Hai Lang Hao (Yunnan Sourcing)Edit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
I guess this was a very cheap cake at one point. It is now only $58 USD for 400g. Plantation Yiwu tea from 2012 aged 3 years before pressing. It’s developing aged tastes. I wonder where the maocha was stored for those 3 years.
Appealing, appetite-stimulating aromas come from the dry leaf like beef jerky, hickory smoke, cranberry and a mild honey-brown sugar. When warmed the sweetness smells more like caramel. The aroma is of tang, smoke, strong camphor and wintergreen and a meaty umami. With the rinse I pick up on old furniture and books, steak and camphor.
Once brewed, the aroma is of marshmallow and tobacco. The main flavor of the tea is straw which displays itself in a somewhat viscous body. The tea is kind of sweet in a nectar-caramel-red fruit way with some added florals and bright tobacco, hints of leather, minerals and decaying wood, somewhat metallic. A tangy, mild bitterness penetrates the tongue, leaving it uncomfortably numbed. I feel camphor deep in my throat. The aftertaste is the strong point. It is definitely violet with very light caramel.
This is a short-lived tea with decent mouthfeel and a strong aftertaste, good for a daily drinker. It’s not a bad tea by any means but my preferences in sheng do not lean this way. It was nice to try an Yiwu plantation tea with what seems like some humid aging taste to it, so thanks for the exposure, mrmopar :) At some point, I’ll be making another note when I move into a round of tasting all the Hai Lang Hao puerh I have.
I didn’t get any sleep. First my old girl woke me, hissing and spitting at the sliding glass door to the garden. Then I was startled awake shortly thereafter by what sounded like a massive explosion. And then again at 5am by my neighbor across the street banging on the front door. My first thought was oh-fuck-is-there-a-fire-are-we-evacuating.
Turns out some amateur lifted my motorcycle from the front yard and out into the street. Lifted — because the steering lock was on. Ran into our trash cans on the curb because amateur thief and trash night. He woke up my neighbor who chased him off several times over the course of getting ready for work before putting a cable and lock through the back wheel. The amateur totally bashed the steering lock cylinder, so now I can’t even unlock the bike to move it. And he left his hammer, which the police took. What’s amusing is that I have a tool kit with all kinds of useful things in an easily accessible compartment on my bike.
I hope the night happenings aren’t a sign of things to come today.
Flavors: Bitter, Brown Sugar, Camphor, Caramel, Cranberry, Decayed Wood, Drying, Flowers, Herbs, Honey, Leather, Marshmallow, Meat, Metallic, Nectar, Paper, Red Fruits, Smoked, Straw, Sweet, Tangy, Tobacco, Umami, Violet, Wood
I’ve been wanting to try this tea since it came out, but it’s always been one of the ones to get dropped out of my shopping cart mainly due to the price of even a single session. While Hai Lang’s Lao Ban Zhang ripe was a really good tea, there’s just no way it’s worth its price tag. This one I hoped would offer a similar experience at nearly half the price.
Since I only ordered a 10g sample, I was expecting to have to try to fill my pot to slightly less than full to keep my leaf-to-water ratio comparable to the recent ripe reviews I’ve done, but when I weighed my sample I was amazed to discover I’d been sent 13.1g – precisely the amount I’ve used for two of the last three teas. This made things a lot easier for me. The teaware used was the same as in my other recent ripe reviews: 160ml Yixing zini teapot and a cha hai and teacup both made from Jianshui clay.
I gave the tea a longer close to 20s rinse, which I drank. It was strong. Brief bitterness which quickly transformed into sweetness – trademark of the Ban Zhang area. The sweetness was more specifically a berry sweetness. I could also pick up on some earthy chocolate notes in the finish. Some mouth cooling was also present.
Moving to the first proper brew, I was now greeted by an even more powerful bitterness, a really nice middle of the tongue kuwei. For a flash steep, the body was really good. The taste was very dark chocolaty, not too sweet. The finish wasn’t drying but slightly salivating. After just a few sips I could already feel my head pounding and my eyes began to water. The texture was thick and velvety, simply divine. The mouthfeel was full and expansive. My tongue was beginning to throb and grow numb. The taste is very mature. I’m picking up hints of something alcoholic in the finish.
The bitterness only ramped up in the second infusion. I was assaulted by intense coffee bitterness, which however faded rather quickly. The mouthfeel was perfect. Smooth, the soup gliding down effortlessly. The surfaces in my mouth were left feeling very active after swallowing. As I continue drinking, the initial coffee switches back over to the dark chocolate. As I bring my cup to my nose, the liquor in it smells of vanilla syrup. The bitterness is more persistent now than before and the qi somewhat energizing yet also calming and slightly bliss inducing.
Needless to say I was very impressed.
Unfortunately the highlight of the tea – the mouthfeel – began to diminish from this point on, never being able to recover even with extended steeps. Thankfully the strength held up much better and tapered off much more gracefully. The progression of flavors didn’t prove particularly dynamic, however. The dark chocolate was first replaced by roasted coffee and dark wood. After that Jun Ai became more of a standard shu affair, offering sweet, earthy and mineraly tones. I only did a total of nine infusions, the last three being fairly simple and dull in terms of texture.
