Thursday, September 15, 2016

Golding Bulang Dragonball (sheng pu'er ball)

Interesting looking!  I'm not seeing this on the Golding shop website, but then they've communicated they're updating that site content now, with an alternate contact for them through Facebook.

Even the initial brew, with the ball just starting to loosen up, shows where this is going to go.  The tea is nice, good sweetness and complexity, with lots going on, and some of the astringency / bitterness /  mineral element / medicinal aspect common in sheng.

a little edgy to be tea drunk

Other pu’er drinkers might contest any of those descriptions as common sheng pu'er elements, although what I mean in general is probably clear enough.  Astringency isn’t used here in the same sense as in Assamica black teas, for sure, closer to related aspects in green tea.  Bitterness is often confused with astringency, even though they are different things, one being a taste (bitterness) and astringency a mouth-feel element.  More tasting will help determine which is present in this tea.

The taste range includes some mineral, it’s just not as clear that relates to the other flavors / aspects I’m saying it could typically tie to, that astringency and mineral flavors could be related.  “Medicinal” is more commonly used to describe an unusual aspect found in older teas, typically as something positive.  But then different medicines would have different tastes, so there would need to be more inter-subjective agreement on how it should be used for that description to really be meaningful.

All that aside, the tea is nice.  There is lots of honey sweetness too, along with floral tones, some mineral range, and below that a trace of a pleasant earthy aspects, maybe something towards leather, with a bit of spice.  I’m ok with preference for teas within that sheng character range, so all this just requires some dialing in and unpacking.

Early on even a flash infusion works, barely giving the tea a few seconds, tempering the more challenging aspects down to a background element.  The tea is even positive toned way down, brewed quite lightly, of course depending on preference, still letting the nice flavors step forward.  The flavors and character are going to soften and transition just from the tea loosening up and coming to life beyond some initial infusions.

After some it does soften a little, with that honey sweetness remaining as the primary flavor aspect, with floral elements and minerals below that.  I’ll leave off with the mouth-feel description since I don’t have developed preference related to that anyway.  The tea is nice, with good complexity, but it’s hard to separate into more flavors; I’m mostly just getting that basic set, and I’m not so good with breaking down “floral” into specific flowers.  Based on the dry scent it had seemed like there was a little more range that would come out, earth or spice, but it remains faint, or maybe only present in my imagination.  The mineral might correspond to a trace of overlapping vegetal tone, not like a green tea tasting like green beans or bell peppers, but there might be just a faint touch of something.  I'm not noticing much in the way of actual bitterness, just a touch at most.

Even though flavors are mostly in the range of honey, floral, and mineral aspects, not a description of my favorite tea types, the tea still works for me.  The flavors are really clean, and the character softened to a nice range.  I wouldn’t give up dark roasted oolongs and black teas to focus on sheng pu’er based on this one tea experience but it’s nice enough, pleasant.  Many infusions along that trace of spice did start to pick up a bit, it seemed.

It seemed to me there is enough complexity to the tea that different brewing approaches could draw out different aspects more, so even though I didn’t experience lots of transition the tea seemed like it probably could potentially express more range, in that sense.

Beyond the review

The tea raises some questions.  It’s not normal for blog posts to point towards gaps in what is covered, typically just citing a description and moving on, but I’ll do so.  It struck me as odd the tea wasn’t more astringent or bitter.  Per a Tea DB post that gets into sub-regional version characteristics of pu’er bitterness would be characteristic of Bulang pu’er, and of course younger sheng pu’er in general:

Located in Menghai county, Bulang stands in stark contrast to the light and subtle aftertaste characteristic of Yiwu. One of the principle tea regions for Menghai tea factory, Bulang raw pu’erh is usually bold, bitter, and strong flavored. Due to its proximity with Menghai Tea Factory it commonly finds its way into ripe pu’erh. It is less likely to find Bulang marketed as Bulang than Yiwu, even though it produces alot of tea. Perhaps most notably, Bulang is also home to some of the hottest, pu’erh areas including: Lao Banzhang and Lao Mane.

Very clear!  So different areas cover different scope, and designations can overlap, to some extent.

Back to the tea not actually being bitter (or even astringent), it makes me wonder if the tea hasn’t been aged, or how aging changes related to smaller pu'er shapes.

That citation also starts into pu’er origin areas, to what extent different teas from the same area express different characteristics, which I won’t follow up on here.  Based on experience with other tea types characteristics can vary a lot or not much at all by the type of tea.  Some black tea types or light oolongs can be relatively consistent, varying by quality level but not as much in range of aspects, or put another way some tea types tend to be relatively consistent by aspect.  Wuyi Yancha or Dan Cong oolongs can vary a lot, not just as different quality levels, with different aspects per equivalent teas.  Those express a wide range of characteristic flavors, aromatic components, preparation styles, etc.

Some of the rest of what remains open relates to my own preference, and preference development.  It seems at least possible I like this tea compared to those other pu’er versions from Golding more due to becoming more familiar with sheng range, again.  I don’t think that's a significant factor, but more tasting might help pin that down.  It just seemed like a pleasant, easy to appreciate tea, for some maybe not bitter and edgy or “structured” enough, per preference for such things, but quite nice to me.

All this reminds me of a more general consideration, the difference in interest between actually experiencing drinking a tea and in reviewing tea background (cultivars, processing, regional sources, types, storage issues, etc.).  To me they are two completely different subjects, even though they do overlap.  I have an interest in both, in learning lots about tea (and discussing all that, here or in groups), and in experiencing different teas, but for me I experience both almost as two different interests.

I can completely relate to people who are much more interested only in drinking tea, an idea raised by a friend recently.  Some knowledge of types is required in order to place orders but maybe not a lot more than that, maybe more accurate for other types than for pu'er.  Sorting out source areas, age, and storage conditions is required for pu'er, some of which you can skip if you can just trust a vendor to pick what you like (which is typically a cue to mention the White 2 Tea vendor; make of that what you will).

It's not as if I'm digging so deep in this post; it mostly does just say what the one tea version tastes like, so here just related to typical area-type characteristics.  Looking back the last version of abstract tea research in this blog related to Darjeeling cultivars a month ago, although research into a Wuyi Yancha type strayed a bit too, and I was covering a lot related to cultivars from Taiwan last year.  I may do more with pu'er background based on more Golding vendor input later; we'll see how that goes.

No comments:

Post a Comment