If you aren't familiar with the aged Chinese tea Pu-Erh, take a quick look HERE before reading further. I received a sample of this tea for part of a tea taste test (OTTI) sponsored by Adagio Teas and two tea vendors. It is a classic example of a sheng Pu-Erh and specifics can be viewed at the vendor's website.
Recommended brewing for the Heng Li Chang Bulang is with a clay pot. A gaiwan or even a western style glass or ceramic pot will work in a pinch. I used a small glass "fair cup" to brew the tea and a strainer when pouring it into my cup.
The dry leaf aroma is almost non-existent, just a hint of the standard Pu-Erh scent. I did two quick flash rinses to remove any excess dust or possible off flavors caused by storage conditions.
1st cup:25 seconds - The broth smell reminds me of the slightly damp basement of an old home up in the North East part of the USA. Not in an unpleasant though. In fact, it brings back childhood memories, but it is hard to pin down exactly what the scent is. I'm assuming it is due to the way this tea was stored. The wet leaves have an even more intense aroma, but it also have a slightly floral, citrus hint to them. The broth appearance is reminiscent of a lightly roasted coffee and has a nice sheen to it. Mouth-feel is good with an immediate impact at the tip of my tongue that works its way backward after swallowing. It has a clean, fall leaf/ woody flavor that is slightly sweet to my taste buds. There is a hint of aged cheese there and not in a off-putting way. No real bitterness to speak of, though there is a slight pucker to the mouth after swallowing. The aftertaste lingers in traditional "Hui Gan" (cooling and sweet) style.
2nd cup:30 seconds - More of the same, with a cedar woodiness hitting me first and then the lingering Hui Gan. I let this one cool a bit, and the broth is not quite as appealing when room temperature.
3rd cup:40 seconds - And more of the same but even more intense. A hint of camphor is making an appearance. I let someone else taste and smell it, and they agree it has an aroma that reminds us both of the interior of an old Quonset hut. I've yet to notice anything remotely fruity, even with the sweet aftertaste. The tea has a drying effect that lingers well after I've stopped drinking.
4th cup:1 minute - Increasing woodiness and sweet aftertaste. Between sips, the back of my throat is experiencing dryness like one might feel breathing the air near a campfire. Different, but not unpleasant.
5th cup:2 minutes - The soothing autumnal flavor is still strong and the brews are still dark, though starting to lighten a bit. Allow a sip sit in your mouth for about half a minute and after swallowing you will notice the Hui Gan even more.
6th cup:3 1/2 minutes - The broth is starting to lighten and flavors taper off to more of a wet leaf taste. Pleasant but no longer at peak. I'll end my tasting here, though I have the leaves steeping for even longer infusions. A quality aged Pu-Erh can be good for 8-20 (or even more) infusions, depending on your brew times and the amount of leaf used. The spent leaves show variety (from stems to buds) are large and in good shape considering they have been aging for 14 years.
Overall, the Heng Li Chang Bulang is a very mellow brew with a calming Cha Qi. My nerves were a bit frayed before I started drinking it but I'm now quite calm. I would recommend this tea to those people who enjoy sheng Pu-Erh. Pu-Erh is an acquired taste and has unique flavor that some people don't care for, but you can learn to appreciate it, and even love it, in time. With a good aged sheng, it's all about the time anyway.
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