So overall Jun Ai left me feeling mixed. It started off incredibly strong, but quickly lost its most attractive qualities. The material is obviously very high quality, but the choice of using only very fine grade leaves seems to result in what I’ve noticed in many other similar teas: the tea brews up strong right from the start, but also brews out rather quickly.
In terms of taste the tea is certainly very nice and enjoyable but nothing particularly special. Similar flavor profiles are not hard to find in other ripes. Similar to many of the other high-end Hai Lang Hao shus, those who appreciate and value mouthfeel and the way a tea feels and makes you feel will certainly find a lot to like here, at least in the early infusions. I was truly excited about those first few brews, but it’s such a shame the fun was over so soon. Not that the tea suddenly turns bad after that, just that it seemed to become just a shadow of its former self.
So I definitely like this tea. I might even say I like it quite a bit. But I don’t love it. It’s been a long time since I had the Lao Ban Zhang ripe, but I feel like I probably enjoyed this one more. The LBZ was too overwhelming for me in terms of its qi; in this one I only experienced some initially, but after that is was a much smoother ride. Whichever you prefer, the two certainly are comparable.
Given all that I’ve said about the Jun Ai, when you factor in the price, it’s not an easy tea to recommend unfortunately. Even at 50¢/g it would be a big maybe. This is undoubtedly one of the highest quality ripes in existence, but that doesn’t mean that the price of Ban Zhang area teas is directly proportional to their quality. Still, this is a tea that could certainly be worth a sample though, for a really special session.
Before beginning to write this review, I’d already concluded that a brick of this wasn’t even a thought worth entertaining. As I’ve been typing this, however, a crazy part of me has began to think “maybe.” I’m not currently putting much money into my other hobbies, so I could certainly afford it if I wanted to. If I were to buy it, it would be in part just to have something luxurious to pull out once or twice a year for years to come, as well as to see how material of this caliber would age in the long term.
A question I found asking myself was, “Would I feel regret drinking this tea if it didn’t change or improve at all over time?” And the answer was “no.” Sure it would be a ridiculously expensive tea to session, somewhat overpriced certainly, but ultimately we are talking about the cost of a movie ticket or two annually. I can’t even dine at a fine restaurant for that price. And if the tea did improve – or simply change – well, that’s what the tea journey is all about.
So did I just convince myself to buy this tea? I don’t know. We’ll have to see. I certainly can’t recommend anyone else to do the same and claim it would be a rational thing to do, but we humans as much as we want to convince ourselves that we are beings based on reason and logic, ultimately after all the painstaking logical thinking we tend to follow our heart and make the choice we want to make, not necessarily the one we concluded we should make.
Edit: So yeah… I may have just ordered a brick.
Flavors: Alcohol, Berries, Bitter, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Earth, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet
Just copying this from Random Steepings since I have positive identifcation by mrmopar.
Getting blasted on some shou from mrmopar. Labeled 2013 Hai Lang Hao Bulang Brick shou. Is it this: https://steepster.com/teas/hai-lang-hao-yunnan-sourcing/56059-2013-hai-lang-hao-bu-lang-old-tree-brick-ripe ? If so, I’ll transfer it over tomorrow and update after I brew this tea out.
It’s a brick, so the material is compact. I’m drinking alone with 10g in a 190mL teapot. Combine those two with this being a strong leaf — I can’t finish tonight but I do feel like making a note. I feel chest-forward. Lots of caffeine!
Dry leaf is sweet and earthy with vanilla, caramel, leather and a red berry undertone. Warmed is earth, leather, a bit of smoked meat and baked bread. A twenty second rinse brings out old books/paper again with earth and leather and the smell of baked bread in the distance. After the first steep, the steam coming from the pot has a very pungent quality almost like vinegar such that I instinctively twitch my nose and turn away. I feel silly and keep going back for more of that tangy twinge.
Smooth, mineral beginnings with the baked bread, leather and earth of the leaf and some cheesy nutritional yeast fermentation taste left behind from the rinse. Like I said, brick tea. Light clenching in the throat, warming and cooling, a bit oily. I wrote for a while after the first steep.
Second steep is clean, much darker since the material is finally opening up. I notice some wet basement, vanilla and caramel in the aroma. Same tastes but camphor dominates when the tea is still hot. It loses that quality as it cools. Tangy aftertaste with brown sugar-caramel returning sweetness. I moved from writing to getting lost in NPR Music Tiny (Ass) Desk Concerts for an hour.
Music pairing: Lizzo — NPR Music Tiny (Ass) Desk Concert
Watched her on Saturday Night Live last night.
Third steep is the same length as the second, 30-some seconds until the pot pours empty. The taste moves into a dominant starchy, potato-like taste and old wood with the earth and leather moving underneath. Returning sweetness develops into dates. This tea sits a bit raw in my stomach so I warmed up some soup. I read for another hour before deciding I should call it quits with tea tonight.
Book pairing: The Message Devotional Bible
And this is where I end for the evening. So far, recommended.
Update: Long-lasting, powerful shou that needs to be tamed with several shorter steepings early then pushed hard as soon the liquor begins to lighten. This tea was nothing out of the ordinary to me taste-wise but it was smooth, and at times oily in its delivery with no bitterness or astringency. More of a savory, leather/earth/tobacco/mineral profile with no fruitiness or sweetness. The returning sweetness became really pronounced with date sugar.
