2014 Yibang Dragon Pearl, Shujian Tea

2014_lao_man_e_shujian

Shujian Tea has made a name for themselves crafting “Free and Easy Pills” (xiaoyao dan) from classic puer terrior.  Their prices are stunning, but the quality and effect speak for themselves.  The 2014 Yibang is fabulous.  The 2014 productions didn’t come in the snazzy boxes as they do today.  The box upgrade, however, hasn’t led to a changing of the high-quality paper wrapping the “pill” itself.  Each pearl is made of only the most carefully selected material originating exclusively from a single tea garden.  They are somehow hand rolled into what will settle into an eight gram jewel.  Quantities from a single terrior are between 500-1000 pieces, sometimes less.

A little about “Free and Easy” in the Chinese context, which is a reference to the ancient Daoist sage Zhuang-zi (Chuang-tsu).  There is a famous passage, “Xiao Yao You”, in the eponymous classic Zhuang-zi, describing a freedom from constraint.  Xiao Yao San is a classica Chinese medicinel formula for liver constraint from a compendium introduced in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), The Prescriptions of the Bureau of Taiping People’s Welfare Pharmacy, Taiping Huimin Heji Jufang.  “Constraint” usually means impeded that which is relieved by tending to the softness and vascular efficiency of the liver, but it also connotes one’s disposition.  It is this aspect that Shujian evokes.  The “dan” character 丹 stands for a special type of pill.  It carries Daoist and alchemical overtones.

A little too much information I know, but it is a classy literary and medicinal reference that screams style.  Wu Dang (Wu Tang) type stuff, misty mountains and flowing robes.  Thing you can tell about these Xiaoyao Dan is that they cater toward more dedicated tastes in Mainland where there is much greater demand and appreciation.  Bricks and cakes are very different creatures from the dragon pearl.  The Yi Bang at twice the price of Shujian’s Bang Dong is more than twice as good.  The Bang Dong possesses a green bean quality, whereas the Yi Bang is floral and uplifting.  At 14 infusions it never grew bitter but even with color it seemed to be cashed.  Yiwu tea, to which Yibang belongs, is said to grow sweeter with age.  I can’t see tea of this type getting much better because much of the beauty is in its freshness, contrary to most bricks and cakes.

Puerh Storage Concerns

2005-liming-peacock-cover

Any parent worries about their child and any farmer worries about his crops.  Why should the matter differ for the one storing puerh?  Yesterday, I decided to check out one of the cakes I’ve been storing for about a year-and-a-half.

Fresh out of the box, this ’13 cake looked, smelled, and tasted top notch.  After several mths, I reached for it again, finding it flat, with a taste of crayola.  More recently, I received an ’05 Ba Jiao Ting which was similarly flat, which I also attributed to storage.  This is not a matter of humid storage, but what seems to possibly be stuffy storage.

Both cakes, along with a few others, were transferred to the more capacious storage vessel and allowed to sit for a little over a month.  The crayola effect has completely vanished from the ’13 and the ’05 is sufficiently old where some of that is to be expected.  It is certainly a better-tasting puerh, possessing considerably more depth and intensity.  It is definitely a production in line with the grade and reputation of the the company.

It seems that storing is a far more forgiving process than one would expect.  Productions old and young were resuscitated in little over a month of more ideal storage.  I suppose that this transfer is akin to letting the tea sit out for a duration before drinking.  It’s a relief to know that storage can be so flexible.

 

Bing Dao Report Mar 2017

Bing Dao TangI

The Yapu 2010 Bing Dao Wang is an excellent score.  I’ve written about it before, yet it still merits visiting.  An honest nine infusions in and it seems to be a wee better than half exhausted.  In Kunming I didn’t taste any Yiwu or Bing Dao that is as soft as this Yapu Bing Dao Wang.

As it ages, it seems to be getting more syrupy.  The liquor is golden and crystal clear.  Tastes like sweet mineral water with a light fragrance of some fleeting flower.  Its gentility explains how it could become so popular in metropolises in China.

Storage and aging is an unfolding with every cake.  So far, things for this Bing Dao have been perfect.  There’s no storage taste in the leaves so it’s a pure experience.  The cake is packed  less densely than most and leaves look lush in the pot.

Star of Week: ’07 T861 Tulin

'07 T861 TangI

The T861 is a precocious little bugger.  For being only nine years old, it is easily one of the most aged treasures in the Puerh Junky’s collection.  It has been stored to perfection, neither too humid nor too dry, but sufficiently humid to allow for rapid transformation.  It has lost nothing along the way.  Moisture has kept it alive.  Earth and camphor aromas emanate enticingly from the dry tuo.

