Yes the tea closet has become a shu closet. Instead of the over-exposed oft-blogged about Dayi classic- the 7542, we transpose the center digits to end up with the humble shu cousin 7452. The wodui process was invented in 1973 so you can see this early recipe from '74 was good enough survive four decades. Lightly fermented recipes like 7452 technically leave a little more hope for improvement in aging and if you have to hoard shu- they can be a better way to go. In the eight years I've held the 601 cake, it's become a few notches more interesting but not so compelling that I seriously regret not hoarding a tong.
Two pointers for Menghai shu noobs:
1. Batch numbers indicate year and release, i.e. 601= 1st batch release of 2006 (although could also be for 1996,1986... with the decade inferred) and 901=2009 first release. Of course the first batch has higher collectible value but whether or not it potentially indicates slightly higher quality leaves is not always clear. I've never had a side by side tasting of different batches for the same year so I cannot say but I've had first, second and third batches which seem to have that consistent Menghai quality. The 601 was released in May of 2006 while the 901 was released relatively late in October.
2. 7542 is not a recipe made consistently every year. The red ribbon here just denotes that it was re-released after a hiatus(sometimes as brief as a year) and that it is the first batch of that year. Given the puerh boom and difficulty in getting decent maocha for even sheng, I'm not surprised Dayi did not release a 2008 version. Does the red ribbon in your cake count for more than an extra special feeling? As with anything in puerh, a red ribbon alone cannot be trusted as a absolute mark of quality. I've had pretty good cakes that do not boast that special red ribbon and red ribbon cakes which are not that exciting. Sadly the 901 currently belongs that latter group.
Is there a logical color coded scheme to reflect fermentation levels on the Menghai shus? Lighter recipes like the 7452 appear to be wrapped in a burnt umber cover. However supposedly moderately cooked recipes like 7572 came in a dark chestnut brown cover in 2006 but now have a raw umber print. What to make of the yellow wrapper for the 901? Does this indicate a lighter fermentation than previous years? On visual inspection, the 901 pictured left is noticeably lighter that the 601 but three years is not a significant amount of time to transform. But the post mortem does not confirm my hypothesis.
901 is an initial disappointment-somewhat flat and quiet; I may need to condition it inside a ceramic canister for a month or even let it rest a few years. The 601 back in the day was not terribly impressive either and that is why I didn't buy more. I brew up the 601 today and immediately the more lively mouth feel makes me feel I might do well to have a few more 7452s on hand. I'm on the fence now whether to buy more 901s but I need not worry as someone has already bought the last 20+ cakes from YS as Scott had maintained an unusually low price of $27. You snooze you loose in the world of puerh. The 601s go for $65+ with high risk of fakes so I'm not tempted.
Despite the pending dangers of missing out, My husband gave me a stern stern talking to about not pre-buying more tea to fill up the new cabinets he is building over the winter. My desk is always unusable but it's become an eyesore with Kunming Post boxes piled high. The photo shows about 10 days of shipments. I can't get any more until I clear this backlog some how...