I was able to get 10 longer gongfu-timed infusions from the material, not including the 20s rinse and another 20s rinse to wake up the leaves the following day. Overall, I’d say try this for standard yet clean, powerful Bulang material. As of Dec 2019, this is $0.17 USD/g when purchased as the 2kg brick.
After drinking Yi Shan Mo sheng two days ago, I remembered I also have a shou sample from this village, courtesy of Hai Lang Hao, and decided to retry it. It is a very interesting and unique tea that’s not very complex, or at least not obviously so, but really, really solid. What I mean by that, is that the taste is clean, pungent, and just sort of nice; the aftertaste is long and evolving; mouthfeel is extremely smooth and dynamic; and there is a good, body-warming energy.
On the other hand, what I mean by lack of complexity should rather be described as lack of associations. When I drink the tea, I find it hard to think of what it reminds me of, and I don’t really want to. I just want to enjoy the tea.
Nevertheless, I did notice an interesting chamomile note in the aroma. As for the taste, it’s mostly bready, sweet and floral, with a sort of sour, woody aftertaste that’s somewhat astringent and very warming in the throat.
All in all, I can’t say I find this pu’er special enough given its price though. I don’t think I could justify buying any significant amount of it at the current $0.73/g.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Floral, Pleasantly Sour, Smooth, Sweet, Thick, Wood
A random Hai Lang Hao sample purchased from YS some time ago. The leaves are nice – pretty full and burly. At this point a bit of a dull brownish-green. The dry leaf has a creamy and sweet aroma with a bit of hay. After a rinse, the leaves revealed a much more pungent aroma, reminding me of tobacco, scorched grass, hay, and a bit of minerality. I think this tea had a touch of smoke to it at pressing, which has mostly aged out of it.
The flavor profile is a bit challenging in the early steeps, to my palate anyways. I get a burly tobacco with wisps of smokiness, again mostly aged out. There is still some astringency to it, and an oversteep will yield some unpleasantly sour bitterness. There is a slightly sweet huigan, but it doesn’t linger for a particularly long time in the mouth. As the tea cools, it gets sweeter, showing a bit of a corn-like sweetness.
The tobacco subsides and the smoke vanishes after a few steeps, with the flavor becoming more of the aforementioned corn sweetness. I noticed a rush of buzzy qi around steeps 5-7 that kind of came out of nowhere. This tea has a somewhat thick body to it.
I think this one is in a bit of an awkward stage, inbetween a young tea and a middle-aged one. A few more years and those vestiges of youth will probably give way to a more rounded and aged profile, probably leaning a bit more woody than tobacco.
nice cheap Daily Drinker for that Yiwu taste, that will last you for a small number of good brews.
Used to be great value, but price jump made it only good value..
I’ve noticed a couple of times HLH teas getting a price increase of 10%-33%.. that’s fair play in the puer world, but a 33% increase can really make or break a tea’s value-for-money..
This caused great confusion, because to me the initial scent and taste are of mugicha, roast barley tea! When you steep it on the long side and get a slight bitter edge on the roast. The sheng characteristics then come in, with lots of sweetness and a lingering astringency. I’ve not had any other shengs like this.
I’ve had this tea a few times now and it tasted very different than my first session. Now I’m finding no chocolate notes. Just really smooth and clean, sweet and nutty. Like me. Still a great tea. Where’d the chocolate go? I wonder if chocolate is a form of fermentation flavor. I’ve noticed it dissipating in other shus as well.
This one is like a hot chocolate caffeine punch. Some of the premium Hai Lang Hao ripe teas have commanded over-the-top prices, so I don’t try them often. But this one sounded intriguing, and at $240 for a 1k brick, it was at least something I would consider purchasing if it were really outstanding. It turns out this one fit the bill. It is so good, perhaps the best ripe I’ve ever had. It is an incredibly smooth chocolate experience. It’s just really, really good if you like that style. Further, it is incredibly enduring, something I find only in very high quality pu erh. It probably went nearly twice as far as a regular ripe, so that does reduce the price per session. I’d suggest leafing less than you normally would or you might just waste some good tea! I had to stop well before the leaves did. Being from Bulang, it does have that super-charged qi, and it was just too much for me today. Buying one today with the 15% off sale at Yunnan Sourcing. If you like chocolate ripes, this one is not to be missed!
If there are any flaws in this tea, I couldn’t find any.
This is an ok tea for the price, but I definitely didn’t find it better than other raw pu-erh teas in the same price category. The dry leaf has a herbaceous aroma with hints of pineapple skin and tobacco. The tobacco smell becomes really strong after the rinse. I also noticed medicinal, earthy and fireplace scents. As for the liquor itself, it mostly smells like decayed wood and moss.
The main problem I have with the tea is that I am not too fond of the taste profile. It starts off with flavours of cannabis, leather, camphor and green pepper (meaning unripe black pepper). Later on, it gets sweeter and vegetal, but retains some savouriness. Notes of resin, raisins, tree bark emerge. The aftertaste is relatively long, with distinct fruitiness and persistent sweet wood quality.
As for the mouthfeel, it has decent viscosity, although cannot compete with most non-plantation teas. It has a little astringency, but nothing too drying.
