This 200 gram beeng, along with a 100 gram tuo I’ll take a closer look at in an upcoming post, made up my first order with Danish teahouse Simply Tea.
The raw material originates from Yang Ta village, which lies in Mo Jiang county of Pu’erh prefecture, Yunnan province. The cultivar is named as Southern Yunnan “Big Hair” Gushu (old tea tree). The leaves grew at an altitude of 1700 metres, and were harvested pre-Qing Ming. The pluck is described as first class, buds only.
Apparently, during the Qing Dynasty this was a tribute tea, sent to the Emperor with the name “Bai Long Xu Gong Cha” – “White Dragon Whiskers Tribute Tea.”
Before unwrapping the cake my first impression was that for its size it felt heavy and thick. This is a pleasantly tactile lump of tea, despite it not being a “full sized” 357 gram job.
Once the beeng was out of the paper I came face to face with that shock of biscuit coloured buds. I stuck my nose into the beeng hole and took a deep sniff. It was, as I’ve described the sensation before, the aromatic equivalent of one of those optical illusions that can be one of two images that you can flip between. Here that meant hopping between the fragrances of Silver Needles’ sweet hay and the rain forest and orchid pungency of a sheng.
The slightly off-centre beeng hole suggested that the cake had been hand pressed, a theory that was backed up by the moderate level of compression. It was an easy job to get into the cake with my trusty pu-erh pick and free off the right amount of leaf for the session.
|Water Used:||Filtered tap water|
|Weight of dry leaf:||7 grams|
|Infusion style:||Asian / Gong-fu|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||a first infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 30 seconds, then @ 40, 50, 70, then finally 90 seconds for a total of 10 infusions.|
While my water was heating up, I started wondering about what kind of Qi this tea would most likely be packing.
Nutrient packed large buds from high altitude old-tree material sounded like a recipe for a powerful experience, and that’s exactly what I encountered.
There was no messing about here. What seemed like only a few moments passed between my first sip and that old familiar cricket bat to the back of the head sensation. Early on, the Silver Needles type flavour components might have been dominating the palate, but, by Jiminy, the bodily sensations were full-on sheng, baby.
This really was weird. Every new sip pulled you up onto the crest of a new wave, from where you slowly rolled on down a gentle incline, until the next sip put you right back on the summit of a new peak. It was a classic “dreamy but fully aware of what’s going on” job, complete with the associated “limbs and digits responding with the time lag and jerky inaccuracy of an old mechanical earth mover” effect.
Radio Sheng, that music loving part of my subconscious that loudly injects songs into my conscious thoughts when I’m merrily pu’ed up, began broadcasting The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, not the regular version, mind, but the live at Glastonbury 2008 performance. Most peculiar, mamma. Pu 1, neuroscience 0…
Right from the get-go the soup was smooth and sweet, with that sheng hot house flowers note sat at the back, directing traffic, if you follow.
Towards the mid-point of the session the sheng-iness of the tea became more assertive as the sweetness began to pull back, ushering in a nose tickling pepperiness, that also turned the central heating in the chest area up to full. Cue much sweating.
You kind of guess when you play with a tea made up of buds that you probably won’t be in for the longest of sessions, and after the 10th infusion it felt as though my time with this particular batch of leaves was up. Still, the intensity of those 10 steepings more than made up for any perceived sense of being short changed, and besides, this liquor was a genuine sipper not a slurper, and time was finally called on the session well over two hours after it began.
This beeng’s going to be set aside for special occasions and those rare moments of luxurious, home-alone self indulgence.
Then again, it would certainly come in handy as an indoctrination tool to be used against that one person we all know who often loudly proclaims “Meh, it’s just tea, man…”
“O RLY??!!”, you’ll exclaim, as you pull some of this stuff out of your stash.
“Shut up, sit down, and drink this….“