Monday, July 30, 2007

2007 MengYang Guoyan Star of Bulang 357g

Ancient Bulang Tea Proverb

"If we leave the gold, you will spend it.If we leave the ox, it may die.We must leave the tea trees so they can grow and provide.You should not let others take the tea trees.You should protect the tea trees like you do your life, and never let them out of your control." - Author Unknown

Product Research

The Star of Bulang is a mid-range pu-erh cake by MengYang Guoyan. It is the sister cake to the "Dragon of Bulang" which one of the company's premium Bulang offering. Although both are made of Bulang Mountain material, Guoyan claims that the Dragon is entirely made of wild arbor leaves, while the material of the Star is a composite of both plantation and wild arbor. Nonetheless, the Star of Bulang is made of first-flush spring material which undoubtedly should make this tea cake special.

I'm sure many of you are well versed on Bulang Mountain pu-erh, however, for those of you who are not, Bulang Mountain is another important pu-erh producing area located in MengHai county, Yunnan. Although it is not part of the original Six Famous Tea Mountains, it is no less important. If fact, Bulang offers pu-erh drinkers a fantastic selection of tantalizing teas that no doubt are part of many tea collections, including mine.

Bulang sits on the border of China and Burma. Its has an

elevation of 1,700 meters ASL, which makes this mountain one of the highest. Bulang Mountain contains roughly 9,500 acres of ancient tea gardens that are maintained and cared for by the BuLang Chinese minority, which have populated the mountain for more than 1,000 year.

Initial Impressions

The mao cha appears to be spring material. It had a very floral aroma which lingers in the nostrils when inhaled. There was only the faintest smoke. The mao cha is not very compacted which should facilitate its aging. From first glance it appears to be of good quality tea.

Brewing Parameters

Source - Dragon Tea House (Ebay Vendor)

Water-Bottled spring water. Source of water - Frontier Springs, PA

Amount – 5.6g

Water Temp - Boil then cooled for 3 breaths

Brewing Method - Gongfu

Brewing Vessel - Yixing Teapot 150ml

Infusion times

First Infusion

Aroma - Profound honey and floral notes. A wonderfully thick and lingering aroma.

Taste - The floral and honey notes are carried well into the liquor. Slight hints of raw sugar and grapefruit. Intriguing aftertaste that seems to linger for awhile. Great acidity and viscosity.

Second Infusion
Aroma - The floral and honey aroma is still very consistent however this time they are laced in the slightest hint of natural rubber.

Taste - More bitterness and a very active palate from the nice acidity. The liquor is now very sweet which is marrying well with the playful bitterness. There seems to be more raw sugar which lingers in the throat and nostrils after the swallow.

Third Infusion

Aroma - Again, the floral and honey remains consistent. The natural rubber that was in the second infusion seems to be present in the third. The liquor has become ultra sweet and smooth. The acidity is still keeping the palate alive exciting the sides of my tongue. The viscosity and thickness is still very present. The grapefruit is lingering in the finish. Nice!

Liquor Color - 4th Infusion

As you can see the liquor is still very bright even after the 4th infusion.

Wet Leaf

Although the claim is that it is made partly of wild arbor leaf, I could not extract an example as I really couldn't identify any. However, I am assuming that the whole leaves that I did extract are plantation which appear to be of the spring season.

Overall Impressions

As you may already know, I am becoming quite partial to Guoyan, and this example keeps me a fan. They offer a wide selection of pu-erh which are both descent in quality and reasonably priced; the Star of Bulang is no exception.

Before I evaluate this beeng, I decided to drink the 2006 Chang Tai Hao Bulang in order to have a fresh reference point of a similar quality beeng. The Chang Tai Hao became flimsy and hollow with no complexity. However, the Star of Bulang's flavors and acidity were nice and strong and active, making this beeng a good candidate for aging.

Map source: Global Mapping Intl / Joshua Project


Brent said...

Is the rubber you talk about a good thing? Generally I don't think of rubber as appetizing...

Anyway, nice post, as usual. :)

Space Samurai said...

Dammit, you keep making puerh sound so darn tasty.

MarshalN said...

The wet leaves look rather flimsy...

Bill said...

Thanks Space and Brent for the Kuddos! And Space, Pu-erh IS DELICIOUS!!

Marsh, Yes, rather agree with you that the leaves appear to be somewhat on the thinner side. However, they did brew up a nice liquor. This is one of the reasons that I am skeptical about Guoyan's claim to it containing wild arbor. If it does, I am sure the amount in the recipie is quite nominal. Again, great beeng for the price.

MarshalN said...

