This is the lone sheng pu’er sample among the massive pile of ripe samples in my recent Yunnan Sourcing order. I’ve never seen Jie Liang talked about anywhere else, but Scott mentions it in his descriptions for the Lao Man’e teas on his site. He describes it as being very similar to Lao Man’e, though even more intensely bitter. Since Lao Man’e is my absolute favorite tea, I naturally simply had to try this tea out.
For this session I used my standard setup of 7g in my 100ml Yixing jiangponi gaiwan. I used a single intact piece, which meant the tea would start off a bit more slowly, helping control the potential intensity. The rinse and the first couple infusions were quite thick and incredibly sweet. There was virtually no bitterness, but I could sense an underlying potency waiting to be unleashed.
Once the chunk had properly come apart, the expected intensity did indeed arrive. The tea was intensely bitter, but you could tell it had mellowed out quite considerably since its youth. For a seasoned Lao Man’e drinker such as myself the bitterness was perfectly palatable, but for those more faint of heart the tea could certainly still be too overwhelming. The bitterness is very persistent lasting for a long time, but unlike most bitterness of such kind I didn’t find it unenjoyable at any point during the session. The bitterness is accompanied by an almost equally intense sweetness and an underlying fruitiness completes the tea. The fruitiness is reminiscent of the grapefruit note I get in Lao Man’e yet not quite the same.
The tea has excellent longevity and I would highly recommend sticking with it till the end as the 2 min. infusion was actually my favorite of the session. In the late extended brews the bitterness and intensity start to die down, which reveals the more subtle and nuanced aspects of the tea. In addition to the aforementioned fruitiness, I noted a different kind of character which helped set the tea further apart from its cousin Lao Man’e (at least the young teas from there). The lack of association makes it difficult to describe, but it was a nice quality nevertheless.
I ordered this sample purely as a curiosity. Since I own two different vintages of Lao Man’e gushu, I never expected to even end up considering purchasing a cake of this tea. At first I wasn’t sure what to think of the Jie Liang. While it does still have quite a bit of intensity left in it, I do prefer teas that have plenty of kick to them, so for my tastes the tea has mellowed perhaps a bit too much even. Early on the similarities with Lao Man’e are also so plentiful that one must ask is there any point in having both. But over time the tea does reveal its own unique character distinct from Lao Man’e, making it worth existing and experiencing.
What sealed the deal for me was the cha qi. During the session I experienced very little qi, but then half an hour after I’d already stopped it suddenly caught up with me. I suddenly had a massive headache, my face felt like it was melting and I was all wobbly. It’s been a while since a tea has made me so tea drunk. While not necessarily purely enjoyable, the qi was very fitting for a tea like this and most certainly elevated at least my experience with the Jie Liang. While the headache and muscle pains faded, I was left energized for the rest of the day.
So now I want a cake of this tea. The price is certainly quite high, but very reasonable given the quality and age. A young Lao Man’e will set you back about as much, and we’re not even talking about gushu. I would consider this tea to be really early in its semi-aged stage, but it has a good head start and will hopefully develop into something even more interesting in another five to ten years. Personally I still prefer Lao Man’e, but I’m now a fan of Jie Liang as well.
Edit: I just realized my gaiwan is actually 120ml, not 100ml. I had it right initially, but seems I’ve been confused about that for many weeks now. It’s not a huge deal, but I’ve been slightly under-leafing my teas per my own standards. Good thing I caught that.
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Sweet