This is a tea I’ve been curious to try for a while. I finally ordered a sample recently and here we are. In typical Yunnan Sourcing fashion, my 10g sample weighed in at a hefty 11.8g. Wanting to have a proper, BIG session instead of splitting it into two smaller ones, I busted out my largest gaiwan which would be a 165ml silver lined one. Quick five second wash, followed by a five minute rest while I sipped the rinse. Apart from one small piece of the cake, my sample was in loose form, resulting in a potent brew. It was strong, holy smokes was it strong. Bitter, creamy, plummy.
I followed up with a dozen infusions, the timing for these 6s, 6s, 6s, 6s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 60s and 2 min. respectively. Ba Wang started off thick and creamy. Literally like drinking cream. This tea also has a tendency to produce foam in the mouth if you whisk it quickly. The soup was strong, sweet, bitter, mineral, citric. Really thick, really potent. It retained its thick, creamy texture for the first four brews after which it lost the creaminess but kept the big body for most of the session.
Being a Bulang tea, the tea is definitely bitter but also very sweet. In the early brews the bitterness transforms quickly into sweetness and this can take as little as a second. Bitterness and sweetness take turns being the more prominent force from steep to steep with neither ever becoming too overpowering. While generally not a fan of sweet teas, the sweetness on display here is the kind I like, one that isn’t overly sweet in the same way as sugar or candy. As the infusions progress, the bitterness slowly shifts from upfront more towards a delayed longer lasting bitterness. It never becomes abrasive, however, and at times I found it very enjoyable like a proper Bulang should be.
In terms of the physical sensation of drinking the tea, the Ba Wang was just pure joy. The tea is very active, tongue-numbing, and extremely pleasing in the mouth and upon swallowing. Toward the middle of the session it produced an extremely pleasing sensation in the throat when swallowed. This is about as orgasmic as the experience of drinking tea gets. For me just the mouthfeel and the physical sensation of drinking the tea make it worth it for me. The mouthfeel and texture change slowly over the course of the session, never becoming boring.
I got very little astringency, which is good. I prefer a nice kuwei to astringency any day of the week. While the tea becomes much simpler and not as engaging after ten or so infusions, it remains strong if pushed adequately and I can see this being one of those teas that steeps into infinity. Even though I was drinking this with company, I eventually had to throw in the towel after twelve infusions, because this tea is STRONG and I was getting bloated.
To sum up my thoughts, Ba Wang is one of the best teas I’ve had to date. It is an absolute gem of a tea. I must admit, while I was curious to try this tea, I did not hold high hopes for it. While it is by no means a cheap tea, I was blown away by the quality. Normally to get this level of quality from a spring tea of this vintage, you would expect to pay 50 to 100% more. Thanks to the lack of a premium that comes with a name like Lao Ban Zhang, Lao Man’e and others, this tea is priced more like an ultra high-end autumn tea despite being a spring picking.
I am a big fan of teas like this and immediately ordered a cake after the session. Those who are not into Bulang teas or bitter teas in general should obviously look elsewhere, but that being said, if you are curious to try to understand the appeal of these kinds of teas, I think this would be the perfect candidate to sample. You may think you don’t like bitter teas, but a tea like this might just prove you wrong. It is very hard to try to explain the appeal of these teas to someone, you really just have to experience them for yourself.
This is going to be one of the highlights of my collection, right next to my cake of Lao Man’e.
Flavors: Bitter, Creamy, Plums, Sweet, Tart