I feel like the tea is a bit awkward right now and could benefit from more aging. I think I rate it lower because its profile doesn’t quite appeal to me, but I think other people might like it more.
Flavors: Black Pepper, Camphor, Cannabis, Decayed Wood, Earth, Fireplace, Fruity, Herbaceous, Leather, Medicinal, Moss, Pineapple, Raisins, Resin, Sweat, Tobacco, Vegetal, Wood
This is certainly an excellent ripe, and a cut above even really good ripes. The mouthfeel is wonderful, thick and full. It is really, really smooth even at this young age. It’s got all the best players flavorwise – coffee, dark chocolate, a touch of bitter. The Qi is stimulating but not overpowering. This tea is just something to experience for yourself, it is one of the best ripes I’ve ever tried.
As to the price, sorry but it is over the top for me. It’s bascially the equivalent of $125 for a full sized cake. Is this 4 times as good as Scott’s house ripes? Not to me. This is a super good tea, but I will not shell out close to $400 for a 1k brick. I’m glad a bought a sample and tried it.
5.6g in 90mL, Sheng TTB #3
The lid is of musty honey
Certainly very well priced for what it is—2012 material. indeed a very solid bargain, given that it delivers on being mid-aged despite only being 6 years old. (At least what i’d call mature, given my newness to this). Musty honey, active in the mouth, and a bitter finish that is well balanced—I like! Others might like the storage taste on this one, but I’m not super into it and unfortunately because of it I don’t think I’ll be picking this up in the near future. However, still pretty great, especially if you’re looking for a solid mid-aged tea. Would highly recommend.
Flavors: Bitter, Honey
I loved the Hai Lang Hao Yi Shan Mo ripe pu’er enough to purchase a whole brick of it, so I was very curious to try out what a traditional raw pu’er offering from this village would be like. The ten gram sample I received was all broken up leaves with even some twigs mixed in. After my last ten gram sample from Yunnan Sourcing turned out to be closer to twelve grams, I probably really should have weighed this one, but let’s pretend it was ten grams. I dumped it all in my preheated 140ml gaiwan and what I could smell was almost like mocha. Really interesting. I gave the leaves a brief five second rinse and sipped what little the leaves hadn’t absorbed while I let the moisture soak in even deeper for five minutes or so. What I tasted was cream and plum. Fairly strong too. Plum is a new one for me.
I did eleven steeps. The timing for these was interesting: 5s, 5s, 5s, 5s, 5s, 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s and 20s. Yes, flash steeps until steep seven! Pretty much what you’d expect from a dancong brewed Chaozhou style. The first infusion tasted pretty much identical to the wash, expect slightly more diluted because of the larger volume of water. The body was fairly medium. The cha qi on the other hand was HEAVY. I felt the tea so strongly in my body, it forced me to slow down.
The second and third steep brewed up REALLY, REALLY strong, but the flavors themselves were less discernible now. There were some echoes of the earlier taste along with some greenness. I found the tea really overpowering, both in strength and its effects. Steep four produced a slightly bigger, creamier body. The taste was still somewhat plummy while I also got some astringency and sweetness.
The increase in body was lost in the fifth infusion while the profile started to become cleaner. The strength and effects of the tea were still as strong as ever. The next two steeps introduced an increasing amount of bitterness and steep seven was also when the strength finally started to drop for the first time.
Starting with the eighth infusion the flavors also began simplifying. Some of the tea’s underlying basic taste could still be found in the background while there was some bitterness and astringency present as well. The tea was still going strong in the ninth steep, but it was less intense now and easier to drink as a result. The taste was fruity, not just plummy like before. The fruits were still present in the next steep, but now in a drier form and together with the lack of sweetness the two were making the tea less enjoyable. The last steep still had strength, but the flavors were starting to taper off, so I thought this a good place to end the session. The increasing dryness also wasn’t doing the tea any favors.
This was the most intense tea I’ve ever drunk. I am a fan of strong tea (loved Hai Lang’s Lao Man’e sheng), but even for me this tea was simply too overpowering. If there’s ever been a tea I felt needed time to mellow out, it’s this one. This tea did not get me tea drunk, the effects were from the neck down, but the burden it placed on the body was immense. I started the session around noon and finished a couple hours later. Even when going to bed that night, I could still feel the effects of the tea. Underestimate Yi Shan Mo at your own peril.
Clearly this is top-notch material, but as stated, for me the tea is simply too intense. While the plum notes are interesting, another thing I would hold against the tea is that it doesn’t really vary very much in terms of flavor. Perhaps it’s due to the stage it’s right now in its development, but the base taste of cream and plums is present in some form through most of the steeps, making the tea feel a bit monotonous. Obviously a great candidate for aging, but fortunately another expensive tea I don’t feel compelled to invest in.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Drying, Fruity, Plums
This is fantastic and right from the start you can tell it is from older material than the pressing date. Starts off with some sweet tobacco and earthy notes, slowly evolving to a greener pleasant mild astringency. This brews up real nice and is a bargain at the current price. Will probably be even more amazing in a few years.
