2007 Clouds and Fog cake by Bonanshan Mountain Tea Co. has been around awhile with a low price attractive to buyers on a budget. I’ve seen this cake reviewed in a number of places, and you can still find it at Yunnan Sourcing US and also at Mandala Tea, both likely from the same batch. This factory tea went through some wetness early on and then storage in the Lincang area before Yunnan Sourcing shipped it over to the US. Mandala is currently running a 20% off sale, with $5 flat rate shipping, which brings their $34 price tag more in line with YS $24 price for 357g and shipping extra. Depending upon where you live, the Mandala deal might be the better one because of the flat rate shipping cost, especially so for Canadians. I’m always interested in picking up inexpensive tea with a history of a bit of wet storage, and then seeing where it goes. After all, I don’t want to mess around doing storage experiments with my more expensive cakes.
At first glance, the cake visually exhibits the wet quality, and based on the photos from the two vendors, I seem to have acquired a wetter example. Hard to see the slightly warped shape of the cake, but you can see the spots where the tea leaves mush together. The cake is tightly compressed, yet I note the leaves flaking away at the edges where wetness permeated and lifted the tea out of shape. So, I expect somewhat of a degree of variability between the cakes, more or less wet. Thus if you have this tea, yours may differ from mine a bit.
I like to see individual cakes like this which now have a decent collection of qualitative impressions online, such as on the Yunnan Sourcing listing and on Steepster. We are lacking data on tea in the US, in fact we are only getting started. What we need are teas which converge online among puerh heads, with this data later on we will develop more understanding of the future of this cake in the hands of collectors in the US and Canada. No doubt many other tea cakes now have a lot of impressions online as well, so let’s keep on writing!
In general, I don’t drink many teas with 2-10 years of age. With all the storage experiments I’ve been doing, I can taste fermentation and storage to the point where it screams at me and obliterates the subtleties for me at first. So few teas are drinkable during years 2-10, and I’m not sure it is entirely healthy to drink them either. I prefer fresh tea or it needs to be older than 10 years. Despite my distaste, I need a baseline check on the tea when I first get hold of it, so 12 grams and off I go for the kettle.
|Clouds and Fog are what I see in fermented tea. Steeps 4 and 5.|
Martini size tea cup by teaware.house
Other reviewers noted the antique/Chinese medicine character to the tea and wow, it hits in the nose on the first 7 steeps. This seems to be a combination of the usual smoky/acrid character which I often find in Menghai not-so-high-end leaf, along with an incredible amount of camphor. In fact, this tea is one of the more camphorated cakes I’ve ever had. Intuitively it feels like this cake got so wet in a single event that the camphor oil escaped the leaves, congealed, and then dried out. The soup is intensely cooling in the throat and esophagus, like a spicy cough drop, and remained cool for well over an hour as I wrote this post. Luckily the cake didn’t sit in wetness to the point of developing a mildew-y, musty odor. In fact it has a dry/wet combination smell to it. I definitely get the dryness in the first few steeps so I think the tea has stayed dry for quite some time since the initial wet event.
Tea leaves need to have a strong integrity to survive a wet event and continue to age on. This leaf just doesn’t have the power once I get past the Chinese medicine and camphor. I am really after leaf quality for drinking, and the buds and leaves in this tea are from young bushes and now feel like tissue paper. They crumble easily wet and dry. Some reviewers noted a floral, rose quality and maybe you will too. I’m looking for bitterness, or sour juicy fruit and this leaf hasn’t got it. The tea is rather smooth with very little flavor. Still, the caffeine is quite strong, I got jittery after 7 steeps and yes I brewed big pots so I drank a lot of liquid. My son drank the 6th steep and said nothing much except “it’s good.” I brewed the pot past steep 9, but I didn’t drink the remaining steeps, simply because I’d had enough caffeine. By steep 11, I got nothing much but color in the cup.
So, what is the character here? I can imagine this tea will continue fading but will keep the camphor, the smooth storage, and a bit of caffeine. This tea has that old Chinese medicine flavor, and down the line should remain warming. My sinuses cleared out from the camphor, quite honestly though, I don’t taste much of anything else. I can’t imagine wanting to drink this for a nice cuppa. Yet, I am interested in herbal characteristics, and if I had an herbal shop, I’d put this tea away for another ten years and then see what effects remain. So, anyone lacking an example of camphorated puerh or medicine tea in their collection might want to pick this up for their colds and flu. I won’t worry about the storage, I will ziploc plastic bag it and call it a day. No point in clogging up my storage with a tea that won’t benefit much from optimal conditions.
|Clouds and Fog, and Colds and Flu are all we have to show in|
Wisconsin December this year.
Normally we'd have snow and not this green grass!
Requiescat in Pace