Today I am taking a look at Teanami’s Bu Lang (2011 Raw) a Sheng Puerh made from ancient trees. And when I first saw they were made from ‘ancient trees’ I cringed, that is such a hot topic on the interwebs lately and has become a really unpleasant bit of marketing, but they say their trees are at least 100 years old and that is so much more believable. I’ve known a lot of trees in the 200-500 range when I lived in the mountains, and I am pretty sure the massive spruce in the yard is almost 100 since it is as old as the house…but I am getting off on a tree tangent. Anyway, Bulang, I have so far only had Shou from this mountain, honestly staying away from the Sheng because it has a reputation to be rather bitter, but it eases off the bitter as it gets some age to it, and with my Sheng drinking being limited (thanks ya jerk of a stomach) I go for the sweet or camphorous stuff. But I do love a tea adventure, so here we go! So, this tea does not smell like something that will be bitter, it smells like fresh white grapes, cut sunwarmed hay, a tiny touch of leather, honey, dried apricots, and a tiny almost undetectable (took me a few sniffs) camphor note. I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet this tea smells!
Cranking the kettle to 200°F and giving the tea a rinse, the aroma of the leaves is a bit on the pungent side with wet hay, lemon rind, apricots, and a touch of spinach. The aroma of the first steeping is pleasantly light and sweet, with an undertone of lemon and hops and a tiny hint of camphor.
At the beginning of the tea session, well, you could fool me that this tea is bitter. Granted I do brew it at less than boiling which makes me different from the real pu-heads, but I like it that way. I would describe it as tangy rather than bitter, like lemon rind but not as sour, with accompaniments of spinach and cooling light camphor. It has a thickness and a touch of a dry mouth, and the aftertaste reminds me of the taste of leather. Around steep three it starts to get a bit of that bitterness, though lucky for me it is the bitterness of kale rather than of hops, like some bitter shengs can get, and I really dislike hops.
Ah, this sheng is doing that fun thing where it flip flops from bitter to sweet in a drool induced instant. Like going from kale leaves covered in lemon to dried apricots and hay with a leather finish. Sadly around steep four I am getting that obnoxious dull ache in my guts which makes me so happy for my tiny baby gaiwan. A little farther into the steeping session brings out a tobacco note, which blends well with the aftertaste of leather.
Whelp, this is a tea that definitely outlasted me, nine steeps in and the leaves have only barely unfurled. It is starting to ramp up the bitter notes. The bitterness is pleasant, really wakes up the palate and causes a great salivary sweetness. Sadly this is definitely one of those Shengs that kills my stomach, which angers me because I really wanted to see how far I could stretch this tea out. I am curious if it would be milder on my stomach with more age, perhaps I will come back to it in a decade!