; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Bowels, Bingdao and Bosch: Exploring Nuances of Huang Pian ;

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bowels, Bingdao and Bosch: Exploring Nuances of Huang Pian

Tea and Cwyn
You know where it's been.
Lately we are seeing more tea vendors adding huang pian bricks to their catalog. I can think of various pros and cons for buying and drinking an entire brick of huang pian, older leaves from further down the tea bush than the newer spring leaves that most buyers want. One wonders if the higher prices of decent maocha are a reason for some vendors to turn to huang pian. When first flush spring tea is hard to afford, buying older tree leaves is a more wallet-friendly alternative. 

On the flip side, successful aging of various puerh beeng recipes is sometimes attributed to the addition of huang pian in the blend. That is, a few of those older leaves tossed into a blend adds some darker depth and complexity to the brightness of younger tea. I think I agree with this idea, because very green buds and leaves are the bitter component which we definitely want, but a bit of huang pian carries a mellow and somewhat aged aspect already which is less likely to change in a bad way over time. And then we read about the notion of tea farmers saving huang pian for themselves to drink, because it doesn’t bring the prices that the younger tea will. Maybe too huang pian is a bit easier on the stomach. But do I want to drink a whole brick of huang pian? And, how much am I willing to pay?  

Of course, one can take huang pian, pile ferment it and call it border tea. Off it goes to Tibet and other regions as a dietary supplement. I’m a fan of border teas and other heicha, and I think persons over 50 are the best people to appreciate heicha. I read an article by a young journalist covering a visit from the Dalai Lama to London, and the young person expressed some disappointment that His Holiness merely talked about his successful morning bowel movements, and not something more edifying. But to an older person, the question of “how are you today?” has mostly everything to do with how your digestion is working, and having a good void is saying “I’m fine, thanks,” and meaning it. Young folks get assistance from nature with their digestion because nature is working overtime on their behalf. A cup of heicha to an older person, on the other hand, spells relief without Ex-lax. So of course heicha will taste better, and have some measurable effect on us old folks and as far as I’m concerned, all puerh huang pian should be pile fermented for me. I don’t care what you young people want, because my dump is more important by far than your taste buds. In fact, I think I have just talked myself out of even finishing this blog piece.

But I’ll plug along and persevere, as the nuns would say, and offer it up, all my suffering on your behalf or for the poor souls lingering in some unknown limbo or in reality trying to get off the loo. Gonna keep real though, because huang pian is something we puerh drinkers acquire by accident, not something we set out to actually buy. Right?

I recently got another sample of 2014 Bingdao Laozhai huang pian from Wymm Tea when I purchased a sheaf of mulberry papers for re-wrapping puerh cakes. Wymm Tea actually is one of the few places you can buy correctly sized puerh paper to replace worn out wrappers. I did some research, and while you can find craft quality paper easy enough, and for low prices, this involves cutting it yourself and creating some waste which in the end drives up your cost. 

Mulberry Papers folded in half and rolled
from WymmTea
You can always ask a tea vendor for any extra papers, but then you’re likely to get used wrappers with some other tea label already stamped on. But Wymm sells plain papers at 50 cents a sheet. Twenty sheets only set me back by $10. While I was at it, I tossed a cake of 2014 Mengku huang pian into my cart for $38 which is pretty high for 250g huang pian. This is how I got the sample of a pricier 2014 Bingdao, which rings in at a whopping $58/250g. The Mengku went straight into storage where it will probably never see the light of day. In fact, it will undergo experiments which the Commission for Tea Plant Rights will object to strenuously as tea torture.

Sunshine in a cup: 2014 Bingdao huang pian by Wymm Tea
So, I went ahead and drank the 2014 Bingdao sample instead. Now, I’ve had this tea before. The sample arrived last time with some sort of perfume scent in the box which got me going on spas and marketing to a certain type of woman. The brick cost $58 a year ago, same as today. Looking at what little I actually wrote about the tea, I see no reason to change to my assessment of the flavor notes, but I did enjoy the Bingdao more this time around. I get that premium northern floral and grape, and the tea has a decent motor oil thickness for a good eight steeps
Seems like my sample this time is going a bit longer, and isn’t done at eight, perhaps the tea has settled and lost enough water over the past year to extend the number of brews I’m getting now. The tea is quite pleasant, fruity, but I feel like I’m drinking a straight up green tea, the notes are singular for the most part. While I can steep this longer, I’m getting a little bored, which is a problem with huang pian and ultimately with spending money on it. At the $58/250g price range, I’m well toward a decent cake of spring tea. The $38 Mengku I bought, while still pricey, is still in bamboo, gone into storage and I’m missing out on tasting it. But I won’t be curious about it for awhile. I’ll just mark the $58 Bingdao as “better huang pian” and call it a day, because it probably IS better than the cheaper Mengku. Two days of it didn’t help my constipation much, this tea is rather mellow, better for skinny nymphettes half my age on a fast maybe, but not thicker yang broads like me. Let me leave no doubt which is which.

