I just got a shipment from Yunnan Sourcing, full of samples and a cake. I remember a long time ago, I advocated that a newcomer to puerh should sample lots — it’ll eventually get you to where you want to go, wherever that may be. I think I still stand by that, with a caveat – even after you drink lots of samples, you may or may not know more about teas. You really have to think about what you’re drinking to learn something from them. Sampling, I think, is useful for two purposes:
1) To determine whether or buy something or not. This one’s pretty obvious. It is also always useful.
2) To broaden your sense of taste. This is why I buy most of my samples.
A lot of the samples I bought this time are from YSLLC itself — the cakes that Scott pressed in the past two or three years of various mountains. First of all, I’ve never tried any of his pressing, so I’m curious to see what they are like. I also bought a cake of Bulang from a no-name factory (in fact, the paper is white). I find that these are often more interesting than big factory stuff. When I get a cake of Shuangjiang Mengku Ronshi tea, for example, or a cake from Menghai factory, you more or less have an idea what it’s going to be like, how it’s going to be processed, and roughly how it’s going to go down. There are usually very few surprises, and what surprises there are, they are often because the tea was stored strangely, or fake. With the smaller factory stuff, however, that is not true. You often get a lot of teas that are pretty strange, or interestingly processed. They could be good or they could be bad, but they are almost always a learning experience.
So for today’s tea, which is the said Bulang, I brewed it in my usual pot. I find it to be quite green, still, even though it’s 2006. I’m sure Kunming storage has something to do with that. It does have a few years in that the taste is starting to turn, ever so slightly, but it is a long way from mature. I can guess that it was, when made, quite a green affair, and pretty bitter. What is really interesting for me though, is that it is very different from what I normally drink these days. The first taste of the tea brought me back to when I was in Beijing in 2006 and tasting my way through hundreds of cakes. I noticed that these days, my standard fare is usually something pre 2007, or aged, or aged oolong, or wuyi. There just isn’t room for some of these younger drain cleaners. I should probably make a little room for them and to evaluate how the newer crops of tea are doing.