Anyone who follows the pu-erh live journal community may remember a post I made several months back in which I received a gift in my shipment from Scott at YSLLC. It was the Yongde Qing Beeng, and I hadn't been able to find it anywhere, until recently. I discovered a seller out of Texas who carried it. Norbu Teas, headed by a fellow named Gregory. I sent this guy an email, and much to my joy, he's likely one of the coolest Texans around. He is enthusiastic about his teas, he has fantastic customer service, and he doesn't mind getting to know his customers a bit. I recently placed an order for some samples; one of which was the Menghai 2007 Lao Cha Tou, which translates to something along the lines of "Old Tea Nugget." From what I'm told, this tea is formed during the fermentation process. During sorting, some of the leaves, under heat and pressure will clump together at the bottom of the pile and form nuggets. They are then pressed into bricks and sold to fine folks like you and I. The interesting thing about this tea is the longevity and the taste. I ran 25+ infusions with this the other night, and at no point did I think to myself that it was getting weak.
Both rinses had a medium amber liquor, and by the time I got to the first actual infusion, the soup was a dark cherry red. Thick, smooth, loaded with a very strong aroma somewhere between smoke and mint. After about five infusions, a slight dryness in the back of my throat reminiscent of a night with a bottle of wine. Between steeping, my mouth carries that same tingle and desensitized feeling that I get whenever I've just done a fluoride treatment at the dentist office. There is hui gan in later infusions (around 8-10), but it retains a complex flavour.
I'm always a bit leery of sweet teas. It always reminds me of my ex-girlfriend from years back. All her family drank was Lipton, and their recipe was to take a dozen or so teabags, place them in a pitcher, and add a crap ton of sugar...to which I always said "What's the point?" The hui gan that comes around must not be mistaken with such treachery.
I had some questions regarding the LCT from Menghai and Haiwan. They both fetch the same price, but Haiwan sells in 500g bricks, where Menghai is only 250g. From what I've been able to extract, most people like the Haiwan just as much, if not more. I have a sample of the Haiwan on it's way right now, so once I try it, I'll be able to let you know what my thoughts were. I've always been pleased with Menghai, and although less versed with them, I've had great success with Haiwan as well. Since the manager for Haiwan used to trot around with the Menghai flag, it's no wonder it shows a similar attention to consistency.
One way or another, a few bricks of Lao Cha Tou (whether Menghai or Haiwan have yet to be determined) will be finding themselves a most welcome place in my tea collection very soon. Good stuff!