Video for kitty wells woman half my age video▶ 2:30

(YouTube won't let me embed this one, but trust me, it's worth it to click)

Enough old news for now. As I say, we puerh collectors acquire huang pian rather than look to buy, so here is the one many of us acquired recently, the 2016 Fade from white2tea. If you don’t own one of these, then you aren’t in the tea club and if you drink puerh you need to ask yourself why not. Especially now that spring tea season is upon us, we are sure to get something special in the coming months from TwoDog’s tea traipsing to Yunnan.

2016 Fade huang pian by white2tea
Now, here is what I mean about traipsing. I don’t know what those Wymm-en have to do to get their tea, but I have some idea of what TwoDog does and traipsing involves no small amount of mountain hiking with a bottle of Wild Turkey in hand, and a willingness to eat insects and wring chicken necks. 

Do you have what it takes to be a tea vendor?
Doesn’t this just open your floorboards? Apparently it works on tea farmers, and might work on me if I were a woman half my age. People have asked me what TwoDog looks like, since he doesn’t like to show himself online and I’ve met him a couple times. In truth, he is an elf. And I took the time for you people to work out a close-up of approximately what he looks like without violating his “no photograph” rule. I can’t remember if he has green or blue eyes but then I was tea drunk at the time.

A portrait of TwoDog, image by Cwyn, aided by Bioware/EA
The 2016 Fade cake is apparently inspired by some rap album which I can guarantee you in no way compares to Kitty Wells. And I know for a fact those young rappers have nowhere near the amount of canning in the cupboards that a real man requires. So I can ignore the w-rapper.

Darker sunshine 2016 Fade
In the cup, I detect the source material easily which was revealed by white2tea as huang pian from the Bosch and Last Thoughts productions of last year. Bosch is especially noticeable, the bassy dark notes like left hand chords on the piano. This is a very obvious contrast to the Bingdao which is much lighter and singular, more treble with flowery fruit. Fade is also motor oil thick in early steeps, but with more bitterness and much more astringency, although I reserve astringency for your judgment since my palate, and my bowels (domo arigato Mr. Gyatso), are affected by water-drying medications. 

Fade is the darker whiskey to Wymm’s sunshine fruit cocktail. Bosch itself is a tea for lying around and a-voiding, one that demands much attention. My chipped off sample here doesn’t remind me of Last Thoughts, but then that tea is all about the bud anyway. But if TwoDog says it’s in there, then it’s in there. The resemblance is muted, and the name Fade does rather make sense on its own, given that these leaves are not the full explosive mouth experience of the original cakes. Nor would I expect them to be like the cakes, not at this price point.

Side-by-side, 2014 Bingdao (left) and 2016 Fade (right)
And that’s the real kicker here, what will I pay for huang pian? Fade rings in at $24.50/200g, almost half the price of the Bingdao. And less still than the $38/250g Mengku I bought from Wymm just “because” I tossed it in my cart when buying mulberry papers. The differences between the teas are almost not worth noting because the price point is the biggest discrepancy. Fade leaves are more leathery, require boiling water pushing, but not much more so than the Bingdao. Both teas have about 8 steeps, huang pian doesn’t go much further.

Fade is a must-have if you missed out on Bosch especially. You can appreciate the same subtle notes here, though muted from the original. Given the source material and price point, I think the Fade is worth going heavy unless you’re strongly committed to buying only the top cakes at this point in your collecting. As a storage junkie, I am using my club-acquired Fade brick as an experimental control sample, and I bought a tong of bricks for my laboratorial punishment. ‘Nuff said. Still, I wouldn’t rule Wymm out, they recently acquired some DXS bricks that might be worth a try, yet again another region sourced to death where full spring cakes may be unaffordable, faked or simply unavailable. Overall, I am not likely to go too far out of my way to acquire huang pian. Fade is an unusual commitment from me for lesser quality puerh leaves, and very unlikely without already owning the original cake material and receiving one brick through the tea club.

What do you think of huang pian? I’m sure the vendors who have invested in huang pian are interested in your feedback.

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