; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2015 Chawangpu Mengsong Old Tree and 2015 Menghai Cheng Shuang ;

The Very Limited T-Shirt for Cwyn's Tea Fund

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Chawangpu Mengsong Old Tree and 2015 Menghai Cheng Shuang

Oh yeah, more tea.

This posting will conclude my round up of reviews of Chawangshop's 2015 collection that I chose to try. The last two new 2015 Chawangpu cakes I ordered recently represent the more budget end of the price spectrum compared to the finer 2015 Hekai Gushu and aged 2015 (2005) Bulang Old Tree. With the better Chawangpu cakes at already crazy low prices in the $30-odd range, the budget side ends up at half that again, just in case you're buying tea from your penny jar instead of your credit card.

200g cake
I've had Mengsong tea before, and in fact one of the teas used for my fermentation experiment last winter was a Mengsong gushu, and I found the straight up spring bud rather on the light side, taste-wise. So here in this 2015 Mengsong Old Tree I welcome a blend of larger and older leaves from the tea tree to round out the cake with a bit more flavor, and am not disappointed. I brewed this up on the strong side at 10 grams per 100 ml and the tea kept going after 10 steeps. I think I went 12 before I gave out on it, and the tea still had more to give. Brewing this heavy on the leaf side gave the tea more body as well, the tea isn't exactly thin but I like the thicker body when I can get it. Some teas will never get thicker when you add more leaf, and some, like this one, will offer a bit more reward by going heavy. I could still taste the long kuwei nearly two hours after a cup. Again, we're talking about a budget offering.

Leaf variety visible here.
The tea cup is light yellow and pleasantly bitter, and more so than I expected. This is a healthy blend for aging, and while the fruity Hekai gushu is more enjoyable fresh, the Mengsong is a choice for storing away. I find myself wanting a bit of humidity in this. The processing is impressive again with very little char and no smokiness in the tea. In fact, both of the budget teas I'm trying here have much better processing than similar priced teas that many of my tea buddies are buying on EBay.

Second steep.
Seriously people, I know... "good" stuff on EBay, or at least so you might believe, but take a step up. I can understand budget issues that mean you can't get into the real expensive puerh but the good news here is you don't have to.

A few buds, combos and big leaf picked out on the left.
This isn't tea that will knock your socks off and leave you wondering where you put your shoes, but it is quality leaf and deft hands at the wok, and the steam can wasn't left to sit on the heat too long. What you get on EBay, in general, is poor processing more than anything else. Or bad storage that you have to hope you can fix. Why gamble when you can spend your budget right the first time and control the aging yourself?

Not convinced? Okay. So you don't want the $22 cake I just mentioned?? Which comes in at just over $100 a tong? How about this $18 cake which only totals $90 for a tong. One full kg of tea for under a hundred bucks, and that's what this 2015 Menghai Cheng Shuang gives you. 

Menghai the Old Standby
You can fit 5 of these cakes into a $5 stoneware bean pot from the thrift store and have an entire tong of tea plus a fully portable aging set-up for under $100. At $18 per cake, this Menghai area tea is exactly half the cost of the Hekai gushu and again another one for aging.

Blend of two villages.
The tea is described as a combined two village harvest prior to the first week of April 2015. The cake is certainly pretty enough. But when the hot water hits the gaiwan, I can smell some dry storage and wonder if a handful of autumn leaves are in here. Some of them seem to be puckered and dried out just a little. 


Maybe at two months post harvest, it's conceivable the villages might have picked some older leaves in March and kept them on hand for buyers and that explains the dry storage I need 3 rinses to pour off. After that, the leaves are opened back up to their fresh appearance. I notice some older reddish leaf, and I like the leaf combination here, big leaves, buds, 1 bud and two leaf combinations, all different colors of leaf. The tea has more fruity and floral aroma than the other teas I've tried so far, and the usual Menghai bitterness. 9 grams is plenty per 100 ml.