After reviewing Hai Lang Hao’s Yi Shan Mo ripe pu’er from Yiwu, which is often dubbed the queen of pu’er, here comes the king. My sample was ten grams so I used ten grams. For brewing I used my trusty 160ml Jianshui clay teapot, although I didn’t always fill it quite full so the leaf-to-water ratio is probably closer to 1g/15ml or so. I gave the leaves a brief rinse for under ten seconds and let them have five minutes to soften up while I did other preparations. I did a total of eleven steeps, the timing for these being 10s, 8s, 10s, 13s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 4 min. and 10 min.
This tea opened up really strong. I don’t know if it’s as strong as the 1996 CNNP Green Mark Te Ji I reviewed, but it’s definitely one of the strongest ripes I’ve had. The body was already quite good and the taste that of unsweetened baking chocolate. The aftertaste was strong even just after a few sips. It felt like I could already feel the tea affecting me a little bit, although I can’t be entirely sure.
The second steep brewed a really dark mahogany and you could just tell how thick the tea was by looking at the last drops slowly dripping from the teapot. The taste and texture were that of sugar-free chocolate pudding. The tea was so thick, it felt like you could use a spoon to scoop it up. Both the taste and aftertaste were strong and there was a gentle pleasant bitterness to the tea.
The third steep was thick, slick and oily. This time the flavors were more subtle, but eventually I arrived at the conclusion that the taste was mainly woody. At this point I was already starting to feel the cumulative qi. For the fourth infusion I extended the time just a hair and the tea was strong again. I’d made it slightly bitter, but the other flavors were a bit hard to discern. I’d say they were mainly woody again. The qi was hitting me hard though and I almost decided to go lie down because of how intense this tea is.
I brewed the next infusion just a tad longer than I’d intended, but the tea wasn’t too strong at all. Seems I should have gone even just a bit longer, because there was less body now and the flavors came off as rather simple, being mainly simple woody notes. I managed to get the strength back where I wanted in the next steep and the texture improved a little too being slightly syrupy. The flavors had now shifted slightly toward darker woody tones. The tea was very easy to drink, nice, but not super rich nor thin. The cha qi was still falling hard on me, making me feel like I might drop my cup if I was not careful.
Steep seven brewed incredibly sweet, like somebody had put a full cube of sugar in my cup. The taste was sugary and woody. Really nice. At this point it did start to feel like the qi was letting up. The strength continued to be good in the next steep. The body was decent as well. The flavors however were rather simple. The tea was fairly sweet, but not as sweet as before.
Steep nine was still solid in terms of strength. It started off woody and maybe a bit mineraly. It was very fresh and slightly cooling. As I kept drinking it, I started tasting menthol more and more. This was really interesting as I’ve tasted mint a couple times in pu’er, but never menthol. I ended up really liking this steep. While I found the next infusion less cooling in the mouth, I could taste menthol even stronger now. The sweetness was pretty much gone from the tea, making it taste like a sugar-free breath mint. The mouthfeel was still quite nice and overall this steep was enjoyable, pleasant, perhaps even rewarding for such a late steep.
The eleventh steep was the last one I did. There wasn’t all that much taste left even after a ten minute infusion. There was kind of a bad berry taste to the soup, maybe a bit acid. Maybe you could have done one more ultra long infusion with these leaves, but I deemed them pretty much done.
Unsurprisingly, this tea was good. Was it the best ripe I’ve had? Actually, no. I liked the Yi Shan Mo better. And one or two other teas as well. But this tea was good, wish all ripes were this level of quality. Is it worth the ridiculous price? I don’t think so. Not even close. I think the Yi Shan Mo at 38.5¢/g is totally worth the price and I like it better than the Lao Ban Zhang which costs four times as much, so do the math. As most people probably can’t afford this tea, myself included, I think the better question is is this tea worth buying a sample of? I’d say so. I would recommend trying out other genuinely high quality ripes first to see if you even find them worth it in your book, but if you’re genuinely interested and don’t find the cost of even a mere 10g sample too difficult to justify, go for it.
This tea brews strong, it brews thick, and the cha qi is really potent. It has probably the strongest chocolate notes I’ve tasted in any tea. I still can’t get past that. The longevity is great too, for a ripe and for a tea that brews this strong. I’m glad this tea was good, but I’m even more glad I liked the Yi Shan Mo better, because I want that tea and can’t afford this one. What’s clear is that Hai Lang produces some great teas.
Flavors: Bitter, Chocolate, Menthol, Sugar, Sweet, Wood
I haven’t seen very many Yiwu ripe pu’ers on the market and this is the first one I’ve tried. I used 12.3g in my 160ml Jianshui clay teapot, so roughly half my sample. Although this is a brick, the compression seems very light and I was able to break larger chunks into smaller ones without having to used hardly any force at all. I rinsed the leaves for under ten seconds and let the leaves soak up the moisture for five minutes before I began brewing. I did a total of eight steeps, the timing for these being 12s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 50s, 90s and 3 min. For drinking the tea, I used both a regular glazed teacup as well as a Jianshui clay teacup dedicated to shu pu’er.
The first infusion brewed a dark red. The liquor was surprisingly clear especially for such a young tea. The tea was syrupy, slick, clean and slightly sweet. The strength was good. The next steep brewed a pure black. Possibly the darkest color I’ve seen, if you can compare black with another black. The mouthfeel was velvety and there was a mild pleasant bitterness to the tea. I’m not really sure if there was quite a coffee taste to this steep as is often the case with shu pu’ers at this stage.
