46 Tasting Notes
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.
Very tasty and enjoyable sheng. It is sweet and full-bodied with a bit of cheer. Held up to numerous steepings, lets say at least 8. Perhaps hints of citrus in it. Don’t recall much bitterness at all. Infusion time was between 5-10 sec. Leaves were on the small side, but I understand the cake was packed tightly, as is also the case with the 60 ripe version. Lots of personality to this one. Wife enjoyed it too. Big thumbs up.
Got a sample from Vicky up by Toronto way. Roasted, malty and floral. No bitterness or astringency. You cold steep it for a year or gong-fu style. It’s up to you. Spectacular Yunnan Gold/Dian Hong. Not robust like you might prefer, rather soft, delicious, the best that could be produced from such fragrant and downy leaves. Think of it as the Yi-wu of dian-hong and then you’ve got the idea. Dry, it is floral like a cross between wild chrysanthemum and rose.
I instantly fell for this pu’er when I smelled its baker’s chocolate depth, richness, and allure. Where many cakes usually need some airing out to let some of the “duiwei” to dissipate, this one didn’t seem to have much of any at all or that which it did have only blended nicely with its overall medley of aromas. The first sampling of the cake was good enough – See more at: http://universotea.com/content/2012-chengshan-golden-peacock?ovr=1#sthash.FdV57MeJ.dpuf
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa
2006 Bulang, Tiandiren Teavivre
I mentioned a couple weeks back that I had this after someone mentioned having it. I noted that it tasted horrible. I was flash steeping at 195 and it tasted like cigarette water. Yeah, I’m from Iowa and I went through my tobacco chewing days like everyone else. The worst “chew,” as it’s called, imho, is the sawdust stuff that comes in a hockey-puck called Copenhagen. This all to say that brewed at that temp, this Bulang conjured memories of Iowa and I was only too eager for the right time to try again at my normal raw tea temp of 175. Big, big, big difference. Positive. Much sweeter, a hint of sour. The cigarette, not necessarily tobacco but yes, taste lingers in the background, not unpleasantly.
Orange peel, sandalwood, must, must, must, bitter, dry, orange peel.
Wet-stored treasure that is dry through and through. Very potent cha-qi, all head and not heat. Astringency, after all these years. Paul Simon would be please. Added time with each infusion.
Characteristically gorgeous brew colour: limpid, inviting, brassy red. Lingering taste of orange peel’s bitterness.
Tastes like a grown-up’s tea. Thanks for the sample JC.
Curiously, I had read about this tea last week, when my tea amigo showed up with a sample of this for our monthly Bamboo and Loquat tea session through Meet-up. I flash steeped this puppy up with water at 195. Just as the article I read noted, it smells like cigarettes, contrary to what the author noted, through several infusions, it tasted like cigarettes as well. Not smoky, but astringent, slightly sour and acrid. This tea delivers a wicked cha-qi and my tea amigo noted that this might be a good one for folks who are trying to kick the habit, but neither of us found it terribly enjoyable or tasty after four infusions.
I’d recommend this for folks who want a long lingering buzz, much longer than a cigarette and long for that cigarette taste… if that what it can be called.