams|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||a flash rinse, then 7 infusions of 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, and 60 seconds duration.|
The first infusion was dominated by a pleasant camphor note that still allowed planed hardwood shavings and a clean, fresh earthiness to find a voice, too.
The body and the colour were, well, OK, but you couldn’t really say that they were up there with the heaviest hitters in the shou class.
I had to start extending the steeping times already by the 5th. round, and come the 60 second long 7th. infusion it was clear that we were done and the session had run its course.
And that’s about it, to be honest.
I couldn’t see where this beeng was going to fit in with the rest of the old stash – it doesn’t really stack up all that well when compared to almost every other shou I currently have in. Given the price Mrs. Teaist paid for it, a fairly substantial €32, I was determined to squeeze as much utility as possible from those leaves.
After I’d played around a bit more I discovered that this tea works quite well in a post meal, one-shot, Western brewed slot. Six grams, boiling water, a 400 ml pot, and a 4 minute long infusion seemed to bring out the best in this tea.
If this comes over as a bit negative, well, that wasn’t the intention. This isn’t a bad tea per se, just not the best of its kind, especially at that price point.
Even the general air of uncertainty surrounding this beeng can be given a positive spin. It’s kind of a relief to know that if it had fallen into the “…must have more of this..!” category the chances of finding another cargo of the self-same tea in terms of raw material and processing would have been slim at best.
So I’ll work my way through this beeng every evening, 6 grams at a time, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, although I’ll still probably keep the wrapper as a memento.