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Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 (2005) Chawangpu Bulang Shan Old Tree Xiao Bing

oops, unwrapped it before the photo
This Pu head Badger stuck her head out to look when she saw this new Bulang Chawangpu cake, pressed just a month ago now from "forgotten" warehoused 2005 maocha in Menghai. 200g of such stuff for the crazy low price of $32, sounds too good to be true, and lucky me the tea arrives in the mail within a week so I can check it out.
Brown leaves, very sexy.
The photos show a promising mix of buds and huang pian, I like a blend of leaf especially in Bulang-area tea which tends to pack a punch. Also, the brown color of the cake along with the rather olive-toned steeped leaf in the photos suggests more humid storage. All this seems to pan out when I sniff the cake. If this tea was forgotten in a warehouse, it certainly smells like it. I smell damp cement, damp wood and earthy soil. Not overpoweringly so, I've had far more stuffy smelling cakes than this before and I know from my crocked teas  that I can turn humid storage into a lovely mineral taste.
Looks like noodles
Even better, this is one of the first opportunities I have had to get a cake straight out of its initial humid storage. This gives me a baseline sample tea which got its start in a more humid setting in China, and then will finish in the west without any other unknown storage variables in between. This won't be the case a few months down the road, because I would then have Honza's storage to consider. His storage might be a good thing, but surely the tea would lose the odor and some of the characteristics it has right now.

Second Steep
This tea should be over the hump into teen years for sure, and I see promising signs of this stage in the brown and slightly cloudy brew on the first steep, with a ring of red around the cup. Top note of slightly musty hay, straight up bitter coating on the tongue. Cooling effect. The storage doesn't really seem terribly musty at all, I was expecting more. Bit of char in the strainer but the smoke is gone from the storage. Third and fourth steeps some peppercorn, hay is almost gone except in the nose, the bitterness overtaking the hay.

A real mix of leaf size and age.
Leaf seems rather variable in storage effects, as if it was piled or boxed and just left without any turning. Some leaves are blackened and dark brown, others olive toned, and still others a very light green. Of course, it's $32. Aside from the thicker buds I see in the cup, the leaf is on the thin side, this seems to be more of a farm craft cake of a day's unsorted picking: buds, large leaves, small leaves, huang pian. This is likely the justification for the lower price, the thin and rough leaf in places. Remember, it's $32. The tea isn't very thick, I started out with 9 g/100 ml and found myself lowering the water amount, this tea would be more like 12-14g/100 ml for my ideal ratio. That's cuz it's...$32.

Fourth steep.

Tea is lightening up and fading at steep 8, I wouldn't take it past 10. But I already own mega-steepers which are 10x this price. Sometimes I want something I can actually finish in a session instead of four days later. Tea that qualifies as a nice daily drinker for me will be, you guessed it, $32.

Seventh steep with 30 seconds steep time.
As for storing, because of the thinner leaf I think the tea is gonna be good til 15 years tops and fade after that. So with a tong situation, under ideal storage conditions, I'd keep it in bamboo for a couple  years, then take the bamboo off for one or two and have me a daily drinker after that. Not that it can't be drunk up now, but a year of airing and relaxing would help get rid of that warehouse smell and bring out some possible hidden flavors. At the start of the warm and muggy summer here in Wisconsin, I've got the best time of year just ahead for working out old flavors and continuing to age pressed tea.

So, I think this is a tong for old people, tea for warm feet and just bitter enough to give you something in a couple years. Did I say it's $32? Thumbs up for the storage, thumbs up for the price, and one thumb up for flavor. My grandkids will never see this cake.

Requiescat in Pace

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