21 October, 2011

2004 Mengyang Guoyan "Bulangzu"

It seems that every time I open an article concerning Mengyang Guoyan, I have to remind myself that, once or twice, they have produced good, complex cakes that I enjoy.  The reason for this odd statement is that their usual productions are bland, mainstream mulch, to my humble tastes.

The cakes that I own from this factory typically derive from the blissful naivety of my early pu'er-drinking days, when I bought them from Yunnan Sourcing, Royal Pu'er, etc.  If I've learned one thing, it's that the cakes that are the cheapest of the cheap very often turn out to be fairly unimpressive.  Surely a profound revelation!

2004 Mengyangguoyan Bulangzu

I have also learning that several years of storage in Singapore can do wonders for even the most mediocre cake.  Our entirely-too-generous tea-friend, Keng, has so kindly provided us with cakes from across the spectrum, over the years, and yet almost all have been entirely delicious. The depth of flavour imparted by proper storage is something to behold.

2004 Mengyangguoyan Bulangzu

I remember visiting a shop deep within the cavernous belly of the "Chayuan" shopping centre, at the southern end of Beijing's Maliandao, some years ago.  There is a photograph of the shop somewhere in the old pages of the Half-Dipper, but I cannot recall where.  A smiling hostess and her daughter sat in front of a wall of Mengyang Guoyan cakes, the wrapper of each of which was of a similar style to that shown in the upper photograph on this page: a series of ethnic minorities in local dress.

2004 Mengyangguoyan Bulangzu

The tippy, flat leaves have a reassuring scent of humid atmospheres, and they are correspondingly dark without being red.  As you can see in the images above and below, this is a rough-and-ready blend, incorporating all sizes of leaves.  Perhaps that will give it stability and complexity.

2004 Mengyangguoyan Bulangzu

I am unsurprised to be greeted by a thick, orange soup, the charming product of humid, warm storage.  As ever with cakes from Keng, this has a fine body filled with the powerful, sharp woodiness for which one would hope.  It is great fun, and pulls me to wakefulness.

As with good cakes, it has some inertia: it resists making itself fully available until a few infusions have passed, and it is similarly reticent in the mouth, building slowly.  The result is an excellent, solid huigan, when it eventually appears.

2004 Mengyang Bulangzu

The 2006 version of this cake is available for a mere 80 RMB via Taobao, and that strikes me as being particularly low: I recall that the original cakes, in the Maliandao shop, were also priced quite humbly.  I am confident that this is a fairly basic cake, and yet Singaporean storage has worked its familiar magic upon it.  Of course, the Taobao version, being two years younger than this 2004 cake, and probably stored in different conditions, could prove to be more prosaic.

Thanks, as always, to Keng for yet another satisfying tea session.


MarshalN said...

Indeed, I'd be rather cautious about buying from Taobao and hoping for similar results. Chances are whatever you can find on Taobao are Kunming stored and therefore quite disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I think Scott (YS) has this cake among the "2004 yunnan minorities".
BTW, I really enjoy your blog, good luck with it.

tT said...

For those out there that may be wondering (not me of course :D), what major differences exist between Kunming and Singaporean storage?


Hobbes said...

Hi, chaps,

MarshalN - Kunming cakes can be redeemed, I've seen it many times! Xiaomei is particularly good at this practice, and has bought plenty of cakes that have had a number of Kunming years, only to revive them under her care.

Norbert - I hadn't seen that, but you're absolutely right. Scott is indeed selling this cake, and the three others in the series, as a 4-cake bundle for $109. That's not too bad for 7-year-old tea, even if it is quite basic.

tT - Singaporean storage is like Malaysian (unsurprisingly), Hong Kong, or Guangzhou storage: it is hot and humid, and the cakes age quickly. Some would say that the characteristics of cakes stored in these areas are an "aquired taste". My love of them indicates that I may have acquired that particular foible. :)

Kunming (and, to an extent) Beijing are dry, and so cakes take longer to age there.

Some cakes are left in Xishuangbanna for a while, and they seem to age quite well down in that part of Yunnan.

England seems to be doing quite well for storage. It's more humid that Hong Kong (!), but cooler. We seem to be getting lively, decently-aged cakes, but slower and with less "storage" flavour than the coastal Asia-pacific regions. For rapid, delicious pu'ercha aging, my Singaporean friends seem to be enjoying life. :)