Pre-adolescent puerh and I often don’t get along very well. I find their lop-sided profiles incredibly dull, or just simply unpleasant. Without the foresight to know if it will change for the better it is obviously difficult to want to invest in a cake bereft of “now” positives. By and large, I like them old and relatively settled. Or, I like them fresh-faced. This “issue” of mine, unfortunately, leads to an unhappy bank account.
I do, however, continue to search. The hunt is always on.
A pleasant surprise then to find a five to ten-year old cake that I actually enjoy, a Tian Yun production from the spring of 2007 sourced from Zhang Lang village in the BaDa Shan range. This sample comes from Cream Of Banna, a new side project started by the venerable Mark of Zhi Zheng.Song intended to, “…introduce what I believe to be some of the best Puerh that ‘Banna has to offer.” The cake sells for 290 RMB, or about 46 US dollars.
The xiang qi of the dry leaf out of the sample bag is simple, fresh, rounded, with a top note of some Banna storage. Placed in the prepped gaiwan fragrances of leather, roots, sweet mild tobacco, some developing age, hints of dried fruit, minor floral and camphor notes are now present.
The first yielded liquor delivers an aged softness to the mouth. It reminds of caramelized Valrhona Ivoire with a camphor back note, which seems odd I know, but there it is. The broth offers a rather surprisingly voluminous feeling, despite its relative quietness in the mouth at this point.
This Zhang Lang does take a few steeps before it truly shows itself, however once it does the leaves settle in for the long haul. You will likely grow tired of it before it wears itself out.
Aromatic nuances from the dry nosing begin to develop in the mouth, coating the tongue, constantly shadowed by the hint of Ivoire. The profile becomes increasingly rounded in the mouth. Essences now linger at greater and greater length. Faint bitter-sweet notes edge the back of the tongue, as broths pool gently in the mouth. The tea is consistently pleasing in feel.
A muffled and gentle cooling develops and pushes at the hard palate by the sixth or seventh steep. It radiates to the back of the upper lip and into the sinus cavity before finally dissipating leaving a humming fresh, small white flower fragrance. The Ivoire/camphor note begins to arc into the soft palate.
A subtly varied hui gan develops quickly. It is increasingly long-lasting and promotes salivation in the trenches of the mouth.
The tea is present in the throat, offering a lubricated feeling by the second half of the session. The insides of the cheeks are pleasingly oiled.
This Zhang Lang is not as heavy in the body as other favored mid 00s cakes that I have come across. The ChenGuangHe Tang MengHai Yieh Sheng at Hou De comes to mind despite discussed storage issues. And yes, the comparison is apples to oranges when considering the many variables. The qi of this Zhang Lang leans more ethereal. It is graceful, massaging at the brow and weighing on the eyes before lilting into the thorax. The palms become humid. It gently relaxes and focuses.
This Zhang Lang seems poised at the beginning of a new stage in its development. Will its’ strength settle in heavier with further years of aging? Or, will it retain its relative subtlety? How will its profile progress? It does seem headed in a favorable direction though, which is why I will likely purchase a cake.
Often, in these circumstances, I wish I had a tea seer.