Steep three produced a super clean, beautiful liquor. The mouthfeel was astonishing. It felt like the tea was massaging your tongue. Just phenomenal. The tea left an active sensation in your mouth even after you swallowed. There was even less bitterness now. I don’t really know how to describe the taste. It leaned more towards darker notes, but I’m not sure if calling it coffee or roasted is quite correct.
Steep four was somewhat weaker than the prior infusions, which was a sign for me that I could push this tea even harder for the following steeps. The taste was also less complex, but very sweet. Quite impressively the tea still brewed a perfect black in the fifth steep. The tea was now stronger and less sweet. The taste was mainly woody. At this point I could start to feel the tea in my body, especially around my chest and abdomen.
Infusion number six continued to brew totally black. Contrary to the color, the tea had become very fresh with a clear taste of mint. The soup was ultra clean and both cooling and warming in the mouth at the same time. The taste was also accompanied by a REALLY nice and pleasant qi. This steeping was definitely one of the standouts. Steep seven is finally where the tea only brewed a very dark red as opposed to a total black. In contrast to the color, the flavor had dropped much more significantly and was merely that of some basic sweetness. Steep eight also continued to have plenty of color and the strength was now better as well, but the flavors simply weren’t there. The tea was simple and nice and you could probably have continued with these extended sweet steeps for a while, but I deemed the session to be done.
I feel I’ve described this tea with much fewer words than I usually do. This can either be a good sign or a bad sign. In this case it’s a good sign. This tea was exceptional. I don’t know if it’s my favorite or second favorite shu pu’er up to this point, but I can say that the base material is definitely my favorite and it has been expertly processed. This tea performed much like I’d demand from a high-end raw pu’er, while offering the flavor experience of a shu pu’er. Since the tea has been more lightly fermented and the leaves aren’t totally black, I’d expect it to develop and become even better over the years, although it’s perfectly drinkable now and I didn’t detect any off-flavors.
I would very much like to buy more of this tea. The two inhibitors are however the fact that it comes in a 1kg brick and consequently the high price that results from that. This tea is however most definitely worth the price. Assuming it doesn’t sell out in the very near future, I’d love to grab a brick of this once I’m able. While this is an accessible tea, I would say that its true strengths might be lost on someone still very new to pu’er. Just the way it flows out of the cha hai as I pour tells me how high-quality it is. Despite the dark color, the tea didn’t brew particularly strong, so I wouldn’t go much lighter on the leaf than I did and you could probably easily go heavier. The only real downside was the longevity, but hopefully more flavors will develop there as the tea ages.
Flavors: Bitter, Mint, Sweet, Wood
I brewed the entire 10g sample in a 140ml gaiwan. What I received were small, evenly sized chunks without any loose bits. I don’t know which part of the cake they were from, but they seemed fairly compressed in comparison to the more loose-pressed cakes out there. The colors and general appearance were interesting, really bright and just overall a very different look.
I’ve only drunk one raw pu’er that is allegedly Lao Man’e, that being Mei Leaf’s Psychic Stream Seeker, but smelling the dry leaves in a preheated gaiwan I definitely recognized the unique, characteristic scent. The smell of the wet leaves was equally familiar, with an extremely pungent, dirty scent that made me think of something having to do with a kitchen. I rinsed the leaves briefly for five seconds or less and this being such a high-end tea I naturally drank the wash. Damn that’s potent, damn that’s bitter. I’m intrigued.
After a brief five minute rest I carried on to do a total of twelve steeps. The timings for these were 5s, 5s, 7s, 7s, 6s, 7s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min. The first steep had a nice mouthfeel, quite oily. Fortunately the tea was still light both in taste and color thanks to the more compressed bits. There was some slight sweetness, with a characteristic touch of citrus and maybe some bitterness in the finish. The second infusion is where the ball slowly began to start rolling. The tea was strong, but not too strong, sour, slightly bitter, a bit sweet. There was a citric aftertaste and the tea left your mouth coated with oils. This was combined with an incredibly mouthwatering effect. This is the stuff.
Infusion three is where the bombs started raining down. The tea was really strong, but not too strong for me though. The distinct grapefruit note I tasted in Psychic Stream Seeker as well was now much more pronounced. Although the liquor was not thick, the mouthfeel was juicy and the aftertaste incredibly long-lasting. Steep four was however even stronger. On man. But I like brewing oolongs Chaozhou style so I like strong tea, just not over-brewed tea, there’s a difference. I was now getting the infamous bitterness, but it wasn’t a bitterness I dislike. Now that’s BITTER, AWW YEA!
The sensory assault continued in the fifth steep, but here was an exemplary example of a bitterness that transformed into juicy sweetness within two seconds after you swallowed. After being bombarded with bitterness, I was so used to it I could have actually brewed the tea a bit stronger for the sixth steep. The tea continued to be incredibly bitter, but I wasn’t getting the sweetness anymore.
Steep seven really surprised by being less aggressive. It was juicy and still bitter but only in the finish. You could taste the tea in your mouth when you breathed out through your nose. At this point I must say it’s really hard to differentiate with this tea what flavor are from the tea in your mouth right now, because this tea just builds up layers upon layers of strong lingering flavors with each steep with all of the past steeps feeding into the current one.
