Following up my "cakes that look like they should be dreadful but are actually rather good" series, which I opened with the 2007 "Yexiangwang", I now bring you the controversial Bulangshan cake from the flatulent bowels of the puer'cha universe, Tiandiren.
Why controversial? I understand one merchant is attempting to sell this (?) cake for a significant sum. I refer the interested reader to Lady Hster, Contessa di Teacloset.
I acquired this sample from white2tea, where a cake goes for a thoroughly rambunctious $11. There ain't much that one can find for just eleven of your Amurcan bucks. The owner of the business has been careful with his selections, and so I have every reason to give this tea a fair go.
The leaves are surprisingly long for such a low-priced cake, which is at least evidence in support of the fact that the producers were careful when handling and processing the maocha. In fact, this is one of the very few teas that I have had to pre-soak in the chahe, such that they subsequently fit through the aperture of the teapot without breakage.
The scent is precisely that of cigarettes. Hang in there - it does get (much) better.
I must admit to being taken aback by the gentle whiff of Benson and Hedges, however.
Happily, the Eau des Bensons aroma does not carry through into the first infusion, and is handled adequately by the rinse. The immediacy of the scent (and its transience) suggests that it is a very recent addition to the cake.
Once the first infusions gets underway, I have totally forgotten about fags (as we call cigarettes here).
The soup is so very heavy in its sweetness that it really is hard to dislike. There is a solid, low character of darkened Bulang chunkiness underneath, which tends to swell and enrich the sweetness in the few Bulangshan varieties that I have managed to age myself.
I can see why twodog2, the owner of white2tea, likes this cake: it is robust, without being rough. There really is quite a lot going on in the cup, which is remarkable given the rock-bottom price.
This isn't as good as the Yexiangwang, but then you could get three of these cakes for one of the Wild Elephants. I would say that this cake is "good for daily drinking", which is true because it is good and concurrently inexpensive; however, that really undersells a potent, solid little treasure that could surprise us even more in a few years time, such is its solid "base".
Don't approach this tea thinking that you're getting a premium brew, but do approach this tea thinking that you're getting a hefty, potent, enduring, heavily-sweet little number for very little financial outlay. All the ingredients are wrong (inc. Bensons), but the result is so very right.
I bought a couple of these disposable heroes, and could imagine myself grabbing a few more for casual, carefree days when all you want is a slug of reliable, no-frills pu'ercha.