Sunday, June 10, 2012

2006 Lucky 7581

I waited all Saturday for what hasn't happened since 2007- the arrival of a box chock full of pu-erh. My husband has mentioned that I am not a person who needs more tea, but I am not deterred by such logical statements of practicality.  Most readers of this blog probably have spouses or significant others who may have uttered such unheeded sentiments. Not everyone is lucky to have a wife like Hobbes who will fully indulge his mania even procuring boatload of beengs when traveling alone in China.

So let us see if my eight years of learning reflect any wisdom in my actions now or I am still that foolish seventy year-old man letting twenty something gold diggers take my heart and wallet again and again. You can decide for yourself which tired trout about Chinese belief in cycles versus the Western faith in linear progression applies here.

I actually woke up 6:30a.m. this morning trying to determine which of the shus to try first despite having bugged out my eyes until 1 a.m. trying to buy yet more tea.  Let us start with our first selection- the 2006 Lucky 7581 from Kunming Tea Factory composed of leaves from 1998.  According to the exuberant vendor, this "legendary" brick whose recipe represents the "crown jewel of pu-erh" is "one of the best shus" he has ever tasted.   I'm afraid I wasn't immune to such blatant overtures although I knew first hand such vendor descriptions can sometimes lead to a disappointing overpriced end.  I wanted to give this recommended U.S. vendor a try because in the end, vendors who press their own cakes and have somewhat reasonable prices on most things are a benefit overall to the tea drinking community here in the U.S.    But if this box ends badly, this may be the last time I bother ordering from any U.S. based vendor.  

Back to the 7581- by the virtue of having survived these last seven years in dusty warehouses, the vendor's stack of bricks have been uplifted to a more public internet existence than they could have possibly imagined while composting in giant heaps on the factory floor back in 1998.
After 15 years of various middle-men exchanges, this particular brick and it's siblings have been given a new life in America by a certain "Uncle Jim".  This here brick on the right finally was adopted into a hedonistic pork loving Berkeley home.  (I definitely see some comic strip potential here... Second digression-before China became a leader in baby export, it was none other than South Korea who held this dubious ranking.) 

Despite all the hype and potential for fakes with 7581s,  I'll just take this tea for what it is and my first encounter is positive.   Initially I was struck by light delicacy of this tea somewhat similar to the Golden Needle White Lotus.  Even with the pot half full of leaves, this brick brews up thinner than expected.  It's the lingering aftertaste that I am always chasing and I have a faint but noticeable sweet tail of this tea on my tongue and finally a little tickle on the throat while I write this entry. The brews started with wood roast coffee notes- a strange match for such an airy brew, tending towards caramel throughout the 6+ infusions.  When sniffing the leaves between brews, burnt sugar scent is overwhelming and heady.  I would venture to say this appears to be the real thing or it's good enough that I am happy to be fooled so then it's down to the matter of the pricing.

According to a baidu blog,  the Kunming Factory supposedly produced 30 tons of this 7581(my math says 120,000 bricks) with 20 tons for export differentiated by a yellow wrapper while the white wrapper represents the domestic batch.  (All from google translator with search terms "昆明茶厂 7581 2006" ). Product \  It really is amazing to me that something originally so cheap and mass produced can turn out to taste this interesting. Despite marketing and production of "premium" bricks in the last few years, bricks tend to represent the low end of pressed tea market comprised mostly chopped up low grade leaves.  At a going price tag of $33 for 250g, this 7581 is a moderately expensive shu and I'm not rushing to snap up rest of the vendor's stock.   I already have a closet full of gratuitously smooth and pleasant ripe beengs from 2000-2006 and this brick tastes just different and complex enough that I'm satisfied.   A taobao check reveals the same thing is going for $8-10 if indeed they are the real thing.  Somehow I do not feel ripped off at all.  Ever since the 900% mark up on Verdant Tea, everything else looks reasonable in comparison.  I'll just call this the "Duckler Effect" from now on.

(July 11th update- I brewed this up a couple more times and I definitely would not buy this tea again or recommend it to anyone. It's too expensive for what it is.)

This not a tea I would normally subject to a bacon breakfast but I had brewed up half a gallon for kicks.  I enjoy myself enormously with buckwheat coconut flour pancakes, a fried egg laid yesterday from my favorite clucker Bonkers accompanied by generous pieces of bacon.  When I sip the rest of it cold, it's mostly a pleasant ride and only once I did get an unpleasant bitter hint in the aftertaste.  Otherwise, this 7581 is definitely a more interesting shu than my 2006 Menghai cakes proving again that aging does matter even in world of shus. But how much you are willing to pay for the privilege is up to your wallet and youth.  Seven years ago when I was glugging young sheng, paying top dollar for an aged shu seemed to me a waste of perfectly good money.  Even paying more than $25 for a ripe beeng seemed excessive back then.  Now I'm willing to settle and pay more for interesting shus even if they are an echo of the real thing - a true aged sheng.

1 comment:

  1. Personally that is the type of shu that I avoid as in my experience unless it is very cheap (as in under $10 a brick) I always avoid aged shu puerh. While age can improve shu, the improvement is normally limited to airing out and losing any factory odors in the first year or so after it was produced. After that you are paying for the extra age and hype which in my opinion are not worth it for their price range which is getting into beeng territory.