Tuesday, September 04, 2012

90's Menghai Under The Microscope

A week ago I had been planning to treat myself to a USB microscope for about $70-100 when I found this tiny thing on Amazon for $3.50 including shipping from Hong Kong. I read people had clipped it onto their iphones to take some budget microphotography. I'm totally into $3.50! I added brass coinage from Emperor Chi'ien Lung's reign as reference for size- if not for value.

I hunch over my desk tonight for an hour fiddling and taking dozens of blurry photos. I'm using my ipad camera even if it's woefully inadequate because I can upload direct to flickr and that counts for a lot. I may try a real camera this weekend.

I whipped out the sample of the 90's Menghai 8972(which I dubbed dry and dreadful) too see if a peek under a cheap ass microscope can shed any light.  Are the white spots mold or the bloom- a crystallization of the oils in the leaf also found in cigars.  I don't see filaments so I'll go for crystallization.  The hairiness is a bit scary looking- like spider legs.

Not bad for $3.50 but not great either.  I have a dear friend in drosophila research who has access to a two-photon microscope well as other powerful equipment for doing microsurgery on fly brains. Alas she lives in San Diego. 

Peering under a microscope tonight does nothing to solve the conundrum on why this tea was so bad. But I don't know what I'm looking for yet as this is my first peek but I have all sorts of grand plans for this little magnifier. 


  1. Yesss, another two-photonist! Not many of them.

    On the other hand, the two-photon miscrosope would be of little good as it is fluorescence-based.

    This brick sounds just like what I experienced with a 92 Xiaguan tuocha - overdried taste mixed with shu taste. I thought it to be some mutated singularity, but it seems it has a counterpart in your brick...

    1. Jakub,

      How completely strange! Yes! It totally was exactly as you write in your 1992 XG tasting. What do you think about the misting conspiracy theory? You would have to do it on purpose to get the leaves to be this uneven, not just storage alone. Too bad it didn't produce something novel and interesting...

      I put a link here for others to follow:

    2. Hi,
      the misting could be the issuse. I'll have a look at the rest of my Xiaguan sample to see if there is some sort of darkness gradient or something like that. Is your brick consistently inconsistent, or inconsistently inconsistent?

    3. Jakub,

      I think "Danny" is talking about the producers misting the maocha pile time. I only had a sample of the brick and you couldn't tell in the dried form what was what until you brewed the leaves.

      I'm amazed how you trudge on buying aged pu-erh on the internet. I'm almost about to give up.


    4. Hi,
      yes, you are right, misting a pile sounds more likely. Or, another possibility, although I do not think it is the case is, to blend the tea from two very different maochas, e.g. one very heavy on water or some specific bacteria which hasten the aging process up.

      To the aged pu on the internet - It is fun and as my interest in puerh gradually moves back in time, I want to try as much semi-aged - young-aged stuff as I'm able.

      Also, there are not many posts on aged tea on the blogs (but thanks a lot for those who write these "not many"!), so I thought it could be useful if I wrote about some of them.

      And the process is also somewhat rewarding. There are several pieces from EoT that I enjoyed very much (e.g., the bamboo-wrapped tuocha or the Qing Bing) and some from thechineseteashop - the Red mark especially, I'm going to buy a cake; the Iron mold cake is also nice, although slightly moldy.

      Indeed, there are some not-that-interesting pieces and some things that I really did not enjoy (especially the too dry things from thechineseteashop).

      I think that buying cheap aged tea is similarly expensive to buying today's young teas (crazy world) and the ratio of interesting/ok/not for me is similar, so there is nothing wrong :)

      I just placed orders on finepuerh and sampletea so I'll be able to report on that in few weeks I hope.

      Btw. sorry about not sending the honey yet - I found out that all the good honey has been eaten so I need to get some more. I look towards the next week with hope...

  2. IIRC - you should see spores if it's mold. Spores look like little plants.

  3. I also inspected my cakes recently. I used a fairly strong magnifying glass and let the sun shine on the small white dots. The result was that the dots were reflecting nicely the light and parts of some of my cakes under the magnifying glass in the sunlight looked like shiny diamond fields. This simple experiment made me stop to worry about mold for now. :)