I declared a special tea day today and tasted a sheng pu-erh sample from 1999 with friends.
This tea was made in a small-scale factory and was inspired by the famous Menghai Dayi 8582 cake. The number 8582 can be read as follows: 85 signifies the year its recipe was developed (although there is a debate that this tea was not produced until 1988 despite its name); the third digit ‘8’ refers to the size of the leaves and this ranges from 0 to 9 and 8 is one of the lowest grades however it is suitable for long term storage, and ‘2’ indicated the tea factory which is Menghai although for this tea we know that it was a small factory.
This sheng pu-erh was created for Hong Kong tea stores as a special order. It was matured in a humid Taiwan storage which is considered a better ageing climate compared to Hong Kong. To be honest, I have not tasted such an old pu-erh before, and I have no baseline for comparing it against. However, I can say that it had a beautiful liquor colour very dark for a young sheng and quite light for a shu. It definitely had an ‘old’ flavour that came out as strong earthy notes. I can only imagine that these notes were not there when the tea was still young. The tea also had a certain level of astringency and lingering taste. Contrary to its earthy notes which developed over time, the bitterness must have been there since the beginning and only got milder over the years.
It is such an experience to think that I was a teenager when this tea was harvested and now after 21 years I could enjoy it with my friends.
Origin: Menghai, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan
Harvest time: 1999
Leave colour: Green, brown and some golden tips
Liquor colour: Amber
Tea aroma: Earthy
Tea taste: Mellow, medium-bodied with a lingering astringency and slight sweetness
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 100°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 30 years and possibly more