I thought I was out of white2tea teas, but I’d forgotten I had a small mini bing or whatever people call these flat, dragon ball-esque coin things of this tea that I received as a freebie with my order of some samples. This has been sitting in my pumidor for a year now and it’s frankly a wonder it did not get lost somewhere between the cakes. I drank this away from home with some company and only weighed it with the wrapper on when I took it with me. My scale showed 7.7 grams, so I assume these are intended to be around seven grams which is fairly standard. The gaiwan I had on hand was 130ml, so I did this session filling it up to what I know to be around the 100ml mark.
Now, before we move on to the tea, I’ve done a long rant in the past about my weird relationship with white2tea (none of which I’m going to repeat here) and how I might not be the most unbiased person to be reviewing their teas, but I will do my best here to express my honest opinion. I’ve also mentioned in past reviews that I don’t drink a lot of multi-region blends, so I’m a bit out of my comfort zone here. As such, if I come across slightly harsher than normal, that’s why.
With dragon balls, I’ve found that a longer 30s rinse followed by a shorter second rinse / extended first steep at around twenty seconds works quite well for me. That is what I did here as well, thirty seconds followed by twenty seconds after a five-minute rest in between. The first rinse was sweet but still light. There was some body, however, and a nice, silky texture. The second rinse was still light in terms of its flavors, but the extraction itself was much stronger. The taste was clean, mineral, sweet and earthy. The nice texture from the first wash was carried over. I proceeded to do ten more infusions, the timing for these being 4s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 45s, 75s and 2 min. Somewhat irregular pattern for me in the middle steeps there.
Compared to the two washes, the first flash steep was really light and had lost its nice texture. I tasted mainly notes that I associate with a patch of soil in the garden. There was also some sweetness there. The second steep was stronger, really earthy/peaty with a dirty taste to it. Can’t say I was a fan. Slight creaminess in the finish, accompanied by a strong sandy note. The mouthfeel was now better.
The next three infusions were all strong and each stronger than the last. The flavors moved from a combination of leafy and dirt to increasing levels of bitterness, accompanied by at time sweetness, others extreme tartness or even sourness which is a rare one for me to encounter in pu’er. My tongue grew gradually numb from the bitterness, leaving it feeling somewhat similar to it being burned.
This is the point where I needed to start adapting to the tea to regulate it and as a result the sixth brew while still strong and bitter was also now smoother and more balanced. While steep seven was similar, some astringency was now starting to creep in and this culminated in the following infusion where all of the other flavors suddenly dropped off, leaving the tea dominated by astringency. I attempted two more brews, but if I’m being totally honest with you the ninth steep tasted like sock juice to me and the final infusion had hardly any taste to it besides some mild sweetness and astringency.
While we’ll likely never know what exact teas went into this blend, if I’m allowed to speculate a little, it seems fairly clear to me that there’s some Bulang material in this. The mid-to-late steeps are dominated by an aggressive bitterness that is quite familiar to me. As to what other teas went into this, it’s hard to say. The soft, more elegant start could very well come from a Yiwu tea or something of similar character, of which there are many teas out there. If there are any more than two teas in this, I found it extremely hard to tell as the more aggressive tea dominated everything once it got going.
As for the quality of the material, the silky mouthfeel at the start was actually pretty nice, so whatever material was responsible for that might actually be quite good. Once the tea got going, the strength was so good that I actually had to start adapting to the tea on the fly. What puzzled me though was the way the tea just suddenly died at the end. Considering I was holding back on my brew times, I would have expected that to extend the longevity, not diminish it. Perhaps I’m spoiled, but I’m used to teas typically winding down more gracefully. I’m not going to try to read too much into it since I’m no expert, but maybe this means the more aggro material isn’t necessarily gushu but perhaps dashu or younger.
Looking at the leaves at the end of the session, many of the leaves are quite big, but there is a quite high ratio of more oxidized leaves in the mix, many of these quite heavily reddish, not just small blotches. You of course see these in nearly every tea, but it’s usually just a leaf here and there. On the other hand I didn’t spot any leaves with burn marks from the wok.
So what are my thoughts? It wasn’t a bad tea, but it also didn’t really impress me. It is unclear to me where they were really going with this blend. A soft, elegant start, suddenly turning into aggressiveness? I’m going to compare this to Bulang teas, because most of the time the tea behaved like one. At 55¢/g, it’s really hard for me to see this tea being worth its price tag. If I wanted to buy a more aggressive Bulang tea, I could get one with ten years of age on it for around 10¢/g. The material wouldn’t necessarily be as good, but the tea would have gained complexity and notes that this young tea currently lacks. At 55¢/g you can also get crazy good Yiwu teas as long as you sample and find the ones you like. Therefore for me this tea would maybe fall in the 10–20¢/g bracket, not that it matters. Could be that it’ll age into something magical, but I leave that up to those willing to invest a hundred dollars and wait for a decade or two to discover.
And there you have it. If anything, this tea made me want to go drink some more Bulang teas. I should also maybe order some samples of aged Bulangs to expose myself to more semi-aged teas. So far Bitterleaf’s Dear Comrade has been the first aged sheng to click with me, but of course it sold out right after I ordered my sample. Any recommendations for aged teas to include in my next Yunnan Sourcing order are welcome.