52 Tasting Notes
Flavors: Grass, Salty, Smoke, Wood
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This one is aging up nicely with the classic clean taste of Langhe punctuated by some pronounced camphor notes. It’s more than half the price of the Imperial Round and tastes about twice as good. Looking forward to how it’ll taste next fall. One of my favourite of the Langhe offerings. The “shuang” fresca is really nice, especially since it wasn’t there when I first got it.
Flavors: Camphor, Chocolate
Vanilla and camphor play together in this tasty and gorgeous offering. Leaves the mouth full of the camphor “shuang”… and vanilla. Smells great. Has some bitterness in the later infusions and very slight smoke in the first couple. It’ll give you at least 10 infusions and once it gets going only takes about five seconds. It’s a drinkable cookie, with the bitter tweak that characterizes most raw pu’er.
Flavors: Camphor, Smoke, Sweet, Vanilla
2007 Hong Kong Returns Square Brick, Kunming Tea Factory, 100g. I can only give this a rating of being on the lower end of the the mid-tier. The taste is solid CNNP material: full and producing numerous infusions, but the brick itself is packed just too tightly. It evokes the taste of their “60” commemorative cake but that one isn’t packed to smithereens. The date on this is 2007 but upon research, it turns out this series was produced for five years and I imagine that the one I got is not a day over 2012, so it’s very young tasting. The 100g square brick is part of a commemorative series marking the 10th-anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. There is also a 250g, 357g, 1000g, and 2000g offerings, raw and ripe, each with varying designs but usually featuring the HK skyline. Though the tea is good, I suppose it’s mainly for storing or gifting. The one I have, I’ve broken up and placed in a zisha guan to taste on a regular basis as it ages.
2004 Bamboo Fragrance, Jiu Long Tea Co. 100g. This crystal clear treasure is quite exceptional, sweet with a “mediciney” taste that isn’t exactly what I’d liken to camphor but perhaps the mark of camphor after it has aged a bit. It’s from Guannan County, Yunnan, which is far, at least relatively, west of the traditional pu’er regions of Lincang, Simao, and Xishuangbanna, and just north of Vietnam and west of Guangxi Province, as opposed to bordering Burma and Laos. This treasure is exception for reasons beyond its unique location but is worth noting that its taste does not strive to approximate the Menghai standard.
Flavors: Earth, Medicinal, Sweet
A few months back I found a huang-pian offering from an off label on a Chinese site that I’d have to say is simply the very best ripe I’ve tasted so far. It’s an ‘06 called simply Banzhang Thick Brick. Most ripes go in the mouth and down the gullet impressing the drinker with incremental variations this way or that in terms of sweetness, mustiness, astringency, and body. Huigan and yun, being what they are, usually don’t produce a lasting effect similar to raws, Moonlight Whites, or Yunnan gold. This is where this brick really excels. Lot’s of productions after some time often have that “old section of the library” taste, newspaper, or cardboard, especially as they age. I’d be interested to know if others have experienced this and if it is attributable to too dry a storage. My Hailanghao Thick Brick, for instance, has started to express this without going through a sweet stage from its original husky astringency. It also expresses a taste similar to freshly rancid grapes, the taste you get when you pack some for a trip in a basket in a hot car for an hour or two. Not sure what to make of that taste.
Anyway, this brick doesn’t have any of that. It’s as though it were wet-stored for a very short time before being dry-stored. The must, though there, only adds a certain character, which compliments the sweetness. The first few infusions release an evident camphor effect and taste in the huigan. Then there are spice notes of cinnamon and ouud. These notes just linger and linger in the mouth. It also yields quite a number of infusions, more than 10 per six or seven grams ina 150ml pot.
Flavors: Camphor, Cinnamon, Earth, Spices, Wood
This is one of Langhe’s more interesting creations, something I picked up to add to my “peacock collection”. The taste of orange peel is quite noticeable. Characteristically clear-clean taste. I noticed that another reviewer was no pleased with what they found to be a murky taste. Having been purchased from another seller, I cannot say that my experience was in any way similar. Typical in the Langhe tradition of fermentation, the flavour is always on the dry side, with zero must and often pronounced tannins. This offering is in that vein, though again, it has a spicier note of dried tangerine peel.
This one is raw and tasty, a bit of a Bulang or Wuliang taste. Sweet, a pinch of smoke most noticeable in the huigan, early spring material, so leaves are on the small side. Good cha-qi. The real deal with this brick is that 1) it was stored nicely, though it went through hell in shipping (I got it for the wrapper and it’s all shredded); and the craft in forming the brick. Most are packed like hockey pucks, literally requiring chiseling and scraping to get bits for consumption but handy if encountering bandits, wolves or wild boar on the way to grandma’s. This one is decidedly NOT like that. One of the best I’ve run across. Clear broth, nice body. A good drinker for the one who likes the tobaccoey tasting raws, where everything blends together just perfectly. Definitive thumbs up! The “60” is marking the 60th Anniversary of the PRC’s founding, so it’s a commemorative brick.
In continuing to play the field of producers, I settled on a Xing Hai brick from Bulang, which the seller says was comprised of 3-5 grade leaves and possesses “some smokiness” that dissipates after the fifth infusion. Ahem. Xing Hai started up in the early part of the century and won the coveted “Pu’er King” (ripe) award at the Annual International Tea Expo in Guan Dong.
As with many raw bricks you need a chisel to break the leaves apart. I threw about 6g of shavings into my 120ml gaiwan and got to werk, infusing for about 20s the first time and aroud 15 the next few infusions. The liquor is a solid goldenrod. The broth, true to the sellers confessions, is thick. The taste is true Bulang: in your face big instruments played loudly in a French cafe where everyone chain smokes… and then they smoke some more. This is the smokiest offering I’ve ever had. It doesn’t drown out the pronounced sweetness, but it certainly doesn’t play second saxophone either. The astringency, of which there is a bit, comes as a welcome counterpoint to such a voluble ensemble. Ten infusions in the smoke still lingered, even as the liquor faded to a pale yellow. This brick is a real contrast, if a bit jarring, to the Jing-mai, Xi-gui, and Yi-bang I’ve been gulping down of late. Anyone into lapsang suchong would love this is my guess.