I think anytime a big factory claiming their tea to be wild arbour or some such should be taken with many grains of salt. Most of the time it's probably a small % of it being blended in. Even boutique teashops that make their own cakes often use only a % of the leaves as a blend, so for a large factory to secure such large quantities... almost impossible.

Michel said...

I really like the Dragon, the star's big brother; and there again I'm not 100% positive its entirely 100% wild arbor. True Wild Trees there are not- and I think even the dragon has some spring maocha; having said that the Dragon is in my top 3 of medium priced pu ehr. A great find and worth getting a TOng!

Bill said...

Hello Michel, Yes, Marsh and I have been having this discussion for sometime now. It is such a shame that consumers are left to guess the contents of what they are buying. I have yet tasted the Bulang, however, if it tastes similar to the Star, I am sure that it would be a fantastic addition to my collection. Guoyan, in my opinion is truly a cut above the rest in its class!!

Anonymous said...

Hello Bill
What does it mean PA when your write Source of water,X springs,PA
Thanks to explain me

Bill said...

Hello Sheng, what is meant by PA is the state of orgin, in this case Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill and thanks also for your very interesring blog
Good job !

aneglakya said...

Nice site - this is my first time visiting! I'm posting rather late to this thread, so hope it reaches you.

First , to elaborate on your description of Bulangshan: the mountain is predominantly Bulang ethnicity, as they were the first inhabitants over 1,300 years ago. However, there are also Aini and Lahu villages. For instance, Laobanzhang, which holds the honor of this years most expensive maocha, is Aini ethnicity, though their oldest gardens were originally planted by the Bulang people. As for old tea gardens, they are only found in about half a dozen of the mountain's 51 villages, the rest cultivating mainly wild strains sourced from seed or small-leaf variety shrubs provided by the government from the 1980's onwards.

Regarding the tea, how do you qualify the leaf as spring maocha? I am not an expert, but my impression of the dry leaf in the photos is that it is either autumn or winter harvested. I have a Bulang bing made up of winter leaf - what is referred to as houqiu (after autumn) - harvested in December. It looks quite similar to your photos.
Also, I am of the understanding that spring tea has more predominant astringency and fragrance, whereas autumn tea tends toward bitter and sweet. Perhaps we should trade samples and do a comparison . . .

In any case, I look forward to more of your blog and won't be so long-winded in the future!

Bill said...

Hello Brian! I really appreciated the in-depth description of the Bulangshan. As for your comment, Guoyan suggests that the beeng is composed of spring maocha. Of course anyone who understands the pu-erh market today will undoubtedly take any claim with a healthy dose of skepticism :) It is very interesting that you would say that from your experience you feel that this leaves pictured are of the autumn or winter season. It has been my understanding (as well as experience) that autumn maocha generally tends to be larger in size than the smaller spring tender leaves and buds. I have never bought or had the liberty of tasting a winter harvest so I will make no comment. From the wet leaves, I can only suggest that the beeng was made primarily (and I use the word primarily) of spring maocha as it appears there is possibly a blend. Your terms astringency and bitter are somewhat confusing to me as some do use these two terms interchangeably, and therefore I will make no comment. However, if you mean acidity then yes, spring typically will have more acidity (in some cases). Sweetness, most Bulangshans that I have tasted have been generally sweet when compared to other mountain areas of course relatively speaking. There are indeed many factors that will alter the taste of the maocha from year to year as I am sure you already know. Thanks Brian for reading!!!


Unknown said...

Yunnan Nannuo Arbor Pu-erh Tea Cake
A quality product made by Guoyan tea factory to export to Malaysia. The floral and honey notes are carried well into the liquor. Slight hints of raw sugar and grapefruit. Intriguing aftertaste that seems to linger.

Taste - The floral and honey notes are carried well into the liquor. Slight hints of raw sugar and grapefruit. Intriguing aftertaste that seems to linger for awhile. Great acidity and viscosity.

Please compare the tasting notes…THIS is disconcerting!!

Bill said...

Hello Tjzazen! Thank you for bringing this to my attention! It appears that he is using my tasting notes for his own commerical use! Though I am flattered that he has found enough confidence in my abilities of tasting to use them in his store, nonetheless, it is still without a doubt plagiarism! I would not have mind at all if he would of asked and only used my words to correspond with the appropiate beeng.

Thank you again for bringing this to my attention! I will certainly look into it.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Bill! Never hurts to push for more honesty in the tea trade. I'd love to hear of any follow-up from the owner of Puerhshop, inasmuch as I just made a first-time order there and hope I will not regret it. This sort of behavior, though, makes me strongly question whether I should have done better research before purchasing.

Home Set Up

Tea should be simple. I typically brew gongfu except when I make a good English Breakfast. Zhuni pot is one that I dedicate to Chinese b...