From this point on I finally started extending the steeping time more aggressively and this worked really well in countering the drop in strength. I managed to brew steep eight strong in a good way and it was probably my favorite up to that point. It was really aromatic; you could just take a few sips and then taste the aromatic compounds in your mouth as you breathed out through your nose. There was much less perceived bitterness now, but honestly my tongue was so numb to the bitterness by this point it’s quite possible I just wasn’t tasting it anymore.
With the ninth steeping the tea began to simplify and enter easy-drinking mode. It was still mainly bitter, but there was now less depth, complexity and nuance. From the next infusion onward the bitterness finally began to taper off, making way to an emerging sweetness. The mouthfeel in these late steeps continued to be generally quite juicy. There was some nastiness in steep eleven, but this cleared up for the twelfth steep where only sweetness remained, but the tea was clearly falling off fast. The leaves could have possibly been stretched for a couple more sweet, extra-long extractions, but I was quite full of tea so I decided to call it here.
I’m still very new to extremely bitter raw pu’ers and sheng pu’ers from Bulang in general, but I really liked this tea. Unfortunately a cake is beyond my budget. It’s not even a question of the price per gram being too high, although this tea is by no means cheap, Hai Lang Hao’s decision to press this material into beefy 400g cakes places this already premium tea beyond most people’s reach. Certainly most people who really want to try out this tea should be able to afford a sample, but an actual bing is something most of us can only dream about.
After trying two teas allegedly from this hot village, despite different vintages and the other one being roasted, their flavor profiles matched so well they corroborate one another quite nicely, lending credibility to both. The grapefruit note was much more prominent in the Mei Leaf tea most likely due to it being a younger tea, while the bitterness had been replaced in it by intense sourness due to the roasting process. While it was a very good tea in its own right, I liked this tea even more. I’ve never ordered from them, but I know Tea Urchin offers a couple of Lao Man’e shengs, so I will have to order samples and see how I like their teas. It would be nice to acquire some Lao Man’e both for drinking and aging, but at a more affordable price than the Hai Lang Hao offering. I’m definitely intrigued by this region after this session.
If you’ve never had a tea like this, it can definitely be a very informative and eye-opening experience. Even if you think you don’t like bitter teas, a tea like this could prove you otherwise. Even if it doesn’t, it’s worth it for the experience alone. To try to sum up this tea, it is one of the strongest teas you are likely to ever find, with great longevity to boot. It’s bold, aggressive and extremely bitter, but that does not mean it lacks complexity, depth or nuance. This is a matter of personal preference, but I personally never found the bitterness unpleasant. I should add that that is not generally the case for me with sheng. While the mouthfeel was generally juicy, the tea was never particularly thick and overall the mouthfeel was a bit of a letdown for such a high-end tea. The one other thing I hold a bit against the tea is the qi. The tea didn’t really have much of a noticeable effect during the session, but afterward with quite a delay I suddenly started feeling incredibly exhausted like I’d just run a marathon or something. This was strikingly similar to the qi in the Hai Lang Hao Lao Man’e ripe pu’er I reviewed a while back. The one notable difference in the qi was that whereas the raw pu’er only made me feel physically exhausted, the ripe also made me feel extremely lethargic and uninterested in even doing anything, even not doing anything. Fortunately the exhaustion did lift in a reasonable amount of time, but while drinking a tea like this should leave you exhausted as it is quite an undertaking, the cha qi still didn’t agree with me.
This tea showcases really well why the area is so revered and the fame is definitely justified. If you like your teas strong, look no further.
Flavors: Bitter, Grapefruit, Sweet
Another 2017 offering, this time the first Hai Lang Hao raw pu’er I’ve tried. I used 8.9g in a 130ml gaiwan and drank the tea both from a regular glazed teacup as well as an unglazed Jianshui clay cup. I rinsed the leaves briefly for five seconds and drank the wash while I let the moisture soak in for five to ten minutes. The texture was soft and creamy. I proceeded to do eleven more steeps, timing for these being 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min.
The first actual steep was much bolder than the wash. It had a wonderful mouthfeel and the same creamy vanilla flavor you got a hint of in the rinse. The steep that followed felt really heavy both in the mouth and going down. I’m not really equipped to describe the flavor. It was amiable with maybe a hint of fruit, but nothing spectacular. My tongue was left feeling kind of bloated and like it wanted to rise to touch the roof of my mouth.
The third steep was really creamy, but also greener and somewhat astringent. The tea started to be less enjoyable in the next infusion when drunk from the regular cup, but from the clay cup it was soft and sweet. Steep number five saw a return back to soft and creamy, but now with a bit of astringency as well. This time the tea was actually less enjoyable from the clay cup, tasting mainly quite mineraly.
I should have probably pushed the tea a bit harder for the sixth steep as the flavor began dropping. At this point the tea started tasting more like a young green sheng. The flavor was about 50% prior sweetness and 50% young raw taste. The tea continued to be pretty thick in the next steep. It was quite sweet with an almost toffee or brown sugar sweetness to it. The sweetness also persisted in the mouth. Some of this sweetness lingered in the background in the eighth steeping, but in general the tea was becoming less pleasant. It was softer when drunk from clay, but very basic.
