|2009 Mengku "Jade Dew"|
In my opinion, if a tea collector has really fine tea cakes and whole tongs, we need to stop buying tea and start saving for a decent storage facility worthy of the collection. I don't own amazing vintages, but many people out there do own some historic teas. While Cloud's cardboard box in the closet method might work in humid parts of Asia, the rest of the world needs storage solutions. Honestly, one doesn't need to own the great Red, Yellow and Blue Mark teas to invest in a decent facility, I think if you have a nice Dayi collection, you have an investment worth protecting unless you plan to drink it all up before you go.
|Sigh...the issues with winter lighting just go on and on...|
(Oddly enough a Google photo search brought up a half dozen of MY photos including my puerh fridge, perhaps the geography of my IP addy yielded results from our shared region of the country. In fact, this is one of the reasons I enjoy Mandala Tea, their location is a direct line on the postal route to my house, thus shipping takes 1 day. Instant gratification for this Midwest puerh hog.)
When I brew up 9 grams of this tea, I get every bit of the fresh top notes in the tea, that white grape champagne floral Yiwu type flavor of a new tea. In any other storage situation, this freshness would be completely faded, dried out and gone by now after 6 years. Either too much heat and humidity kills it, or dry and cold air kills it. Then I also taste bottom notes, perhaps there is some Menghai in the mix, or maybe not, but the orange in the cup is all about that aged wood whiskey cask flavor you find in Menghai tuos just a few years older. Then a little spicy finish going down. All this happening in an average blend beeng due to the storage. No way will you find this otherwise in an online market where our choices are for fresh teas of a year or two vintage, or older humid teas that taste like basement, or dry-stored teas with a green dusty undertaste.
|We all tend to brew first steeps the same, insta-brew, which is why i show it.|
The buds look nearly as fresh as a cake only a year or two old, but I am also seeing the browning, that orange tinge and how uniform this tinge appears across the tea. We don't have a few super dark pieces and then very light pieces in the mix, so I know this isn't huang pian mixed in for color. The cake is past its 5 year mark now with consistent aging throughout and yet no loss of that freshness, no humid forcing going on. The tea is not wrecked in any way. The quality it had at the start is retained, and that is the real testament to the storage more than anything else at this point. The west should have wrecked this cake but the storage is everything. Now this is not a super long steeping tea, maybe 9 steeps but again that is due to base material. Like I said, better than it should be.
This is only a $28 tea cake! How many teas do you have which deserve this much fine treatment? I can tell you that I own at least a half dozen fine cakes that SHOULD be treated this well, and my cakes are nothing compared to the teas I see online posted by their proud owners.
The Jade Dew gets more bitter as I brew onto steep 5. I don't expect this cake to fade any time soon even if I can't treat it nearly as well as Mandala's storage. But I'm getting to the point where if I choose to buy anything else from Mandala, I might see if I can get away with asking them to keep my purchase in the vault until summer when the hot weather will naturally enhance my tea long enough for me to work out yet more storage crocks for the winter.
Mandala Tea has been called the "darling of Steepster" which is both a compliment and a criticism. A compliment for Online Retailing 101: if you want to sell online, participating on relevant forums is a good idea to get awareness for your brand. The criticism comes when such techniques work well. People buy the products and review them, stacking the Steepster ratings with Mandala's Wild Monk cakes. I own a few of those cakes and haven't tasted them yet because they make such excellent gifts to people new to puerh, I end up giving them away.
But I think it's unfair to criticize a retailer for participating on a forum and benefitting because most tea retailers selling to US customers are doing the exact same thing. And Steepster folks are often more than happy to try a new tea vendor at least once. After this it is up to the vendor to keep that business flowing with excellent customer service, especially personal customer service because tea buyers like old Cwyn just love personal attention to our orders. I'll buy more from a vendor who responds promptly to emails and indulges my naughty banter. Crazy old ladies are notoriously annoying and if a tea vendor is willing to listen, why that old lady will be right back again soon. Very simple stuff.
So I ordered two of these cakes on speed dial and am glad I did because they are now sold out. I've got my eye on something else over there but if I buy it then I might ask them to hang onto it until the weather improves. I'm out of crocks over here.
Requiescat in Pace.