Feasting on the sweet ample flesh of Dungeness crabs is one of the true luxuries of living in the Bay Area. In an attempt to share this seafood goodness with my east coast family, I used to fly with a cooler full of live crabs on JetBlue. But the hairy eyeballs I would get from flight agents was enough deterrent that I stopped doing it after a few occasions. This year, I'm not sure if I will indulge in a full crab feast as there's been massive toxic algae blooms on this side of the Pacific due to the warmer waters. Yesterday I really had a hankering for a crab and I had to make do with canned crab claw meat from Sri Lanka.
Post Saturday crab omelette brunch, I wanted to pick out a tea to settle our laden bellies. I got lazy and unimaginative and pulled out the 2003 Menghai Crab's Claw. Crab's claw or crab's feet (螃蟹脚/pang xie jiao/Viscum Articulatum Burmanum) is a parasitic vine - a type of leafless mistletoe growing among the older tea trees. Crab's claw is blessed with a long long list of purported medicinal healing properties ranging from spleen re-invigoration, hypertension, to joint pain. Indeed I bought it back in '06 to help cure my husband's persistent cough. I could not attribute it's dubious efficacy to the low dosage or lack of shelf life but I enjoyed the tea for itself.
The underlying tea was quite gentle even back then and it was one sheng I could drink without burden. A light bulb should have gone off in my brain that I should stick to older cakes but my clueless younger self did not quite fit the pieces of the puzzle.
It's been almost ten years I've brewed this puppy and I am pleasantly surprised the taste is still refreshing and light- completely smooth and soft in the mouth. It didn't get weaker nor did it get stronger. I got almost excited that I sniffed a tiny whiff of camphor scent in the teapot. There's only a wee bit of claw sprinkled on top so the taste and fragrance is really the underlying tea. I do find that the crab's claw can soften the taste of a brew when I add some of the Jingmai crab's claw Ira gave me previously to sheng.
The verdict many come to is that crab's claw is one of the novelty fringe tea gimmicks you might try once or twice. Since you can get just pure crab's claw from YS and other outfits to enhance your sheng of choice, it's definitely not worth buying pre-sprinkled beeng.