Third steep.
I sort of am getting that regular ordinary Menghai taste, and if I bought this from Dayi I can certainly get the same experience, but instead of getting these pretty leaves I'd have a pile of chop to celebrate my 2015 spring. And that brings me back to my point earlier. I started drinking puerh in 2009, and I own exactly one Xiaguan that I bought for myself, and one Dayi. I also own a massive pile of samples of these factories, samples sent to me from tea buddies either to test their storage or just as part of a simple exchange. None of my Chawangpu teas were provided free for my review, I receive no samples from Chawangshop aside from the usual one in the box. I don't know Honza and I've never exchanged any correspondence with him.

I enjoy picking out a full variety of leaf.
The only real criticism I have of Chawangpu's house teas is the wrapper. I love the design, of course, but again this year the entire collection has the same wrapper, varying only with the couple of Chinese characters. I'm not suggesting at all to design separate wrappers for each tea, but if an online merchant is selling worldwide, it helps if the wrapper is friendly to people all over the world. In my tea storage I've been struggling with small pieces of paper to try and distinguish one Chawangpu cake from another and I'm sitting here again this year feeling like I can't throw away the plastic baggie or I have to cut out the sticker. Do I tape it to the cake? I could buy my own separate rubber stamps, I suppose, to try and differentiate the cakes, but then I worry about choosing ink, and ink bleeding into my teas. I could try and keep track of pieces of paper yet again. But other vendors create different wrappers for each cake which is the easiest way for me to differentiate my teas. Often vendors also label teas with the year in Arabic numerals someplace on the wrapper front or on the back flap. Why not just make it easy for the customer to enjoy the product year after year, and use a different color of stamp for each tea when the wrapper must be the same for each cake.

Otherwise, all I can say right now is that I can't see any reason to invest any of my money into regular factory label teas. I've put thousands of my dollars into house teas from excellent curators, taking full advantage of the palates of the people at Chawangshop, Yunnan Sourcing, white2tea, Crimson Lotus Tea and yes even Misty Peaks, and there are several others I could certainly choose to try in Europe if my dollar held up better against the currencies than it does. But my conclusion is that the house teas from the companies I've mentioned above are superior, by far, to anything I can buy from any regular factory. And if I really must buy aged factory teas, those chosen by the above companies are superior to those I can choose for myself.

While I might be a tea blogger with a little experience in puerh, I have no trouble proudly acknowledging that the palates of good tea vendors are so much better than mine. I can't see the need to waste my money, and what's left of my time, trying to figure out which teas to buy on my own. Chawangshop's 2015 collection demonstrates yet again that budget is no excuse to order factory teas anymore. I'm not trying to criticize my friends who choose to do so, and I enjoy the fun of blind tea shopping as much as anyone. But look at the photos, see the leaf quality and processing. Make up your own mind. I'm fairly certain that once you try even the most low budget of cakes from one of the curators above, they will surpass anything you can find on your own.

6 comments:

  1. Link please and how much did the shipping run? I may want a tong or two of these!

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    1. They are in blue text. If you're not tea drunk and still can't see them, let me know.

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  2. Thank you for the write up :) Good read. Makes me feel a little less obligated to always push my wallet when ordering tea. I'm going to take more chances on ordering some less expensive shop-brand cakes and see what I can find. Did you start to age pu'er when you started to drink it in 2009? And if so, have you had success in the aging? I live in New England and I wonder if it is a good climate for aging. It gets pretty humid in the summer and dry in the winter.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. My blog has a number of articles on crock storage which is one method I use. I will be posting more on storage tomorrow. New England is too dry in the winter due to heating systems. You will need a storage solution if you want to age and even just to preserve your tea so it doesn't go flat.

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    2. He needs mrmo's storage solution!

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    3. Everyone does! Just to answer the shipping cost, when I order from Chawangshop the final cost ends up less than the original shipping quote. My quote for four 200g cakes plus another 50 g or so total of 850g was $24 but the actual cost ended up $19.

      I wish Chawangshop would tack on another $3 each for their teas and then offer free shipping, I'd rather get more tea for that $19, or at least the perception of more tea.

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