Essence Of Tea Bulang 2012, and Morton Feldman


When Essence Of Tea announced its 2012 cakes, I was in the midst of attempting to control my buying habits. (Translation: my tea buying had gotten out of control –if that is actually possible– of which my back account kindly reminded me.) After much consideration, I decided on the QiShengGu (about which Bev posted), and the Bangwei 33 (about which Hobbes recently posted). When the QiShengGu arrived, with it came a sample of their Bulang offering for the year, which was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday as the humidity began to lift, and the rain began to move out, it seemed a good time to have a first-impression-exchange with this sample/gift.

The first steep post rinse, and rest, filled the mouth with sweet notes of damp pasture, grass, composting flowers and touches of fruit –an intensified extension of the dry leaf aroma. A trace of toasted rice powder lingered on the tongue and gaiwan lid. I have to admit, the first couple of broths seemed rather meek, which had me worrying. While I certainly don’t mind tea’s that are exercises in subtle elegance, I had genuinely hoped for a little punchiness in the mouth on this occasion.

My concerns found themselves alleviated when the leaves awoke with the third application of water. As the broth entered the mouth it finally delivered the anticipated dose of pungent ku I had waited for, and provoked a bit of ‘sour-face’ squinting at the brow. A subtle tingling marked the tongue. I couldn’t have been happier.

The broth was pleasingly full in the mouth with a placed focus on the soft palette. The building ku expanded forward from here into the full mouth cavity. Salivation started to increase and pushed out from the sides of the tongue. The mouth and upper throat moved toward an increasingly harmonious state. A vaporous cooling developed on the tongue and muzzle of the face. The hui gan began to arrive in fits and starts.

Approaching the later point of the session, a gentle astringent note briefly developed on the lips and entrance of the throat. It is also here where the inside of the mouth suggested being fitted with a band of bitterness at the meeting point of the soft and hard palates. I first experienced this curiously pronounced sensation with a 2008 Hai Lang Hao Lao Ban Zhang/Lao Man’E. While in this instance it was far less pronounced without the boost provided by Lao Man’E leaves, it was notably present.

The energy seemed to pull at the face. The neck and shoulders became heavy. The chest also felt heavy and swollen with energy. The abdomen was damp.

When the leaves finally gave up their sweetness, it was complex and heavy with brown sugar. It pushed the lingering bitterness from the sinus and throat, leaving the latter feeling swollen. A trace of flowers was now found on the lid.

As the leaves faded and produced nothing more than sweet water, my exchange with the tea came to an end. This 2012 Bulang was gracious and well-heeled by comparison to the full fury assault provided by some tea’s I have had from this mountain range. It was a lovely tea that left me considering a full cake.

While priced at 71 pounds sterling for 400g (in the area of 112 US dollars); when considering the use of 10 g of leaves to 150 ml, with a minimum yield of 10 steeps per session… (I managed about 15 or so on this run with it.) .28 cents per steep just doesn’t seem all that bad.

steeping listening: Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet (1985)