The broth color is already on the red ale side. It is clear and full-bodied: sweet, mushroomy, and camphory.  In the warm weather, the camphor surprisingly induces a cooling effect.  On the back end, the melange fades to trademark Wuliang Mt medicine notes and earth.  Brew judiciously, no more than five seconds.  The leaves,pressed to perfection, release quickly.  Extending the brewing time makes it too tannic, though the tannins are otherwise just another balancing effect of a well constituted brew.

The T861 is sweeter, more camphory, and smoother than either the ’06 Silver Buds or the ’07 T868, all by Tulin. It seems like it’s about five years older than the two.  The T868 is the “youngest” among the three, with an astringent bite and hint of smoke similar to the Silver Buds.  As it opens up, it expresses a macho florality similar to the Year of the Rat.  The T861, on the other hand, is like the wise grandfather who has seen it all.

8g T861
150 ml water at 200f
5s infusion time

Star of Week: 2012 Chen Yun Green Cake, CNNP

12ChenYun Cover

I think I’ve figured out what that “pencil shavings” taste is that the bearded dude over at the Tea DB is talking about.  It’s a taste that I’ve associated with soda and the orange cremecicle, but it could be associated with pencil shavings as well, I suppose.  It’s a taste that lingers in the aftertaste of our Star of the Week, the 2012 Chen Yun Green Cake, by Zhong Cha.

Chen yun” means something like “old taste.”  The name has been thus bestowed because the cake is pressed from mao cha that aged for five years before being pressed into a cake.  As such then, the rambunctiousness of a generally young tea is totally absent.  Rather, there are honey notes in the taste and fragrance.  At the same time, the broth color and taste are is considerably younger than something from ’05-’06.  In fact, the broth is light gold with a high degree of clarity.

Hot summer days call for light puerhs.  I want them sweet and relatively uncomplicated.  Smoke and bitterness are not particularly welcome.  Productions that start out good but quickly hit the wall end up leaving a greater sense of dissatisfaction that they do pleasure.  The Chen Yun Green Cake is exceptionally even keeled.  There is zero smoke and the bitterness is negligible.  Those who cannot discern the difference between astringency and bitterness would do well to have a guzzle or two of this treasure.  The astringency here blends well with aftertaste, hanging particularly in the cheeks and on the blade of the tongue and front of the palate.

A temperature just above tepid reveals a pleasing sweetness.  It tastes as though it is the same recipe that comprises Beijing Olympics and HK Returns cake.  The Chen Yun and HK Returns cake have been pressed with considerably more care than the Beijing Olympics, which even despite its high compression has undergone much more transformation and tastes considerably older than the two.  Chen Yun still possesses a gentle floral quality that evokes a sense of perfume that is of high quality and worn subtly.

150 ml gaiwan
8g Chen Yun Green Cake

Infusion times ranged from flash infusion to 30s.  Yields around 12 infusions.

Star of Week: 2014 Bulang Peacock, CNNP

14 Bulang Peacock ReverseII

The 2014 Bulang Peacock is of a different formula from most raw Zhong Chas.  The cake has an unmistakable vanilla character and aroma.  The leaves are carefully selected and pressed.  Breaking the leaves from the cake is easily accomplished.

The broth is of a medium viscosity and possesses a umami quality that I find particular to Bulangs of an unknown region and relatively young age.  In addition to vanilla, some citrus can found in the taste.  The taste is somewhat comparable to the Prince of Banna in terms of the vanilla, but the 2014 Bulang Peacock has a fuller body.  Think of the older Ingrid Bergman instead of the young one and you’ll see the contrast.

I can’t say that the Bulang Peacock comes with any of the force of the Zhong Cha Beyonce, Fu.  Rather, it is one of those genteel experiences, one in which discretion is the rule.  Overall, it is a pleasing summertime offering.

 

Star of Week: 2012 “Fu,” CNNP

CNNP Fu

Somehow I feel that the 2012 Fu has already won acclaim as SOW (Star of Week), but I don’t want to go back to check, just let the chips fall as they may.  So, one of my two buddies dropped in this week from Beijing.  He planned to carpool up north with a friend of his, who happened upon my residence for such reasons and feeling the need to be a good host I offered some of my stash.  I thought that something quick and easy was in order.  It’s mid summer.  The days are warm and the late afternoons are punctuated by cool breezes off the Pacific.

