A 2005 semi-aged sheng pu-erh tea from the Mengsong mountains, Sediments marks the slow turning of organic matter into mineral strata.
Last year, Mengsong village was the most expensive terroir on the pu-erh market. To put it frankly, prices were crazy. Luckily, it wasn't like that fifteen years ago when this tea was produced, nor 5 years ago when we purchased it. At that time, all eyes were on Yiwu and the Bulang area, with teas from Lao Ban Zhang already reaching astronomical prices. But the Menghai landscape was clouded by the big Menghai Tea Factory and while the blended teas it flooded the market with were highly regarded by investors (and counterfeiters), the raw maocha from the nearby villages were considered honest at best.
Fifteen years of dry storage (first in Kunming, then in Canada) have made their effort to tame the bold character of this tea, but still left exposed its strong organic and mineral body. Its material is very dense and its transformation rustic. Eyes closed, it's easy to imagine the bare kitchen where the tea leaves have been processed. Once the leaves are pan-fried in the big iron wok and dried outside in the sun, they were brought to the neighbouring factory by the woman in charge where they were sold for a mere fraction of the price some people will offer her years later.
Steeping this tea is a little bit like a trip back in time when pu-erh tea had the bold charm of rusticity, and aging was more an act of balancing aromas than a return on investment. Here, the slow but long fermentation means organic aromas (dead wood, undergrowth, camphor) are met in the cup by a strong mineral presence. After sipping, the mouth is left with a rock-like taste, something reminiscent of wet limestone, chalky stonewalls, and oxidized iron. Subsequent steeping gives even more of this mineral goodness. When the organic matter subsides, the inorganic stuff stands strong.
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