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

Friday, July 13, 2007

2003 XiShuangBanna Dai Autonomous State 50-yr Anniversary Brick, 250g 'Special Ordered'

Product Research

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Dai Autonomous State in Xishuangbanna, the People's State Government had commissioned the Da-Du-Gang Long-Yuan Tea Factory to produce these fine bricks in order to celebrate the states inception.

The brick was produced in 2003 utilizing spring handpicked arbor-type leaves from wild ancient tea trees in Xishuangbanna. The wild arbor trees which were plucked were all 100~500 years old. The raw leaves were sun dried following traditional methods and were not machine-dried.

The back of the wrapping paper is sealed "Long Yuan Jin Pin" (Long Yuan Superior Grade).

Initial Impressions

The brick appears that it has aged some since the last time I have sampled it. There was a pungent odor when it was initially inspected sometime back, however, it seems that this is no longer the case, but has been replaced with a slightly floral aroma.

Brewing Parameters

Water Temp - Boil

Brewing Method - Gongfu

Amount - 4.3g

Brewing Vessel - Yixing Teapot 120ml

Infusion times
8 -85s

First Infusion

- Very sweet with a pronounced woody background. No smoke, faint vegetal.

Taste - No taste of smoke; no bitterness; very slight hints of butterscotch and a flutter of grass.

Second Infusion

Aroma - More wood notes, however, still very slight in comparison to other arbors. Still very sweet; the butterscotch is still lingering in the background; grass has waned; now melon and floral notes are coming through.

Taste - Nice viscosity; still slight woodiness; flutter of citrus in the after thought; ultra mellow and refreshing.

Third Infusion

Aroma - Grass is no longer noticeable; woodiness is still keeping things active.

Taste - Same as previous with variable differences.

Liquor Differential

First Infusion

Eighth Infusion

As you can see, th liquor has turned a nice amber. The color stayed quite consistant-a good sign.

Spent Leaves -

Although the prescription for this brick calls for spring arbor mao cha, in my opinion, it appears that there might be a few fall harvest leaves thrown into the mix. Nonetheless, from the intact leaves that I was able to locate, along with its arbor tasting palate, I believe it's safe to assume that it's wild arbor.

Overall Impressions

This brick is aging quite well and is exceptionally mellow. It does appear that they were made of high grade materials as the stamp on the back of the wrapper implies. However, this stands to reason since high grade mao cha did not become scarce and/or expensive until roughly 2004.

It is a really smooth and quenching drink that will undoubtedly age very well. It was hard to gauge whether the prescription was entirely made of wild ancient arbor, however, its characteristics do suggest that it is. In my humble opinion, I believe that the bricks can be drunk now.

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...