Thursday, July 12, 2012

First Date with Hengli Chang

The Cha Ninja kindly traded me a sample of 1997 Heng Li Chang Bulang for various 06 Banzhang and today this treasure was patiently waiting for me at my doorstep.  I was planning to brew it up this weekend so I can invite friends but I just went for it tonight.

Even the first rinse brings out a pungent musty yeasty aroma which I now recognize that trad stored scent but this one smells more like a mix of Korean monastery wood posts, oatmeal soap, and dry egg yolk- all in a good way.   The first few brews are dark, bitter and fuzzy tasting so I skip ahead a few brews.   

Starting the sixth brew,  this Heng Li turns into a sweet amber concoction- more maple syrup than any other sweetener.   The sips also taste a little more drying in the mouth and throat and I start feeling a teensy weensy bit of astringency in my esophagous.  Power of Bulangs are not overrated if 17 years with some traditional storage hasn't entirely tamed this bitterness.

I finally peg the continuing fuzzy flavor in this tea to lucuma icecream.  Icecream made from fresh lucuma, a Peruvian fruit, is one of the world's most intriguing yet comforting flavors. It's like the spirit of hot porridge made into icecream form.

I know the half-dipper said this is a tea with "trousers"  but for me, this Bulang is a tea wearing fuzzy slippers.  I guess I expect trousered teas to have cleaner lines of flavor.  I'm grateful to have had the chance to sample the famous Heng Li Cheng Bulang but on first go it does not match my particular preferences.  This tea is very different from the aged shengs I remember in Korea which had a cleaner more savoury medicinal mushroomy reishi flavor profile.   

The Cha Ninja also sent me a bonus '03 Bada sample which is also traditionally stored.  I will try Heng Li Chang a few more times with the Bada to see if traditional stored cakes are for me.  Tonight was a much needed education.

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