Tian Yun Spring 2007 BaDa, Zhang Lang Gu Shu

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Zhi Zheng.Song Bing Dao 2011

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I was quite fortunate to have received a sample of a 2011 spring Zhi Zheng.Song Bing Dao some time back with an order of 2012 JingMai and Kong Shan Xin Yu cakes. The latter of which, I would like to once again state, is an assured highlight of their spring pressings, and worth a sample at the very least.

I have enjoyed a couple of sessions, courtesy of this sample, over the past few weeks. The last of this leaf found its way to the cha pan yesterday, and finally yielded what i felt was a long overdue post.

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The pasture heavy dry xiang qi exhibited a faded trace of tobacco. Once humid, the pasture aromatics intensified, and the tobacco developed muskiness.

Initial liquors offered a complex herbaceous profile rounded out with hints of dried floral and aromatic woods. Complementary notes developed by the third steep which existed somewhere between the sharpness of cracked peppercorn and the soft sweetness of long pepper. Each subsequent steep exhibited gradual increases in depth and increasingly reminded of the aroma of Sorig Tibetan incense.

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The ku shifted in its placement throughout the session. First present between the underside of the tongue and the base of the mouth cavity, it progressed to the sides of the tongue and finally resolved itself at the top of the throat. It also engaged the hard palate and opened the sinus cavity.

The mid to back of the tongue became lightly numb.

The hui gan appeared first from the top of the throat and low soft palate, sinking deeper until it rose from the clavicle into the trenches of the mouth cavity. A fir-like cooling appeared and edged the tongue. The sweet and complex aftertaste lingered at considerable length following the last cup.

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The energy unleashed from these leaves first nagged at the forehead and warmed the scalp, leaving it dampened. It weighted at the back of the neck before sinking into the chest and abdomen where it warmed excessively throughout the 15 plus steeps, most notably at the solar plexus.

The tea was fully penetrating.

It was sad to finish the last of this Bing Dao. Each session increased my awareness of its’ inherent characteristics. The more I came to understand it, the more I became attached. And I still feel as if there are many elements I have yet to experience.

Many thanks again to Mark, for the generous sample.

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A 2011 Nan Nuo ‘Ji Di’ from Zhi Zheng.Song

A while back I posted my tasting notes for three Nan Nuo area village sourced puerh cakes. While less a competition and more a compare and contrast review, I did come away with a clear favorite.

Following the post, Mark from Zhi Zheng made note in an email that the leaves of their 2012 sourcing came from Ban Po Lao Zhai, and that he would now send me a sample of their 2011 pressing for comparison.

The dry leaf of the 2011 ‘Ji Di’ was pungent, herbal, citric tinged, and meadow-like. The liquor read fuller in the mouth, yet vibrant on the tongue. It offered deep-toned, complex and penetrating liquors. As in the 2012, sweet grasses and meadow flowers composed the outer edges of its profile, but by measure, felt more dramatic here.

The full profile of the 2012 remained elusive throughout my sessions due to a nagging spice note. With the 2011, it was defined as clove with a measure of cardamom. I also detected what registered as a distant hum of camphor across a couple of steeps. The spice notes built a ‘cooling’ sensation at the hard palate and inner upper lip.

Sweetness was once again significant, here laden with clove and wild fennel pollen essences.

The weight of the tea pushed into the throat and left a cooling sensation as it continued further.

Its’ nature was more pronounced in the mouth cavity. Where the 2012 felt as color washes, the 2011 felt weighted into the forward of the soft palate and at the middle of the tongue.

A profound narcotic feeling lingered in my body. The head and limbs felt heavy. My vision was a bit ‘off’ for a brief period after the last cup. It seemed as if my eyes were moving rapidly, and the focus had become trailed at the edges.

It would be difficult for me to choose a favorite from the two Zhi Zheng.Song Nan Nuo offerings, as they were both immensely enjoyable in their own rights. However, tasting and experiencing the development already taking place in the 2011 as it has aged in Jinghong was revealing. And to Mark, I am thankful for that opportunity.

I can’t recommend these cakes enough considering my experiences with them.