The 2012 Fu is a fruity sweet delight.  It might be considered the Chenin Blanc of the raw collection: sweet with body, highly drinkable.    I put 6g in my 120ml yixing clay pot and gave the first infusion about 30s before down-shifting to about 10s.  I used somewhat cold water, possibly 168 or so.  It takes the hot water fine without turning bitter, but still water on the cooler side seems to help the brew maintain its liveliness.  It is a very cheerful tea, and certainly something that would be easily drunk by the puerh novice.

The brew itself is rich, i.e., “fu” (馥), and the fragrance is equally full.  The taste lingers a good spell, beckoning for another round.  Despite its youth, it feels very gentle on the stomach.  Overall, Fu seems perfect for the summer.

Star of Week: 2008 Da Li Tuo, Xia Guan

08 DaliTuo TangI

This one wasn’t a very hard choice.  Even though the weather is on the warm side, the ’08 Da Li Tuo is a spectacularly satisfying production.  So thick, rich and sweet, it may be the best Xia Guan offering this Puerh Junky has drunk.  Among the big three goliaths that formed the Chinese tea monopoly during the iron rice bowl years, each has its particular repute.  Xia Guan is known for its tuo.  This is certainly the tastiest Xia Guan tuo encountered in my sojourn.  The balance of flavors is perfect.  Its thickness and body is enough to even may Beyonce jealous.  If you don’t like Beyonce, then don’t bother with the ’08 Da Li Tuo.  Still with it’s impressive box and fascinating wrapper, the Da Li Tuo doesn’t just look good, in contrast to the aforementioned performer.  Good looks would hardly merit winning Star of the Week.  What will win it is body and boy does this ever fit that bill.  This is a new arrival, so you might still catch it on sale.

Star of the Week: 2008 Nan Zhao Imperial Cake, Xia Guan

'08 Nan Zhao Box

The ’08 Nan Zhao Imperial Cake (500g) is a trip to the medicine shop.  There are unmistakable aromas of camphor and menthol that transform into tastes of cantaloupe as it lingers in the mouth.  Storage with this cake has been mostly dry, though there is a hint of humidity that grounds the experience in an inobtrusive manner.  This treasure has a soupiness that is deeply satisfying throughout its numerous infusions.  Even as one progresses deeper into the bitterness hidden in the deeper infusions, the thickness remains.  Here was my method:

6g Nanzhao
120ml yixing teapot
10s Infusions
12 infusions yielded

One downside to this treasure was its murkiness.  It has similarities to the older Six Great Tea Mountain Lunar Series in terms of its musky fruit aftertaste, though the upfront medicinal notes are certifiably Mt Wuliang.

 

Star of the Week: 2014 Wuliang Mt, Shujian

2014_wuliang_mt_shujian

Whenever I think of Wuliang Mt. productions, I’m apt to think of the strong productions from Xia Guan and Tulin.  The 2014 Wuliang Mt dragon pearl does not fit the mold.  It tastes like sugarcane with a backside kick of camphor.  Often spring material is mas fuerte.  Perfume, bitterness, and astringency commingle into forming some combination of that which appeals or repulses.  This production is nothing of the sort.

The 2014 Wuliang dragon pearl possesses negligible bitterness and astringency.  The broth is thick and light in color and taste.  Whereas most offerings tend to build to a crescendo, curiously this dragon pearl maintains a steadiness throughout its many infusions, more than 12.   Many puerh offerings have “a bottom” of sorts, where the bitterness and astringency prevail over sweetness and fragrance as one progresses from one infusion to the next.  With the 2014 Wuliang Mt dragon pearl, this doesn’t happen.  Furthermore, despite its gentility, its qi is remarkably present and expansive.  The camphor finish is most pleasing in the warm summer months.

The Shujian dragon pearl is rather tightly wrapped.  I soaked it in hot water for about two to three minutes in a 120ml gaiwan, so that it could open up.  In defiance to first-wash protocol, I drank that.  The second infusion received 30s.  Thereafter, perhaps 40m having expired, I could disassemble the pearl about 85%.  The following infusions were rinses, lasting fewer than 5s.

Shujian Tea Company specializes in high quality puerh.  Their dragon pearl selections are on the pricier side, but this Wuliang Mt is among the least expensive of their offerings.  Dragon pearls are hand-rolled from select leaves.  The individuals charged with this task or in possession of this talent, not that one precludes the other, actually expect pay in exchange for their talents.  Go figure.  And labor costs are rising in China to boot.  Shujian (est 2012) has made a bit of a name for themselves peddling dragon pearls, which consistently sell out given their exceptional quality and very small quantities.  If you’re looking for sugarcane without all the flowery fragrance, then I can hardly think of a more pleasing offering.