Preconception can be a pain. My brain had already worked out a wonderful expectation of what a ten year plus 7542 puer ought to be, and I had latched on to the idea, despite the session flying in the opposite direction. Where that concept came from, I am not sure. Probably a conglomeration of romanticized past experiences coupled with the unshakeable optimism that accompanies hunger or thirst. Your stomach is empty and someone utters the words “dessert”. Your thoughts drift into a world of decadent layered cheese cakes, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and warm fruit pies. Then, the waiter brings over a plate of ho hos. (No offense to the readers who like ho hos, they have their place, but that aren’t a homemade cake) Anyhow, this particular cake did not quite live up to my expectations, which is more my own fault than the cakes. The tea was good, and will likely be better if stored humidly for a few more years.
7542 is a recipe that can have some fairly wide variations. Different factories and years label 7542 (A recipe that has officially been in use since 1975) on cakes, which when consumed side-by-side, bear only a faint resemblance. Menghai factory (Dayi) productions of 7542 tend to be fairly uniform, but when you factor in further variables like different productions (this particular sample was 201 pi) and aging, you get further off into the unquantifiable ether of puer. This particular tea falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, not the best example, but far from the worst. (see: ho hos)
The scent of the dry leaves is gentle and woody. The leaves are on the dry side of the moisture spectrum with a matte finish. I only know that this tea spent the last couple of years in Sichuan, prior to that, it’s anybody’s guess. The leaves give off a middle-aged smell.
The liquor is a dark ochre color, not as red as my amateurish photography suggests. The first whiffs off of the gaiwan smell of scotch, vanilla, and tobacco.
The first steeping was oddly se [astringent], which was a surprise. Given the odors coming off of the dry and wet leaves, I would not have imagined the tea to be very astringent. My guess would have been velvety smoothness, but that turned out to be wishful thinking. After the first steeping, it became less harsh, but remained tannic throughout the session. Around steep number four, the leaves started to open up and some licorice appeared in the cup.
The teas best feature was its huigan [sweet aftertaste] and persistent throat coating. The aged taste was present, but it seemed to have been subjected to much drier storage than a few other samples in the batch. It could use a year in the steam room, as it is still pretty edgy. Maybe I had too many expectations about what this tea ought to be, instead of letting the tea be what it was. I’ll take note of this tendency and never force my hypothetical son, Billy, to join the basketball team against his will. Billy, if you want to dance, I fully support your decision to join the Russian ballet. And 2002 Dayi 7542 puer, may you hold on to your youthful astringency until thine heart is content.