Anyone shouting "Bingo!" yet?
As I have posted here in October 2012, I am quite a fan of Fuhai's 7536. When Chris at Chenshi Chinatee restocked on the 2007 version (now from Guangdong storage - yummy!), I immediately ordered an entire bing even before I hade finished my previous cake of that tea. Chris also sent me a sample of a newer pressing of that recipe, dating back to 2012. And in yet another shipment he sent me a sample of Menghai's counterpart 7532 from 2012.
For ages I wanted to do a comparison of Menghai/Dayi and Fuhai ... actually I don't know if 7532 and 7536 were developed independently in Menghai/Dayi and Fuhai factories, or if one is based on the other. Another interesting comparison might be to brew two different vintages of 7536 to see what influence storage has on this tea. Being one of the few remaining advocats of factory blends (well, I do enjoy single mountain gushu tea ... but I will not limit myself to this new fashioned style of post Y2K puer tea), I would even venture so far as to say comparing a factory blend at different ages will give me clearer results. What makes me write this?
If I compare a single mountain small scale production of different vintages, I will taste differences caused by aging ... and differences caused by growing conditions (and production differences) across years. As a blend is a composition of differing materials, the factory will change the proportion of of each material year by year, so the result each year will be as uniform as possible. Thus in a blend the differences found when tasting various vintages will primarily be caused by storage / aging.
For tasting three teas side by side, I had to use tea taster sets, as I had no three identical gaiwan on hand. Before I go into details about the teas, I can give you one conclusion I got from yet another sheng tasting in these tea taster sets: please don't use tea taster sets for sheng. Compared to clay pots or even just plain gaiwan, each sheng I have made so far in a tea taster set seems flat and lackluster.
But now lets get to the teas in question, starting with the dry leaves:
7536 (from 2012) displays an olive-green which is not as brownish as its Dayi counterpart. Tips in this tea are silver with hardly any trace of gold. Might just be my sample, but to me leaf size in this Fuhai tea seems slightly bigger than Dayi's 7532. The fragrance speaks of wetter storage and there is even a tiny bit of fish shop in the background. Though I like some wet storage, this fragrance is not as appealing to me as the first tea's.
7536 (from 2007) well, this tea has aged well in Guangdong and the colour is a warm brown with some copper. Only faint hints of green remain. Compared to my other bing of this tea from 2007 (Kunming storage?), this tea looks really mature. Do leaves shrink during storage? Somehow the leaves of this tea look slightly smaller than the ones in its younger brother from 2012, more like its Dayi cousin.
In the cup:
As mentioned earlier, they all turned out surprisingly flat, at least in the first infusion. Each tasted of the fragrance described above - just in less intense than expected. Fortunately later infusions turned out more pronounced.
|Left: 7532, Top: 7536 (2012), Right: 7536 (2007)|
7536 (2012) was strong in the mushroom flavour - something I have come to expect from the Menghai region. Yet there was also a trait I refer to as the "Jinggu chewing gum": in teas from Jinggu region I usually find something that reminds me of chewing gum which has lost its flavour but hasn't turned bitter yet. I know that there are fans out there of Jinggu teas and there surely are some great teas from Jinggu ... somewhere ... to some of you ... just not me. Later infusions of 7536 (2012) turned slightly towards a fruity direction (apricots just about to ripen), but not enough to override the undesired Jinggu bit.
7536 (2007) well, in the end, all is well! Where its younger brother was nothing to inspire enthusiasm in me, the mature version of this tea is just my cup of tea. Sweetness, mushrooms, fresh tobacco and the unmistakeable blessing of Guangdong storage. Yummy! I know from other sessions with this tea in my zisha pot that it turns out wonderfully fruity (apricot jam) when prepared in good clay.
My own personal conclusion without any claims at objectivity:
When sitting down for some younger sheng, 7536 can not live up to 7532. But if you don't trust in ageing tea yourself, a mature version of 7536 is great value for small money.
Should I try to stash away a couple of youngish 7536 bings to let time work its magic on them? Hardly worth the risk with the 2007 version selling for merely 44€ per bing.
Thanks to Chris for the samples!