Steep nine still had a surprising amount of body, but it was even more evident that the tea was becoming very basic in terms of taste. The soup was sweet and green, but when drunk from clay it got MUCH sweeter. The ofter characteristic soft, thick mouthfeel was still present in the next steep. The flavor was becoming increasingly green with the sweetness diminishing, but the astringency was still just barely there. The eleventh infusion was the last one I did. The tea was still slightly sweet, but also more astringent now. While the tea most likely still had more in it, I didn’t expect to see any more nuance developing so I called it there.
While this is clearly a quality tea, although not necessarily of the absolute highest quality, and I have no doubt it will develop into a great tea in a decade or two, it didn’t really appeal to me personally. Nothing about it struck me as special enough and the flavor profile didn’t appeal to me. I’ve yet to explore aged teas enough to find any that appealed to me, but this one despite being young actually reminded me of some of the things that didn’t appeal to me about the handful of semi-aged raws that I’ve tried. If I can predict any kind of trajectory for this tea based on how it is now, my gut feeling is that I won’t like it any more ten years from now as I do now. That being said, this tea is still really young and unless you have incredible confidence in your ability to evaluate raw pu’ers and know exactly what you want, it’s still too early to properly evaluate it I’d say. I still have two thirds of my sample left, so I will try this tea again a year from now. I have a feeling my thoughts on it won’t change, but you never know.
Flavors: Creamy, Green, Sweet
The most expensive shou I’ve tasted but is it the best? Did Hai Lang make it? Did he make it with gushu LBZ material? Did it remind me of Westvleteren 12, the elusive spicy, earthy chocolate Belgian Trappist ale that many critics call the best beer in the world? Did it steep over 20 times evolving each steep and leave me feeling as though I’d consumed something illegal? Did I answer my first question with a series of other questions?
Bought this in my Yunnan Sourcing Black Friday order and am just now getting around to drinking it. Unlike the last four Hai Lang Hao teas I would not call this phenomenal. It was fairly good though and somewhat expensive because of its age. I was a very tightly compressed brick. The first four steeps were a light amber color. After that it got darker and the fermentation taste, although weak, was noticeable. There was no real bitterness to this tea and it was fairly sweet. For a ripe this age the word dates is often used. This does not seem quite that sweet but it is definitely a sweet note in the last steeps. I steeped this ten times and will go back and steep it a few more times for my tea photography
I steeped this ten times in a 160ml Jian Shui teapot with 15.8g leaf with boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse but it could have benefited from a longer one as the first few steeps were quite weak. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, and 15 sec.
Flavors: Earth, Sweet
Drinking this tea for a second time. It is still quite good. This time I didn’t get any bitter notes but sweet notes from the first steep. I felt some cha qi from the tea but not as much as last time. Thhs was a fairly complex tea with different notes emerging as I resteeped it. I still give this tea high marks. It was not quite as lasting as the LBZ ripe. This one was a blend of Xin Ban Zhang and nearby towns leaf.
I steeped this tea 24 times in a 50ml porcelain teapot with 5.4g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 15 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 20 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 25 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 30 sec, and 30 sec. There is no doubt that I could get another four or five steepings out of this with longer times.
This is an excellent ripe tea. It was strong with a bittersweet taste at first and a moderate amount of fermentation flavor. It got much sweeter as the steepings went on. There was a strong and relaxing cha qi from about the second steep that lasted until around the fourteenth steep. I gave this tea sixteen steeps in total and then steeped it a few more times for photographs. This was no cheap brick but nearly a dollar a gram brick. Even though I got it during Scott’s best sale of the year it was pricy. It was extremely well compressed. It dented my nice new tea tool which was annoying as the thing was made out of solid brass if I remember correctly. In the end I broke out my tea awl and that it did not dent. The steel of the awl was stronger than the brick. Overall this was one tasty tea. I would say that the bitterness lasted well into the eighth or tenth steep at least. The fermentation flavor did not last that long but I wasn’t paying close attention to the notes. I was too busy enjoying the qi of this brick, which of course is very rare in a ripe but Hai Lang Hao knows how to process a ripe tea so it retains it’s qi.
I steeped this sixteen times in a 85ml Yixing Teapot with 8.4g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 15 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 25 sec. It was still not a weak tea in the sixteenth steep. I steeped it about five more times for the photographs I am going to take for my Instagram page.
Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Earth, Sweet
This is another excellent tea from Hai Lang Hao. A real Yiwu ripe is somewhat rare. But with Hai Lang Hao and Yunnan Sourcing I trust that it is real. It was significantly less money than the LBZ ripe but still quite expensive. This was a very good tea. There was some bitterness at first and certainly some fermentation flavor although for some reason I really didn’t notice the fermentation taste. I steeped this tea sixteen times and it turned from having a light bitterness to a muted sweetness and then to a sweet ripe puerh, almost sugar sweet but not quite. This wqas also a strong tea as it lasted well into the sixteen steeps without me resorting to five minute steeps. There was some qi to it but not the massive qi of the LBZ ripe I drank yesterday.
I steeped this tea sixteen times in a 85ml Yixing teapot with boiling water and 8.2g leaf. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, and 45 seconds.
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Sweet