Prince Far I chants "Let us talk about Jah" in my headphones. Now I chant "Let us talk about the other of the two wedding minicakes". Hmmm, I think that Prince Far I is still somehow more penetrating.
Anyway, I tasted this cake a year and half ago and thought it quite undrinkable (even though I was quite a fan of the vendor and wanted to like all of what he made). The vendor description states that it is ment for long-term aging, so I did not expect it to be great. On the other hand, the taste is supposed to be "extremely strong and distinct, tremendously rich and complex", so I thought I'd give it a try. Now I came back after a year to watch the progress.
Something about the tea: it is supposed to come from trees of "up to 250 years of age". That is not exactly specific as taidi cha with a bit of gushu also comes from trees of up to 250 years of age. Even though the formulation may not be the most fortunate, I am happy to confirm that the leaves are mostly indeed of older trees, the mouthfeel is quite distinct.
The tea reportedly comes from the village of "Zheng Jia San Dui", 15 km from Banzhang (labelled as "close surroundings of Banzhang later in the description"), where the maocha is "basically undistinguishable". First - 15 km from Banzhang? So what? Pasha is 12 km from Banzhang and it is not a "hyped area" really. Bulang is a very diverse area, 15km does not mean that much. Youle is some 20-25 km far from Manzhuan and those areas are quite distinct. Bulang is such a diverse area, taste-wise, that I would not say that 15 km means much. Also, if the maocha of Zheng Jia San Dui is basically undistinguishable from Banzhang, then I'm afraid that this tea is not from Zheng Jia San Dui... it is distinguishable. For example, the bitterness behaves sort of like the average between Banzhang and Man'E. The last thing is, that I could not find the Zheng Jia San Dui on the map... but it may not be there yet or I missed it. The trouble with local vendors is, that they sometimes change the names of their teas slightly so that you can't google the foreign eshop where they bought it - so you never know if the area does not exist, it does exist, but it is small/new, or there is a village called Jie San Dui or something like that...
To the tea itself...
I am used to see a bit more shiny leaves in teas of this age, but the leaves do actually look pretty pretty.
The liquor smells like cigarette smoke which I loathe. The taste was very much like cigarette smoke the year and hallf ago. I do not know if it is a flaw of the material xor a feature xor just that the workers smoked when processing the maocha. I hoped that the cigarette smoke would go away - that's why I tasted this tea again to see.
I can not say that I remember the taste of year ago exactly, but I feel that the smokiness got a bit better. Using only short steepings, I can brew this tea so that it is drinkable (at least for me, my girlfriend says it is too hard and cigarette-like for her). When I do longer steepings, it is again like my shirt when I come back from a concert in a club. The liquor is reasonably strong and in long-term aftertaste, there is a pleasant caramel-like sweetness in some brews.
Is the taste "tremendously complex and rich"? Excuse me, but is the description ment seriously? I hope not... It is reasonably complex and rich; I agree with that (even though I have a hard time enjoying the smokiness).
The bitterness is truly strong, a part of it does transform nicely, a part does not. As I said above, it feels a bit like the average of Man'e and Banzhang. I enjoy the long-term aftertaste, it is a good recompense for the taste.
The positive thing about this tea is the mouthfeel - it is very nice and points to older trees indeed. It does not diminish much with further brews, so it is not the "15% gushu, 85% taidi" mix. The remains of bitterness go well with the cooling mouthfeel.
Were this tea not presented as pompously, I'd say it is all right - even though the taste is only not-too-unpleasant, the mouthfeel and aftertaste do quite make up for it. However, as this tea is presented with the given pomp, I have to say it was a disappointment for me. The wedding set cost about $50 per two 100g minicakes, which is like a $100 400g cake. With both minicakes, I had to try hard to make them enjoyable.
I am not disputing the quality of the material (the leaves are nice, whole, furry, the tea feels good in mouth), nor am I disputing the quality of these teas after the suggested "long term storage". But:
a) I disagree with describing the tea as extremely complex, undistinguishable from Banzhang and all that exorbitant self-presentation. The tea may get good in time, but it is not tasty, nor too complex now.
b) Is there such a bad supply of tea that I will readily pay the equivalent of $100 for a tea which may become good in time? I think not. I can have 2004 gushu Yibang from Shi Kun Mu for some $85 and the tea is infinitely more pleasant (for me, at least) and has similarily high quality mouthfeel. And it is obvious in which direction it ages.
If anyone wants to own a pair of Dragon and Phoenix of Bulang cakes, I will gladly sell an unopened pair at the buying price of 900 CZK or $50.
Addendum - It seems that I got a bad couple of minicakes and several other people have not had cigarette-like pieces. Therefore my issue with the taste is unjustified. I still sort of stand by how funny the description is - even though there is something over it, the tea is hardly tremendously complex and rich. But it probably is good Bulang piece in general.