1997 Heng Li Chang Bulang
The past two days have elicited signs of spring. As an avid birder, I spend many moments patiently awaiting the first signs of spring. Two days ago, a flock of four Killdeer, a robin-sized shorebird that makes loud noises, were standing on ice at the edge of a just-open salt pond. They had not been overwintering. Yesterday, I heard what many consider the first true ornithological sign of spring, the loud, raucous song of a male Red-winged Blackbird, eminating from cattails at the edge of our town’s dammed stream. Spring is upon us today, in full force, in the form of near-torrential rain.
Two days ago, I met the wet stored ’97 Menghai 8582, a tea that perplexed me, confused me, and at times, revolted me. Today’s tea is certainly different than the last. I’m learning a lot from this OTTI, as it’s my first chance to really dig into aged sheng puerh and to experience, first hand, a variety of storage methods. At the moment, I’m sitting here peacefully, wonderfully dazed by the intense calming glow of this ’97 Heng Li Bulang. Drinking it has lead me to three particular points: flavors, texture, and qi.
While the ’97 Menghai 8582 was heavy on the flavors imposed by the place of storage to the point that I felt they departed from the realm of natural tea flavors, this tea really holds onto the essence of earth and decay. With more natural humus-like, decaying leaf matter and old pine needle flavors, I found this more attuned to my palate. The nuanced and gentle mushroom, moss, and tree bark characters of young sheng puerh have aged gracefully and have descended the flavor profile of this tea from the tree tops into the sub-leaf-litter level, highlighting the natural warm embrace of a forest floor. Some of the basement notes are there in the form of talc, medicine, and ointment, but they’re not overbearing to the point of disgust.
What I struggled with in this tea, in the first three or four steeps, was its texture. Leaving me with a sensation that greasy, damp lotion had been smeared across my tongue, I found the palate initially murky, slightly sour, and hard to get past. I did not drink much of the first three steeps. Fortunately, this clamminess departed and revealed a thick, sweetness that made it intensely pleasurable to drink from the fifth steep on.
Where I get really excited about this tea is its qi, or energy. Unlike a typical caffeine and theanine inebriation, this tea has noticeable and intensely pleasurable physical sensations. The first was a warming flush of the forehead, followed by a long, drawn out tingling sensation down the spine, sending a pleasurable chill back up towards the base of my head. After the flashes move through, I’m left basking in a gentle, soft glow of relaxedness.
If this tea is supposedly somewhere been wet and dry storage, than I guess I’m more of a dry storage fan. This flavor profile was much more to my liking, and I’ve learned that the first few steeps of a tea such as this are not as meaningful as the middle steeps. This was a bit of lore I found early on in my readings on puerh and something that I did not experience with young sheng puerh, but is something that makes sense in light of an aged tea such as this.
5 Element Cloud - 1997 Hen Li Chang Bu Lang (Essence of Tea)