Pu-erh Reviews

2006 Bulang Mtn. 1 kilo cake

Genre: Compressed Sheng/Green/Uncooked/Raw
Factory: Haiwan
Vendor: Yunnan Sourcing
Reviewed by tea junkie on 12/09/2006

Background    Big ass cake from the Haiwan tea factory made from leaves from 'wild arbor' trees (if memory serves me right on the last point, the tea does have the camphor note and the leaves are fairly thick veined and have tiny tight serated edges. Sadly, the cake is no longer offered at YS so I cannot quickly read the right up on the cake for more reliable info, and of course I cannot read anything off the cake itself being a stupid ugly American who does'nt read Chinese.

Dry Leaf Appearence:    Edges of cake break apart quite easily and reveal a fairly uniform cake from top to bottom, with lots of big long leaves and a generous quantity of silvery tips. Overall cake is moderately compressed with a nearly perfectly centered dimple on its bottom. It also holds a very nice, sweet and grassy aroma.

Water to Leaf Ratio:     10 gr of Leaf in 100 ml of water

Brewing Method:    As usual, gongfu cha with a cured Yixing pot and a ceramic pitcher/thimble cups. I used locally bottled spring water at 195 degrees, also as usual. I probably should use porcelain for the pot since it is a more inert material, but I have a deep connection with my little pu-erh pot that is hard to break. Anyway, I rinsed the leaves once for fifteen seconds then allowed them to rest for three minutes before proceeding. After much practice I have found this to be a good starting method for awakenning the leaves, I just feel strange rinsing the leaves twice because it seems like wasting a pot on the second rinse.

Wet Leaf Appearence:    As the dry leaf suggested, there were a great deal of large leaves with many whole leaf-bud sets. This was when I could see the thick veins and serated edges that I mentioned earlier, along with a light amount of oxidation showing here and there on the leaves. Very pretty stuff with a gentle, luscious aroma.

1st Steep    30 seconds produced a deep yellow cup with a gentle body and hints of Apricot and Spearmint. The astringency was pleasantly thick on the tongue with a hint of bitterness that quickly became sweet. Alot of goods from a first pot.

2nd Steep    20 seconds revealed a pale amber brew with more of the Apricot and the spearmint shifting into a taste that reminds me of fresh young wheat kernels and top that off with a note that I now ascribe to camphor. I gave it that name after reading the most excellent wikipedia article on pu-erh by bearbearbear. I have found this little tickle in alot of teas, but could not put my finger on it. After reading camphor mentioned a hundred times, it finally sunk in that that was what I was tasting. The body was alive on the tongue with a splendid wash of bitterness that faded into ginseng.

3rd Steep    20 seconds made another cup of pale amber with less apricot and lots more wheat kernel and spinach! This stuff takes the old 'vegetal' term and makes it into a literal reality. Again camphor and ginseng were part of the potent astringency that lingered as honey for over two minutes.

4th Steep    25 seconds was yet again pale amber in color and the sweet wheat was all over the apricot and the deep astringency seemed to lacquer my mouth with ginseng and camphor and I was in young sheng heaven.

Subsequent Steeps    I took this tea out to nine steeps with the last one running about four minutes in the pot. Each infusion was thick and light at the same time, which is about the best I can do right now in describing this grade of sheng. Some have heavier, almost meaty flavors; while others like this one are more about veggies, herbs, and spices. Drinking a pot of each would be like having a square meal, except for the lack of carbs, protein, an amino acids. My wife stepped in for round three, but she just can't get into the pu-erh thing. She is all about the Lung-Ching, Tung-Ting, and Jasmine Pearls, which I would never turn down. In fact the best cup of tea I ever had was a crazy thirty plus an ounce Lung-Ching I had at our neighbourhood (sort-of) ten-ren shop. Thirty a freekin' ounce, and I bought some! Sucker is my middle name - or maybe just tea junkie - but either way that was the most exquisitely delicate yet rich cup I have enjoyed. And talk about gorgeous, it was pure bud sets! No broken leaves at all, and the lady behind the counter was soooo carefull scooping out the tea that I nearly screamed at her to hurry up and fill the bag so I could go home and drink some more. Ummm - back to the tea at hand - I also found the pooled infusions cupped up into a scrumtious mug that brought out more of the mint/camphor notes and left the wheat in favor of the apricot. Kind of opposite of the initial tasting, and kind of strange, to bad this is so complex a world cuz it would be neat to analyze the flavor components and their balances between different infusions. I suspect that the array of polyphenols, essential oils, benzaldehydes and all sorts of other things that tickle our olfactory lobes would be beyond the ability of science to analyze in the lab the same way that our minds put the same things together from the tea that pets our mouths and noses.

Conclusion    I would highly recommend this as a drink-it now tea and I cannot wait till 2011 when it starts mellowing into the pu-erh date range that I enjoy the most. I suspect it may also carry a bit of a collectors item status since YS also has a Youle mountain kilo cake which hints at a series in the making. Something like peacocks for Menghai, I guess. Either way this is a now and future great tea.

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