2001 Simplified Yun 7542, Dayi Mark
The 2001 Simplified Yun 7542 is widely known as one of the top 7542 recipe productions from the Menghai Tea Factory in the last 25 years. A tea that would have been 12.50 RMB (2$ USD) per 357g cake at retail (adjusted for inflation!) now fetches as much as 3000$ USD for a dryly stored version in good condition. One of the last great batches of 7542 made before the 2004 privatization of the company, it comes in several versions: thick and thin paper wrapper batches with a zhongcha mark, and the one being reviewed here, with a Dayi mark. The version with the Dayi mark is significantly less expensive, at about a third of the price of its more conservatively styled counterpart. In all cases, “Simplified Yun” refers to the simplified version of the “Yun” character (云 is the simplified version of 雲, the character for “cloud”) on the wrapper. Below you can see the different versions of the character:
For me as a drinker (as opposed to investor), these are past the point of diminishing returns in their ideal versions, and so I wanted to find a good traditionally stored version with a long period of resting. The result is the tea reviewed below, which was traditionally stored in Hong Kong for an unknown period but which has been in natural dry storage in Taiwan for at least 10 years.
There was a time I would have recoiled from the above sight: a moldy chunk of mashed up old tea… Well, you live, you learn. Here’s another gory photo:
The first time I tried this tea, it was part of a blind TWL tasting, and I was immediately impressed with the belting strength and major uplifting energy. After having it a few more times, the closest tea I could compare it with is the 501-7542.
- Dark red, very clear liquor, clean taste, immediately bitter, with very fast uplifting frisson along the neck and face. The taste is clean mineral style traditional storage. Minimal geosmin, only a tiny hint of root vegetables but mostly the storage is mineral/rocky.
- Rich aged wood incense background. No geosmin, crystal clear red liquor. Oily.
- Arrival is bitter, rich, woody, giving a slow downward wave of pressure, followed by a rush of frisson in the face, shoulders and head. Not a calming energy, this one is more fireworks.
- Reminds me a lot of 501-7542 in the flavour profile of old wood, oily texture, and a subtle plummy juiciness, leading to significant astringency.
- Mid steeps are less bitter, more sweetness, oiliness, thick and concentrated. Juiciness is easier to taste once the bitterness recedes.
- Heat on face now. Sweating. Beefy material, not large but thick and leathery.
- In the late steeps, the taste is at a more normal volume, easier to understand. There is a clear classic Dayi taste, so similar to 501-7542.
This tea appears to be a mix of chopped leaves and intact leaves, and also of tippy and larger leaves. The appearance of the wet leaves is consistent with a lighter traditional storage, and don’t show much toadskin.
I have a low tolerance for geosmin in traditionally stored tea, and this is one of my favourite examples of traditional storage, with very low geosmin and no mothball taste or aroma. I only needed one rinse for this tea and it struck me as extremely clean from the storage point of view.
While I appreciate the traditional storage on this tea, I can’t call it anywhere near mellow or comforting – it has a brutal underlying strength which rewards fast steeps especially at the beginning. It will infuse very quickly and get very bitter, so I recommend fast gongfu for the first 5 steeps, or do a long brew in a large pot. It has an impressive and dynamic energetic effect, major frisson waves and uplift. It also has nice structure, with plenty of acidity, bitterness, and astringency. The overall profile is wood bitters. Less is more when it comes to this tea. 7.7. Highly recommended reference.